Ten Minute Dove Recipe – or any other tender pale-meated birds (quail, ruffed grouse, blue grouse, or Hungarian partridge)
I shared this dove recipe many years ago in Field & Stream when I was the game care and cooking columnist, but forgot all about it until a bird hunter sent me an email saying he had been using it for years, and often made it for game feeds to introduce non-hunters to really good game dishes. (It was always the first dish to disappear.) We’d make it more often, but our doves often go south before the season opens.
For more bird recipes, there’s https://www.riflesandrecipes.com/product/upland-game-bird-cookery/ which is all upland birds, and
https://www.riflesandrecipes.com/product/tenderize-the-wild-marinades-brines-rubs/ which has upland and waterfowl as well as big game recipes that use marinades, brines and flavorful rubs.
The Trouble with Doves
Actually, there’s a list. Begin with the fact that it takes a lot of doves to fill your stomach, even if you do serve them with a rich peanut sauce and a pile of rice. Worse they’re not easy to hit. Multiply the bird’s minuscule vital area by the gaps in your shot pattern and the bird has more than a sporting chance. Then there’s the dog vs. feathers-in-the-mouth issue. And the veteran bird dog vs novice hunter issue.
We’ll start with the latter. John and I are about to celebrate our 37th anniversary. When I met him, lo those many years ago, he had a 9-year old black Lab named Gillis. And it was watching Gillis in the field that turned me onto bird hunting. Five years later, we were out hunting birds one day in late October. John had taken a couple of pheasants, me nothing, as usual. As much as I loved watching Gillis work the cover, I had two handicaps when it came to killing the darn birds. First, I had a pretty severe startle reflex. We’d be peacefully walking along and a bird would jump up out of nowhere. By the time I remembered I had a shotgun in my hands, John had waited 15 seconds for me to shoot, given up, mounted his gun and killed the bird. Pheasants of course were the worst. But I also had this silly ethic that for me to feel okay killing one of God’s beautiful creatures it had to at least make one meal for one person. And of course doves were where I drew the line. I didn’t shoot doves. Then.
So, John and I were hunting birds this one day, Gillis was 14, gray, stone deaf, arthritic, with cataracts and hip dysplasia, not good for more than 30 or 40 minutes of field work before getting pretty gimped up. So 45 minutes into it I suggested I take Gillis back to the truck, then drive to the end of the cover to pick up John. He agreed, and as I headed north to the truck with Gillis, John headed into the thicker pheasant cover.
Halfway to the truck a dove got up. Twenty yards ahead of me, Gillis braced for the shot….waited…and waited…then turned his head as if to ask, “So…???” When he saw the shotgun still on my shoulder, he gave me a look of total and unmitigated disgust and headed off at a limping galumph to catch up with John.
Which leads up back to point two, the dog vs. feather issue, because Gillis wasn’t very fond of feathers either, and dove feathers are genetically programmed to disengage at any sign of stress. This does facilitate plucking, but doves were the only bird that made Gillis wish he was packing a toothbrush and floss in the field.
The good thing for us hunter-eaters is that doves are delicious. And tender. It’s also easy to tell when they’re done.
Doves, being migratory birds, have fairly dark meat with a tiny bit of white meat. (More on the white meat later.) As with all wild upland birds, doves are also low in fat and will dry out very quickly in cooking. This makes braising an ideal way to cook them, and while the recipe sound like ‘serious’ cooking, if you’ve ever made rice-a-roni and nestled a bird leg or breast into it—wild or commercial—you’ve done this technique.
A lot of cooks believe that braising always includes browning. It often does because browning adds flavor. But doves don’t need flavor, and a 10-minute braise will inject moisture into the birds. Had you browned the birds first, they couldn’t absorb that extra moisture.
One last thing about doves: that white meat I mentioned. Set your timer per the recipe, then pick out the smallest bird, when the buzzer goes off. Slide your knife down the sternum (as if you were breasting it) and gently press the meat away from the bone. That’s where the bit of white meat is—at the base of the breast. If it’s still pink, let the birds cook 1-2 minutes longer; if white, serve immediately. By the time you get the birds served up, even the largest doves will be done.
If you don’t have doves, you can substitute the tender breasts of Hungarian partridge, quail, or forest grouse. Just be sure to double or triple the other ingredients as you double or triple the bird’s size.
10 Minute Doves – Quick and Easy Dove Recipe
Serves 4-6 people
- 12-15 doves, plucked, cleaned and dried
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- 2 ½ tablespoons chopped salted peanuts
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced celery
- 2/3 cup thinly sliced carrots
- ½ cup diced onion
- 1 cup raw rice
- Start the rice, 20 minutes before the birds. (1 cup rice in 2 cups boiling water; bring back to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover for 20-25 minutes.) Rinse the doves and dry well inside and out with paper towels. Wrap in dry paper towels snugly while you prepare the braising sauce. In a small bowl, combine the broth, soy sauce, ginger, orange juice and peanuts. Stir and set aside.
- In a 10-inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the celery, onion, and carrot. Reduce the heat to medium. Gently sauté the veggies until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan, bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Dredge each dove in the sauce, getting it all over the birds, then nestle them breast up in the pan. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Serve over rice.
- The only trick to braising is to dry the birds quite well with paper towels, inside and out, then snugly wrap with more paper toweling to keep them dry while you prepare the braising sauce.
- Choose a skillet that will fit your birds, without crowding them, and make the braising mixture about ¼ inch deep in the pan. Dredge the birds in the braising liquid. It should evaporate slightly and the color deepen while you cook the birds. Dry birds will absorb the concentrated flavor of the sauce, while excess liquid will dilute it (and give it a grayish color.) When done, the birds should be 170F on a meat thermometer. (And with such a tiny bird, be careful the tip of the thermometer doesn’t touch bone.)