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Doves Can Be Delicious, Especially Grilled

Doves and pigeons (squab when you buy them in a store) deserve their own category because they are dark meat birds with very little fat on them. You can use small ducks such as bufflehead or teal with these recipes, but they will often have a layer of fat that a pigeon or dove will not. A sharp-tailed grouse is an excellent alternative, though.

If you harvest your own doves and pigeons, please – please – pluck them and keep them whole. They are the easiest birds to pluck, taking only seconds, once you get the hang of it.

You get in return for your efforts a beautiful presentation and those little legs, which are so very tasty! Remove the wings from a dove (you can throw them into the stockpot, however) and all but the first wing joint on a pigeon (this is the "drumette" piece).


One dove is a good portion for an appetizer, three to four for a main course. Pigeons are larger, so one pigeon makes a light dinner main course - two is a bit much because the meat is so dense. Squabs are the same as pigeons: one to two per person.

Grilling Doves

Grilling is by far the best way to cook doves. It's the only way to get the skin crispy without overcooking the breast meat, which should be eaten medium, i.e., still pink. Same goes for young pigeons. Older pigeons are better braised.

Grilled Doves a la Mancha, Spanish Grilled Doves

This is a really easy dish to make, but you do need the bay leaves and fresh sage, and Spanish smoked paprika is important to this dish. Many good supermarkets offer it, and you can also buy it online from Earthy Delights. If you can't find smoked paprika, regular sweet paprika is okay.

Figure on two doves per person for a light lunch or an appetizer, or three to six for a main course. If you don't have access to doves, squab is a great alternative. You could also do this with teal ducks.

Serves 4, and can be scaled up.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

12 doves, or 4 to 8 squab or teal

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

12 bay leaves

12 to 24 sage leaves

About 1/4 cup melted bacon fat, butter or duck fat

Spanish smoked paprika

Freshly ground black pepper


Coat the doves with olive oil and salt them well. Stuff each cavity with sage and a bay leaf.

Get your grill hot and clean the grates. Set the doves breast side up and cook them over medium-high heat, with the grill cover closed, for 6 minutes.

Open the grill cover and turn the doves over so the top of the breast is wedged between grill grates. Paint the birds with some bacon fat. Let them cook this way for a minute or two, just to get a little color.

Turn the doves on their sides and grill for another minute or two - for each side. Paint with more bacon fat.

Dust with the smoked paprika and the black pepper and move the birds to a platter. Let them rest for 5 minutes. Eat with your fingers and serve with a Rioja red wine, a California Pinot Noir or an Italian Barbaresco - and a bowl to put the bones in.

A simple tomato salad is a good accompaniment, as is a loaf of crusty bread.

More recipes are available at http://honest-food.net/wild-game/dove-pigeon-recipes/


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