Dove opener spent discovering new recipe
By Luke Clayton
Sep 3, 2018
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Well, I set out the opener of dove season this year, but I'm making plans to head up to Ranger Creek Ranch in Knox County the second weekend. From all accounts, dove numbers were excellent and shooting fantastic.

For the past seven years, I have missed my good friend Phil Zimmermanís birthday party -- Iíve been up in northern Colorado guiding archery elk hunters, usually from the last week of August until mid September.   Iíve officially retired from guiding this year which opened up opportunities for me closer to home. The big family birthday bash with accompanying fish fry was a huge hit and I was quite content to help fry fish in Philís backyard and spend time with the family. But I also devoted some of this "time off" to testing a new method of preparing dove. The finished product went over well at the party, at least among Ďgame eatersí and pepper lovers!

For as long as I can remember (which is a long time), grilled dove breast topped with a sliver of jalapeno, wrapped in bacon and cooked over hot coals has been a staple for dove hunters, especially on the opening weekend. Many hunters pack along a portable grill and cook dove under a shade tree during the opening weekend. But when you stop and think about it, these dove breast often turn out a bit dry and sometime a bit overcooked. Granted, nobody complains, after all this is fresh fowl and a celebration of the hunt.

The opener of dove season always coincides with the arrival of Hatch chilies from New Mexico and I dearly love their flavor.  I actually woke up one night last week thinking about ways to prepare dove in the field; methods that would actually make the dark meat taste good!  Although many dove hunters/cooks prepare the entire breast with the bone in, itís easy to use a sharp, thin-blade pocket knife and remove both of the breast halves, just like on larger birds such as wild turkey or waterfowl. How could I incorporate several of these Ďbreast halvesí into a Hatch chili pepper and simplify the grilling process while keeping the diminutive drove breasts moist?  Hmmm! I stayed awake at least an hour mulling this over and then it came to me; why not stuff the pepper with several dove breasts, bits of chopped onion and cheese?

This would be easy enough to accomplish in the field but would the pepper become too well done before the meat was cooked? This could occur if the raw dove meat was stuffed into the pepper. The answer came quickly, marinate the dove breast in lime juice an hour or so and then grill until almost done over the hot coals and then stuff them into the pepper!

But my supply of dove breast was long depleted in the freezer.  I wanted to test my new recipe and figured the back strap meat of a small wild hog I recently shot would pinch-hit for dove meat, at least in a test situation!

So, I cut thin strips about 6 inches long (the length of a pepper)  and marinated them in lime juice, diced garlic and onion. Next I slit each pepper lengthwise and removed the seed cluster near the stem. Slices of cheddar cheese were also on hand and into the peppers went the marinated pork, cheese, and bit of onion and chopped fresh garlic. All were securely bound together with two strips of the cheapest bacon I could find. Three toothpicks proved to be perfect for binding everything together into one well seasoned unit!

I did the grilling Ďold schoolí and burned down a good size pile of very dry oak wood. With a long-handled shovel, I pushed the hot coals under my welded wire grill and laid the peppers off to the side. I didnít want them to burn but rather slowly roast so that the meat inside would cook evenly. Taking my time, I watched the peppers until the skins were looking a bit charred and then turned them once and continued grilling on the other side.

After the peppers had cooled a bit, I did a bit of field testing and instantly discovered I had hit a home run with my new recipe. The pork was tender, well done and very well seasoned. I had no reason to believe that dove breasts wouldn't be equally tasty. I cooked a total of ten chili peppers and sliced them into bite-size pieces. Of course, the non-game folks at the party shunned my new dish, but those of us that have a affinity for good game meat gave the Hatch pepper dish two thumbs up.

I canít wait to put my newly discovered recipe to work with real dove breasts.  I am pretty sure the old method of cooking dove breast with jalapeno slivers has become a thing of the past, at least when I can find Hatch chilies. I feel confident that Poblano or Anaheim peppers will work almost as well. Now I find myself wondering why I didnít discover this recipe years ago!

Listen to Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at Lukeís book, Kill to Grill, the Ultimate Guide to Wild Hog Hunting and Cooking is available through the web site.