To me, there is nothing more heartbreaking in wild game cooking than watching people rip breasts out of their doves, stuff with cream cheese and jalapeño, wrap in bacon and throw on the grill. This seems to be the go-to (or only) way to prepare doves for most hunters. Sure, poppers taste good and I’ve eaten my share, but you are not really getting the best out of the dove you are eating. Bacon and cheese just overpower the subtle but delicious flavor of dove meat. Maybe even worse, you could get the same results with a round of chicken from the supermarket for $1.39 per pound. It’s time to try something different with these tasty wild birds.
Lots of folks breast them out to avoid the chore of plucky, but plucking a dove is a breeze because they have very durable skin for such small birds. You can basically rub all of the feathers off in about a minute, and you are left with a delicious, whole bird that can be used in many great ways. When I first opened my bottle of Campesino Aged XIV Rum, I was immediately hit with the incredibly deep, rich, almost smoky aroma, and of course, as I am known to do, I began to think of ways to pair it with some kind of wild game. Rum always has an “island” vibe to it, so I went in that direction and added a bit of sweetness with the molasses and some heat and Caribbean spice with the peppers and allspice. I threw all of this together, cooked the bird over an open flame, and I wound up a delicious and simple recipe. It was perfect for doves, but it would work with quail or pretty much any other bird out there. Be sure to save some of that rum to pour over ice, and hit it with a wedge of lime, because it’s the perfect way to round out the dish. Kick back and enjoy.
Spicy Rum Doves
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Marinating Time: 6 to 12 hours
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
12-15 whole, plucked doves
1 cup Campesino Aged XIV Rum (or other dark rum)
•Juice of 3 fresh limes
1/3 cup molasses
4 tbsp soy sauce
7 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 jalapeño peppers, minced (more to taste if desired)
3 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp ground allspice
Fresh ground pepper
3 sliced scallions (for garnish)
1. To prepare the marinade, add the rum, lime juice, molasses, soy sauce, garlic, jalapeños, ginger, allspice, and pepper in a small saucepan.
2. Warm the marinade on low/medium heat until the molasses melts completely, allowing all ingredients to warm and combine nicely.
3. Rinse the doves thoroughly under cold water, drain, and pat dry. Salt and pepper inside the bird’s body cavity.
4. Place doves in a ziplock bag and pour in the marinade. Pressing all the air out of the bag, seal tightly, press lightly, turning the bag over to make sure all of the doves are completely coated in the marinade.
5. Refrigerate 6 to 12 hours, squeezing and turning the bag periodically to redcoat the doves with marinade.
6. Remove the doves from the bag, shaking excess marinade back into the bag.
7. Pour the marinade into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and continue cooking the sauce, stirring often, until it reduces by about half. Remove from heat.
8. Heat your grill–either charcoal, pellet, or gas–to medium-high and give the grates a few minutes to get hot.
9. Place the doves on the grill, on their back, and grill over indirect heat for 10 to 12 minutes, brushing once with the reserved, thickened marinade.
10. Flip doves breast side down and brush again with marinade.
11. Continue to grill until the doves reach an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees, and the marinade is thick and caramelized.
12. Remove from the grill, top with scallions, and serve.
By Tony Caggiano