First of all, most deerslayers are also various-other-wild-game-slayers as well. That’s a good thing. Truly, it is. My deerslayer is also a white-wing-dove-slayer, a pheasant-slayer, an elk-slayer, and a slayer of various varieties of fish.
Today, I need to share some crucial information about the preparation, cooking, and eating of game birds. Since game birds are shot, and since by their very nature they have very thin, brittle, hollow bones, one must be very careful to remove as many bone fragments and bits of shot (small b-b shaped things) from the meat as possible before cooking. Hunters generally are aware of the hazards associated with eating these birds and chew gingerly, daintily spitting out fragments as they go…. to which end I usually set out bowls around the table for this purpose. For the most part, however, other than the whole-carcass white-wing doves in gravy (with white rice and LeSueur peas) that I serve on special occasions, I have pretty much gotten to the point where any pheasant recipes that I prepare call for meat that has been cooked ahead and then chopped and/or shredded. This allows me to carefully go through the meat by hand, feeling for bits of bone and shot. Always inform your guests and/or family that they have been selected to share in the earth’s bounty provided by your game-bird slayer and that they need to chew carefully!
There are two main schools of thought regarding the preparation of doves. My experience has been that most bird hunters “breast out” the birds and bring home only the breast meat; small walnut-sized morsels to wrap in bacon with a sliver of jalapeno and toss on the grill. My dove-slayer, however, prefers ALL of the meat; breast, legs, hearts, gizzards. So does his uncle and so did his dad. I learned how to prepare doves from my hunter’s mother. Preparing them this way is somewhat labor intensive but I always have the undying gratitude of my dove-slayer.
Special Occasion Whitewing Doves with gravy
12 (or so) doves, plucked, washed
salt, pepper, garlic powder mix*
all purpose flour for dredging
1 stick salted butter
32 oz. chicken stock.
Preheat oven to 350 degree. Rinse birds and giblets. Spread out, breast side up on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper mix. Dredge each bird in flour. In a cast iron skillet, melt butter. Add enough cooking oil to cover bottom of skillet. Brown half of the birds, turning from one side of the breast to the other. Brown remaining birds and giblets reserving the skillet with browned bits. Arrange all birds (breast side down) and giblets in a 9 x 13 baking dish. To the browned bits in the skillet, over medium heat, melt enough butter and about 1/4 cup of leftover flour to make a roux. Slowly whisk in about half of the chicken stock, stirring constantly. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic mix. Pour gravy over birds. Because birds vary in size, add more of less gravy until birds are covered about half way. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for about 4 hours. YES! 4 hours!!!!!!!! Every hour, add chicken stock if needed to keep gravy level up. You’ll know the birds are ready to eat when breast meat pulls easily away from the breastbone with a fork or tongs. Serve with white rice and LeSeuer peas.
* My deer/dove slayer’s dad used to mix up this concoction that he used in most savory recipes. It’s versatile and easy to keep on hand.
Tommy’s Secret Mix (Shhhhhhhh!)
1/3 cup salt, 1/3 cup pepper, 1/8 cup garlic powder
Keep in a shaker and use liberally on steaks, in gravies, on eggs, etc.