I know that for most, a page of dove recipes seems odd: Most people just pop the breasts off, wrap them in bacon with a jalapeno and grill. The venerable popper, as this recipe is called, is fine food — but it isn’t the only thing you can do with a dove.
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 catch 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).
Here’s a video on how to pluck a dove, done by my girlfriend (and photographer) Holly Heyser.
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 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.
Here is another grilled dove recipe I wrote for my friend David Leite on his website: Grilled Doves, Portuguese Style.
When the weather cools, roasting is your next best bet for doves and pigeons. Get your oven hot for this one...
OTHER DOVE AND PIGEON RECIPES
Here are some other ways to cook doves and pigeons.