This is unquestionably a fancy dish. Technically it’s not all that difficult, despite the looks. I wanted to stretch a bit with my doves, and I decided to riff off my French Laundry Duck Roulade, and in fact come closer to Thomas Keller’s original dish, which uses creamed corn.
Why corn? Because doves will eat waste corn, and I like pairing a game animal with something it eats. The saffron-corn sauce is one of my absolute favorite sauces: Smooth, a little sweet, pretty to look at, and with an aroma that smells like a cross between roast corn and a cut hayfield.
The roulades are not all that tough once you get the hang of them, but I would try them out first on a few guinea pigs before you attempt this dish for someone you want to impress. It involves some delicate wrapping, plastic wrap and hot water. The good thing about the poaching is that you can keep the roulades in the water and not overcook the doves. It’s a little like sous vide.
The popcorn is there for texture — and I think it looks cool. Try to find the smallest corn kernels you can.
Can’t find porcini powder? That one’s easy. Find dried porcini and grind them to a powder with a spice grinder. Dried porcini are easy to get at good supermarkets — or gather your own…
Ready for a challenge? Give this dish a go.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
- Breast meat from 6 doves or 4 squabs or pigeons
- Porcini mushroom powder
- Cabbage or chard leaves
- About 1/2 cup of popcorn
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups corn kernels
- A large pinch of saffron
- 2 tablespoons dove or other game bird stock
- 2-4 tablespoons cream
MAKE THE ROULADES
- Blanch the chard or cabbage leaves in a large pot of salty boiling water for 1-3 minutes. Pull them out and plunge them into a large bowl of ice water. Let them cool a few minutes and drain on a clean cloth towel.
- Pull the skin off the dove breasts and put them between two pieces of plastic wrap. Gently pound the thicker end of the breast with a meat mallet or empty wine bottle until it is about the same thickness as the skinny end of the breast.
- Trim the edges of the breasts to get a rectangular shape. Generously salt them, then sprinkle on the porcini powder.
- Lay out the cabbage or chard leaves on a cutting board and remove the ribs with a sharp knife.
- Pull out a piece of plastic wrap about 15-20 inches long and lay it flat on a counter.
- Lay out the cabbage leaf flat on another part of the counter. You want pieces large enough to wrap a rolled dove breast in one layer.
- Tightly roll the dove breast lengthwise into a long cylinder. Place it on the cabbage leaf, then gently roll the leaf around the breast. Make sure it goes all the way around.
- Pick up the roll gently and place it — seam side down — on the plastic wrap in a spot that is closer to you than the center of the wrap. Tightly roll the plastic wrap around the roulade.
- To seal, twist one end of the wrap away from you until that end of the roulade is tightly sealed. Twist the opposite end of the plastic wrap toward you. Tie the ends of the wrap together over the center of the roulade. If you want, you can make these roulades several hours in advance and keep them in the fridge.
MAKE THE SAFFRON-CORN SAUCE
- Heat the butter in a small pan over medium-high heat until it’s frothy, then add the shallot. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until it is translucent. Don’t let it brown.
- Add the garlic and saute another minute, then add the corn and mix well. Cook this for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
- Pour in the stock and add the saffron. Mix well and turn the heat down to medium. Sprinkle a little salt over everything and let cook another 4-5 minutes or so. You want the corn to be soft.
- Pour the sauce into a blender and puree. Start with the blender on low, then move it to the highest setting and buzz until well pureed, about 2 minutes.
- Set a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl. Pour the sauce into the sieve and, using a rubber spatula, start stirring the sauce. Most will go through the sieve quickly. When most of the sauce is through, start working the remainder hard with the spatula, stirring and pushing for several minutes, until what’s left looks dry and fibrous.
- Scrape the good stuff off the bottom of the sieve and discard the fibrous bits.
- Pour the sauce into a small pot and keep warm.
COMPLETE THE DISH
- Get a pan of water hot — about 190 degrees — and turn off the heat. Drop the dove roulades in. They should be ready in 5 minutes or so.
- To assemble the dish, take your sharpest knife and slice off the ends of the roulades to make cylinders of even size. Arrange 2-4 on each plate.
- Lay down a swirl of the saffron corn sauce alongside the roulades, then sprinkle some popcorn over everything.