This is my name for a warming, earthy dish that welcomes us to cooler weather. I invented it after finding barley inside the crops of several doves I’d shot, giving me the idea to pair the doves with a barley “risotto.”
Not a hunter? Use squab, available in some fine markets. Can’t find squab? Use quail, but it will not be the same. Can’t find any of these? Use a duck breast, which is the wrong shape, but closer in flavor.
When I first made this dish I didn’t have barley on hand. I did have farro, a primitive form of wheat the Italians have been eating since before they were Italians. So I made a “farrotto” with lardo, sage, garlic, white wine and dried porcini mushrooms. Go ahead and use barley if you want — it’s easier to find, although my friend Scott over at Sausage Debauchery does sell farro online.
If you can’t get lardo, which is air-cured pork fat (and I am betting you can’t), use pancetta or bacon. Ideally you use unsmoked bacon, but any will do.
Definitely use fresh sage and fresh garlic.
The porcini need to be dried, and here’s why: You grind them, and use the powder to dust the doves with after they’ve been grilled. Just put some of the porcinis into a grinder and buzz for 30 seconds or so: You will get powder, along with larger bits. Separate the two and reserve — the bits go into the risotto, the powder on the doves.
As for grilling the doves, I am using the “al mattone” method, which, essentially, is grilling the birds under a brick. Unless it is a brand-new brick, wrap it in foil before using.
Serves 2 (Can be doubled)
- 6 doves or 4 squab or pigeons (or quail)
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- 4 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup barley or farro
- 1/4 cup pancetta, lardo or thick-cut bacon, cut into batons
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 cups chicken, veggie or duck stock
- 1/2 cup fig or other fruit syrup (or maple syrup)
- Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, remove the backbones of the doves or squab. Rinse, pat dry and toss with some olive oil and kosher salt. Let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, take about 3/4 of the dried porcini mushrooms and buzz them in a spice grinder. You want between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of mushroom powder. The rest will be larger bits. Separate the powder from the bits and reserve.
- Dunk the rest of the dried porcini in warm water to reconstitute.
- In a heavy pot, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the lardo, pancetta or bacon and cook until almost as crispy as you would eat it.
- When the lardo is at that point, add the garlic. Stir and cook 1 minute.
- Add the minced sage, stir and cook everything until you just see the garlic begin to brown.
- Add the white wine and turn up the heat to high.
- Add the farro or barley and stir until the wine is almost gone.
- Add about 1/2 cup of chicken or duck stock and stir it in. When making a risotto-type dish, you want to add liquid slowly, stirring often, in an uncovered pot. This releases more starches from the grain and creates a sauce that seems like it has cream in it, but doesn’t. So keep stirring and adding liquid until the farro is nearly done.
- When you can chew the farro but it isn’t quite ready, fire up the grill on high, or turn on the broiler.
- Once the grill is hot, lay the doves skin side down on the grill and place the brick on top of them. This will help crisp up the skin and sear the doves better. Keep the grill top up, and cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Once the farro is done, turn off the heat and cover.
- After 4-5 minutes, check the doves. You should have a nice browned, crisp skin on the breasts. If so, turn them over. If not, keep searing for another minute or two. Cook the doves with the skin side up no more than 3 minutes.
- To serve, lay down some of the farro and top with the doves. Dust the doves with the porcini powder. If they look dry, drizzle just a teeny bit of olive oil over them,
- Finally, drizzle the fig or other fruit syrup over the birds. Vincotto syrup is another good alternative
- Serve with a fruity Grenache, Pinot Noir or Gamay.