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Fried Doves with a Sunflower Crust

Sunflower seed-crusted dove

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I have a thing about ironic food. Doves are great eaters of seeds, and they love none more than sunflower and safflower. So, I thought, why not fry some doves in a crushed sunflower crust in some safflower oil? Not only is this dish amusing, it is damn good.

Cooks have a maxim: What lives together in life will live together on the plate. It’s so true with this recipe. Doves have a savory, beguiling flavor all their own, and the sunflower seeds really bring that out.

How to serve these little morsels? Well, you can get all fancy, as I did with the picture above — the doves are served over a mixed bean salad, with a cilantro-green chile sauce and alongside a fried quail egg. or you can just fry a mess of dove breasts, serve them with the sauce of your choice (mustard is a good idea), and call it a day. They are equally good.

If you don’t hunt but want to try something close to this, use quail or squab. I suppose you could even use Cornish game hens, but the flavor would be very different.

Serves 4

  • Breasts from 12 doves or 4 squab or pigeons
  • Salt
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds, roasted and salted
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg
  • Olive or safflower oil for frying

 

  1. Salt the dove breasts well and set aside for at least 10 minutes, and up to 30 minutes.
  2. Put the sunflower seeds in a food processor or blender and pulse until the seeds look like a coarse meal. Put in a wide, shallow bowl.
  3. Mix the flour in with the sunflower seeds.
  4. Beat the egg.
  5. Pour enough oil in the bottom of a heavy frying pan (cast iron is ideal) to come up the sides about 1/4 inch. Heat over medium-high heat until a little flour tossed in the oil sizzles immediately. Turn the heat to medium.
  6. Dip the dove breasts in the egg, then in the sunflower mixture. Press the sunflower coating into the meat gently.
  7. Fry in batches; make sure the breasts don’t touch each other, or you will not get that nice golden brown. They should take about 2 minutes per side. Set on paper towels while you finish the rest.
  8. Serve with your sauce of choice. The sauce in the picture is a cilantro sauce made the same way as the parsley sauce in this pigeon recipe.

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