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.
- Breasts from 12 doves or 4 squab or pigeons
- 1 cup sunflower seeds, roasted and salted
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 egg
- Olive or safflower oil for frying
- Salt the dove breasts well and set aside for at least 10 minutes, and up to 30 minutes.
- 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.
- Mix the flour in with the sunflower seeds.
- Beat the egg.
- 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.
- Dip the dove breasts in the egg, then in the sunflower mixture. Press the sunflower coating into the meat gently.
- 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.
- 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.