By Jessica Manuell
After a successful day in the field, it is time to get the birds ready for cooking. There are several ways to clean a dove. However, the fastest way to clean a dove is to place your thumb at the bottom of the breastbone and push inward until you pierce the skin and then insert your other thumb behind it and next to it.
Next, pull the breast away from the backbone using both thumbs to pull in opposite directions. Reposition your other thumb so that you are pulling the whole spine and back of the bird away from the breast. With a little practice, you will perfect stripping the breast right off the rest of the body.
The next step is to either snap the wings off at the mid-joint or use a penknife to work between that joint clearing the wings off neatly.
After removing the wings, take the time to remove all loose feathers from the breast.
Last, take a very sharp and pointed knife to follow any pellet holes in the bird and remove shot from the meat. Often you will find a feather that was dragged in with the pellet. Removing the pellets and all feathers now makes the meal that much more enjoyable and particularly so for non-hunters who are trying game for the first time.
After cleaning a few doves, your proficiency will improve to where you can clean your limit in about 10 minutes.
Another way to eat dove
Like any table fare, the same recipe over and over leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
A family that my husband has hunted with for several years and I recently became acquainted with, adds a special flair to dove that you only find in a home kitchen and cookbook. The following recipe is written by our friend’s grandfather, Frank C. Benites and his grandfather’s sister Carlota Benites Young. The pictures are also credited to the Benites family.
Dove breast in a red chili sauce
After returning to your residence or place of consumption, finish cleaning the dove, leaving only the breast for cooking.
12 Red Chili Pods (whole dried chilies, hot or mild)
1 ½ quart water or beef broth
2 beef bouillon cubes (not necessary if using broth)
4 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic
Pinch of oregano
Salt to taste
4 tablespoons oil
Clean chili pods by breaking off the stems, shake out seeds and rinse with cold water. Place in a pot with enough water to cover them and boil for 15 minutes.
Remove chilies from the water and place in a blender.
Add garlic, oregano, a pinch of salt and 1 cup of water. Purée.
Heat oil in a large pot over low fire.
Add 4 tablespoons of flour to the oil and stir.
Brown flour lightly and then add the chili purée a little at a time, mixing constantly to prevent lumps from forming.
When all the purée has been added, then add the remaining water, a little at a time, stirring until all water has been added.
Add dove breast and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. You may need more liquid as time progresses.
Finish with salt and pepper to taste.