Although small, weighing only an average of 4.5 ounces each, doves are commonly hunted for their meat. To feed one person, it usually takes about 2-3 doves. One dove makes for a good appetizer. Pigeons are a little larger, so one pigeon may be enough for a main course for one person. The culinary term for dove meat is usually just dove, but squab refers to young pigeon meat, which is very similar and often interchangeable with dove meat in recipes (as long as you account for the size difference, 3 doves = about 1 squab). The taste of dove meat has been compared by many to dark meat chicken or duck meat, and it has been described as fairly tough and rich in gamey flavor. Unlike duck, dove meat has very little fat on it. With over a 30 year long history of dove hunting in Argentina, and dove hunting rising to Argentina's most popular kind of hunting, there are a number of delicious Argentinian ways to prepare dove after a hunt. Food is a very big part of Argentinian culture, especially meat, as most traditional Argentinian dishes contain meat.
When preparing dove meat there are two main ways to do it: plucking or breasting. Plucking will result in the whole dove being ready to cook, while breasting prepares just the breast meat. Many people choose to breast the dove since 95 percent of the meat is in the breast anyway. By plucking, you gain the legs but they contain very small amounts of meat. However, the plucking method is also very popular since many recipes call for the whole dove. Plucking is a very simple process. Breasting is also simple, each dove only taking about 30 seconds to get the breast out. Dove is considered one of the easiest meats to prepare. The steps associated with each of these two methods follow:
How to Breast a Dove:
- Cut off the wings with a pair of kitchen scissors, or twist them off with your hands
- Remove the head using kitchen scissors
- Hold the bird belly-side-up and pluck the breast feathers
- Separate the breast meat from the dove by placing your thumbs on both sides of the line on the center of the stomach. Press lightly and pull thumbs away from each other until the skin pulls back revealing the breast meat. You may need a knife to detach the breast from the bone
- Rinse the breast with cold water to clean off any remaining blood or organs and pat dry with a paper towel
- Store meat in a plastic bag and refrigerate until you are ready to cook
How to Pluck a Whole a Dove:
- Carefully pluck the feathers from the entire body, they will come off very easily
- Cut off the wings, head, and feet with kitchen scissors
- Remove the yellow gland by cutting off the flesh at the end of the tail
- Make a cut near the cloaca (located under the base of the tail, on the extreme lower abdomen) and remove the innards
- Store in a plastic bag, refrigerate, and rinse with cold water before cooking
Doves do not take very long to cook since they are so small. The meat can be grilled, roasted, fried, smoked, and stewed in many different ways. People say dove is best when grilled because it makes the skin crispy while not overcooking the breast meat. Dove should be served medium, still a little pink inside. Roasting is the second most common way to cook dove meat. This is usually done when the weather gets colder and grilling is not as convenient. Given the small size of these birds, you want to get everything you can from them with little waste. Once the meat is gone, saving the bones can make some delicious stock that can be used as a base for soups and stews, rice making, or braising. To get one quart of stock, you will probably need bones from about 5 birds. You can also utilize the hearts and gizzards by sauteing them and mixing them into risotto made with dove stock, or soaking them in your favorite marinade then grilling them and making kabobs. There are hundreds of dove recipes out there including bacon wrapped dove breasts, dove nuggets, and barbecued doves. One dove dish that is native to South America and popular in Spain and nearby countries is grilled doves a la mancha. This recipe requires whole, plucked doves and contains bay leaves, sage, and smoked paprika as the key flavors.
Try It for Yourself!
After your dove hunt in Argentina, you can look forward to an amazing meal, with light labor of meat preparation. Dove meat can be cooked in so many different ways and dishes, you will never get sick of it. If you are a lover of dark meat, dove is a must-try. Argentina’s high volume dove shooting is a favorite of many hunters and is sure to delight your dinner plate while on your trip with a generous helping of meat for your enjoyment.