September is the month that country grocery stores across America’s Dove Belt stock extra bacon in the breakfast-meats aisle. It’s not for pre-dawn consumption. The bacon is the classic final touch on the best appetizer money can’t buy: dove wraps, sometimes called dove poppers.
Obtaining the essential ingredient for this simple meal is easy: Shoot a limit of doves. Before I discovered this delicacy, from the hands and grill of my friend Bud Barron, I used to give away my doves, figuring that if my dog could barely stand to retrieve the birds, I couldn’t stoop to eating their liver-colored meat.
Then Bud grilled up a platter of bacon-wrapped dove breasts, and I haven’t given away a mourning dove—or an early season Hungarian partridge, or a sharptail grouse—since. You can even make this dish with the breasts of feral pigeons, something we have added to our diet since we bought a grain bin full of the birds. We shoot them for pre-dove practice, and I can’t stand to waste the ample-breasted birds.
Besides dove breasts and bacon, the other ingredients may surprise you. They’re two kinds of peppers: sweet red or green (or both) peppers, and pickled banana peppers. The crunch and tang of the peppers, wrapped inside the savory dove meat, and flavored with the salty, flame-singed bacon, give this app a surprising variety of complementary flavors.
15-bird limit of doves (mourning, white-winged, or Eurasian collared) – or other small-bodied upland bird
1 pound bacon
1 16-ounce jar pickled banana peppers (either sweet or hot)
2 green or red peppers
1. Fillet the breast meat off of each bird. If the dish will be an appetizer for a large crowd, cut each breast half in two.
2. Cut each slice of bacon into four pieces
3. Slice each banana pepper in half, lengthwise
4. Slice each sweet pepper into ½-inch strips
1. Start your grill, turning heat to medium.
2. Pound flat a piece of the bacon. Lay a piece of dove meat on one end of the bacon, then lay a slice of banana and sweet pepper on the dove meat. Roll the dove so that the bacon covers the slice and overlaps itself. Then pin the bacon with one or two toothpicks, ensuring that the dove and peppers are pinned inside the bacon.
3. When you’ve rolled up all the ingredients—you may have more of one ingredient or the other left over—pile the rolls on a cookie sheet and take out to grill.
4. Place on the hot grill, leaving enough room between rolls so that each can brown evenly. Turn over when the bacon on the bottom starts to scorch. And beware flare-ups from the dripping bacon fat. I usually keep a squirt bottle of water on hand to douse the flames.
5. When the bacon is evenly done, so are the doves.
6. Enjoy with relish, but not abandon, as you may encounter birdshot in the breast meat.