It has been two full seasons since I've hunted dove on opening day with my family and friends. It's a tradition that spans nearly 30 years for me and longer for others.
Dove hunting is an early morning affair, starting with a 4:30am wake-up call with the last shot fired at sundown. Sundown marks the end of shooting, but not the end of the day. After the drive home, cleaning the dove and getting dinner started for several hungry hunters is of primary importance.
My family has been cooking dove three different ways for as long as I can remember:
1. Doves in Red Tomato Sauce
2. Doves in a Stew Pot with carrots, celery and herbs
3. Doves wrapped in Bacon and grilled on the BBQ
This season, I took matters into my own hands and asked Chef Chris Shackelford to prepare dove recipe for me in a more refined, restaurant style. No rules. No guidelines. Just Chef following his desires. Oh, and I dropped the dove off earlier that morning and said I'd be back for dinner later.
Chef Chris has prepared quail, antelope, elk, venison, and wild boar so dove was just one more 'exotic' to play with.
Please excuse the picture as it's overexposed, but what you see is the result of dove as prepared by Chris ... Roulade of Dove. Fun. Technical. Totally Different.
My first bites of dove instantly brought me back to southern Italy, to a One Star Michelin restaurant in Puglia, Al Fornello da Ricci. (dish pictured below) Why? The infusion of flavor directly into the meat. Bay leaf and sage elements were present, but not overpowering. A sweetness was also present, rather than a gamey quality. Dove is a gamey meat. Dove eat seeds in all forms that translate into dense grassy, earthy flavors. Chef Shackelford crafted a dish that turned gamey into sweet herb infusion and I thank him for it.
I thank Chris not just for transporting me back to Italy, I thank Chef Shackelford for thinking out-of-the-box about game and fowl and presenting a dish with elegance and flavor befit for a Michelin starred restaurant.