Sometimes you just have to go with what you know. Don’t get me wrong, I take delight in putting a twist on an familiar recipe or coming up with something completely new. But sometimes there is just as much joy in reaching for something you already know and love. Dove poppers are that for me. Every time I make them, I am impressed with their simplicity and yet how down-right amazing they taste.
I have never really experimented much with dove meat. I think I haven’t because every time I finish up a dove hunt, the only thing on my mind is a barbeque grill, jalapenos, and bacon. I supposed I should try something new, “live a little” as they say, and create a dove meal that isn’t a popper. I say that now, but I am certain that come this September, I will make nothing but dove poppers with my harvest.
The big game draw results were published this week, and my family has a lot of tags. I realized that I needed to start making a little room in the freezer for what will hopefully be successful hunts this fall. While digging around, making notes on what needed to be used first, I found a bag of dove breasts. Somehow they had been missed. That is quite a rare occurrence in this household. And of course, all I could think of was how I needed to get the grill started so I could eat dove poppers for dinner.
So, even though I know there are lots of dove popper recipes out there, and that this isn’t exactly a new twist or even a creative use for dove breasts, I am going to share my favorite way of preparing dove poppers. Enjoy!
Start with preheating the outdoor grill. I create two sections on my grill when preparing poppers: a high heat or “hot” side, and then a medium heat area. I start all the coals in a central pile on the grill, and then once they are grey and ashed over, I move the majority of my pile, about 2/3, to one side of the grill and place the remaining 1/3 on the opposite side. This is a good technique when cooking any type of meat, such as steaks or burgers, on the grill.
Popper ingredients are pretty simple and inexpensive. Each popper needs one slice of bacon, a thin slice of jalapeno, and a thin slice of onion. For a typical group gathering, I make two poppers per person.
The most difficult part, if you can even call it that, for making a great dove popper is cleaning the breast from the bird. The easiest way is to remove the meat from the breast bone in one solid piece, so that it looks like a butterfly when opened up. This allows you to wrap the meat around the peppers and onions, which makes wrapping the entire thing more convenient.
Lay the butterflied dove breast open, and in the crevasse place a thin slice of jalapeno and a thin slice of onion. If you don’t like heat at all, you can substitute the jalapeno for a slice of bell pepper. If you are someone that loves to cry and sweat while you eat, you can substitute the jalapeno for something a little spicier, such as a serrano or, if you are really crazy, a little piece of habanero. Fold the breast meat around the pepper and onion, creating a small pouch.
I wrap an entire slice of bacon around each popper. I only do this because the bacon helps to hold the pepper and onion inside while I am moving things around on the grill. As far as flavor, you can do just half a slice and it will still taste amazing, it just might fall apart a bit.
Using two toothpicks, secure the bacon around the popper. You are ready to grill!
I start the poppers on the medium heat area of the grill. Bacon gets very….drippy…on the barbecue grill. As it starts to grill, little drops of fat will fall and hit the coals. This can result in flames, and if the heat is too high the bacon fat sets on fire and burns the dove poppers. The result is a raw dove inside of a blackened bacon crust. Not amazing my friends, not amazing. So, to bar this from happening, I start on the lower heat area. Cook the poppers, turning often, for about seven minutes on the lower heat side of the grill. The bacon should be mostly cooked by that time.
After about seven minutes, move the poppers to the higher heat area of the grill and allow them to finish cooking. I like to let my bacon just start to char and then I know things are ready, which takes about five more minutes. The result is a crispy bacon crust with a soft, perfectly cooked inside. The dove should be cooked to just below well-done, and the pepper and onion should be soft.
Dove poppers are the perfect appetizer to start your barbeque off with, or even better, a great meal option!