For a lot of us, early September means dove hunting. There’s no better way to get our entire family afield in a social hunting situation. Good-natured ribbing over missed shots, and the occasional “well done” on a made one, keeps everyone involved.
For us, dove hunting always means poppers on the grill. Sure, you can use dove in other recipes, but there is a reason the classic popper is so popular. It’s just plain good.
If you’ve never made a dove popper, the process is pretty simple. You take one side of a breasted-out dove breast, smear it with a bit of cream cheese, top it with a slice of jalapeño pepper and onion, then you wrap the whole thing up with a half slice of bacon, secure it with a toothpick, and toss it on the grill.
Dove breast is a lot like duck. It just tastes better when cooked to about medium or even slightly under. To prevent the dove meat from overcooking, I prefer to use relatively thin bacon for the recipe. Thin bacon does two things. First, it gets nice and crisp in a short enough time to prevent the dove breast from overcooking. Second, a single layer of thin bacon complements the flavor without overpowering the dove meat. There is nothing wrong with the taste of grilled bacon, I cook it that way all the time, but when I eat dove, I want to taste the dove.
15 doves, breasted out into two pieces of meat for each dove
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound of bacon
One 8-ounce block of cream cheese
1 jar of sliced jalapeño peppers
1/2 white onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
Start by seasoning the dove breast well with salt and pepper. Use the thinnest bacon you can find. Cut the bacon down the center to make half slices.
To assemble the poppers, lay out a half strip of bacon (stretch it a little if you need extra length). Lay one side of a boneless dove breast on the bacon. Top the dove with a dollop of cream cheese. I use about a teaspoon per popper. Place a slice of jalapeño pepper atop the cream cheese, then top that with a slice of onion. Rolling up a bunch of poppers can get tedious, but we try to get everyone involved in an assembly line to speed the process.
Roll the popper tightly with bacon and secure with a toothpick. Repeat until all poppers are assembled.
Grill over a hot charcoal fire, monitoring closely to move the poppers out of the inevitable flare-ups, until the bacon is cooked through and crisp. Most of our poppers cook in 7 to 10 minutes.
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