The Wild South

Thanksgiving Appetizer: Barbecue Doves

A simple, highly adaptable recipe for adding some wild game flavor to your holiday table

Photo: T. Edward Nickens

Sometimes necessity is the mother of delicious invention, and so it was with this super easy wild game appetizer I dreamed up when I had to throw something together at the last minute for a party I’d forgotten about. It also makes a perfect Thanksgiving Day bite to tide you over till the turkey is ready, and it takes care of that last bag of doves in the freezer you’ve been wondering what to do with. I call the approach “scrounge cuisine,” and the point is to creatively use whatever is in your fridge or pantry. No grocery store trips required. Unless you don’t have Triscuits. But why would anyone not have Triscuits?

Start by mixing up a batch of DIY barbecue sauce in a medium to large saucepan (depending on the number of doves). I typically dump in a fifty-fifty mix of a thick traditional Memphis-style sauce and a vinegar-based eastern North Carolina sauce. If all you have is the thick stuff, no sweat. Cut it with apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, and half a beer, and call it good.

Spice this mixture up with plenty of fresh ground black pepper, some solid dashes of coriander, more red pepper flakes to taste, and if you have them, a half-dozen crushed juniper berries to give the mix a classic wild game flair. Are you a cinnamon fan? Toss in a stick. Spot a shriveled-up garlic clove in the pantry corner? Throw that in, too. Scrounge through the refrigerator for any jars of half-empty and mostly forgotten pickled or candied jalapenos. (If you have fresh, that’s good for bonus points.) Chop them roughly and add to the mix, and bring it all to a low rolling simmer.

photo: T. Edward Nickens

Now add the doves. Straight into the soup. Stir a few times with a wooden spoon, and let simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the doves with a slotted spoon, and let cool. Fillet the breasts with a sharp paring knife, or, if they’ve cooked enough, you can do this with your fingers. Separate the darker breast meat from the lighter “tenderloin” that lies against the keel of the breastbone.

To arrange, top a Triscuit cracker with slices of leftover cheese. Arrange a breast fillet on top, or crisscross two dove tenderloins. Garnish with a few jalapeno slices, and serve it like you’ve been sweating in the kitchen for hours.

Follow T. Edward Nickens on Instagram @enickens.