I love wild-game poppers as much as the other ten million hunters whose go-to recipe after the hunt is a skewer of meat and jalapeno wrapped with bacon and crowded on a grill. But sometimes this feels like the easy, uninspired approach. You really don’t get to enjoy the marvelously complex flavors of wild game, since each bite involves a hot pepper and slab of salt pig. I dreamed up a better way, one that’s less messy to eat and keeps the game separate so you can linger over each morsel, or mix and match with figs and prosciutto in one big mouthful. And doves are perfect for this. The recipe requires that you fillet the breasts, which takes no time at all, and brine the meat. But the extra steps are minimal, and I guarantee you, with these deconstructed poppers, the taste impact is at the max.
Deconstructed Dove-Fig-Prosciutto Poppers
An improved take on the popper—complete with a maple-Sriracha drizzle
photo: T. Edward Nickens
15 doves, cleaned and breasted
¼ cup salt
3 tbsp. plus ¾ cup maple syrup
½ tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. Sriracha or Sambal Oolek, a Thai chili paste
Salt and pepper
8 slices prosciutto
8 figs, halved
Prepare a brine: Bring 4 cups of water, ¼ cup salt, and 3 tbsp. maple syrup to a boil. Let cool.
While brine cools, fillet the breast meat from the doves. Add meat to brine and chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 1.5 hours.
Prepare maple syrup reduction: Melt butter in small saucepan, then add ¾ cup maple syrup and 1 tbsp. Sriracha or Sambal Oolek. Cook on low to medium heat until syrup starts to froth. Reduce by ⅓, stirring occasionally. When reduced, turn heat to very low to prevent mixture from solidifying.
Remove dove breast fillets from brine, pat dry, and toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper to coat lightly.
To prepare skewers: Take a half-slice of prosciutto, sliced lengthwise, and fold accordion-style in the palm of your hand to produce a half-dollar-sized stack of prosciutto. Thread onto the skewer by poking the tip of the skewer through the prosciutto from below, then running it back through the prosciutto stack from above, like a simple sewing stich. This allows the prosciutto to cook and crisp in an easily manageable bite-sized piece.
Alternate prosciutto, half a fig, and dove breast fillet on the skewers. Before skewering, dip the cut face of the fig in the maple syrup reduction. Skewer the dove breasts so they will rest flat on the grill.
Grill skewers on a medium-hot grill for about 2 minutes per side. Drizzle or brush them with maple syrup reduction before turning.
Do not overcook. Rare to medium-rare is best.
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