Pressed Dove

“I hate to admit it,” Squeezer Ravenel says, “but we’ve got so many doves we’ve started popping out the breasts and discarding the rest.” A mourning dove yields but two good bites per breast, so you need a lot of doves. As with other game birds—quail, woodcock, wild duck—the breast is what you’re after, and to get the juicy goodness of it, you should either braise it very slow or fry it very fast. To remove dove breasts, split the bird down the back, peel off the skin covering each breast, insert your thumb under the lower rib end of each breast, and work the flesh loose until you can pull the meat out in one piece.

To speed the frying, Squeezer weights the breasts in a cast-iron skillet or “iron spider,” as she calls it, with a cast-iron pot lid. She then makes a little pan gravy for “dove essence.”

To freeze uncooked breasts, she puts them in rinsed-out milk cartons and covers them with water, since freezing them in a block of ice prevents airburn.

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  • ¼ pound (1 stick) butter
  • 8 dove breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup red wine
  • optional: chopped fresh thyme or rosemary


Melt half the butter in a large heavy frying pan, and when it bubbles put in the breasts and weight them evenly with a heavy lid or a smaller skillet. After 3 minutes, turn them over, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and weight them again. They should be done in 2 to 3 minutes. Remove them to a warm platter. Add wine to the pan juices and beat in the remaining butter. Season to taste and, if you like, add some fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary.