September first is a bona fide holiday in our family. For generations, my hubby's family members have taken the day off of work and freed their kids from school to celebrate the opening day of mourning dove season.
When I first met the hubby (then boyfriend) I began joining him on this sacred holiday, and I have since learned to love dove openers. Unlike the wintertime water foul seasons, it's typically warm enough on September 1st to wear shorts. You pack a lunch, some water, and many, many boxes of shotgun shells and, if you're lucky, you come home with fewer than a dozen doves. If you're me, you come home with one bird...ok, so shotgunning fast-moving airborne game birds is not my strong suit. But my lack of success dove hunting doesn't keep me from going.
This year, we packed both of the kids, who were eager to participate in this family tradition. Though Little Sister is still too young and excitable to handle even a toy gun, Boy has demonstrated extremely disciplined gun handling skills with his toy guns and, as a result, was given his first shotgun for his 5th birthday.
This isn't any shotgun either. This JC Higgins 410 single-shot was his daddy's first shotgun, and his granddaddy's first shotgun as well. While Boy is still a bit too small to handle it by himself, he did get a chance to fire a round in the direction of a dove...with no success, but at least he was in good company. It was a fun morning, and the kids both came home dirty and tired, and we had a collective count of about 10 birds to show for our efforts.
The Hubby went out for the afternoon shoot, sans wife and kids, and came home with about 20 more. Out here, while there is a 15 bird limit on our native mourning dove, the larger, non-native Eurasian collared dove has begun to dominate the habitat and resources of the mourning dove, and is therefore considered a nuisance species. There is no limit on collared dove.
So what do you do with 30 or so dove? I typically make a fun little appetizer called Dove Poppers which is a half dove breast marinated in Chipotle Tobasco sauce atop a cream cheese stuffed half jalapeno, wrapped with bacon and then baked, but this year, due to the volume of little dove breasts in the fridge, the Hubby suggested a dove jambalaya...ooooh, I love it when he talks food.
So we began looking into recipes and managed to adapt a few to meet our needs. I was extremely disappointed with the store-bought Cajun seasoning options, so the Hubby found a great recipe for it as well and I included it here too, but feel free to use a store-bought one you like if you'd rather. The jambalaya was a huge success, and we both agreed it was our new favorite recipe for dove! It made a huge pot, and was perfect for a group, and the dove meat was fork tender, moist and delicious. Even people who turn their noses up at game meat would be hard pressed to find flaw with this recipe, so without further ado, here it is.
- 6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into1-inch pieces
- 1 pound cooked ham, diced
- 2 pounds boneless dove breasts
- 1 package cooked andouille sausage
- 3 T butter
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with liquid
- 4 cups beef broth
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 6 T. Cajun seasoning (recipe below) divided
- 3 cups uncooked white rice
- Sprinkle 3-4 T of Cajun seasoning over dove breasts and toss to coat.
- In a large stockpot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add dove breasts to pot and brown in batches in bacon grease. Return browned meat and bacon to pan and add diced ham and sliced sausage. Set aside.
- In a separate pan, heat butter over medium heat. Add celery, pepper, onion and garlic and saute until soft.
- Add veggies to meat in stock pot, along with tomatoes, broth and 2 T. Cajun seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer approximately 2 hours.
- Stir in rice and cover, setting timer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep rice from sticking to bottom of pot.
- Remove pot from heat and let set 10 minutes before serving.
- 5 T. paprika
- 2 T. fresh ground black pepper
- 1 T. onion powder
- 1 T. garlic powder
- 1 T. dried oregano
- 1 T. dried basil
- 1 T dried thyme
- 1 T. salt
- 1 tsp. white pepper
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- 1 tsp. ground coriander