Sweet and Sour Doves

The opening of dove season marks the beginning of my favorite time of the year. Soon the temperatures will drop and the sounds of migrating waterfowl will be ringing in my ears.

Many game chefs prefer to slow-cook doves, often in a tomato-based sauce and then served over a starch such as soft, cheesy polenta or rice. I prefer the “fast and hot” method where the finished birds are crispy on the outside and a juicy medium-rare at the center of the breast. The cleaned and plucked birds may be pan-seared with a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat, cooked under a broiler or barbecued over a bed of smoky coals.

Sweet and Sour Doves


  • 12-16 whole doves skin intact
  • *** salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/3 cup yellow onion finely diced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or substitute red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 4 ounces chilled butter cut into 5 pieces


  • Season doves with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add brown sugar and cook until sugar melts and turns to liquid. Add remaining ingredients except butter. Reduce contents by boiling, uncovered, until there is approximately 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, one piece at a time until sauce is thickened.
  • Baste doves briefly with sauce and cook to medium-rare. I prefer the barbecue method which takes approximately 5 to 7 minutes while turning occasionally over a medium-hot bed of coals. When cooked, spoon sauce over doves and serve with warm rice. If you need to reheat the sauce, do so over very low heat while stirring. Do not boil or the sauce will separate.

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