Baking quail and doves requires little effort, but the resulting dish is rich in flavor and elegant in appearance. Doves are migratory birds, and the meat has a distinctive, wild flavor; the taste of quail is more subtle and sweet. Both birds are equally tasty, but adequate moisture while cooking is critical because the active little birds have little fat and tend to be tough. Allow at least two to four birds per person.
Browning for Flavor and Color
Browning quail and doves in hot oil provides an appetizing color and a deep, intense flavor while keeping the meat inside moist and tender. Season the birds with salt and pepper and coat them lightly with flour. Heat fat in a heavy skillet over medium-heat heat, then brown the birds, turning them often, until they are brown on all sides. Bacon fat infuses the birds with a rich flavor, but you can also use butter or cooking oil.
Keeping the Birds Tender
Once doves and quail are browned, place them in a baking dish or roasting pan, then pour in liquid to keep the meat moist. Chicken broth accentuates the flavor and keeps the dish simple, and you can add extra flavor with a splash of white wine or sherry. Alternatively, instead of pouring the broth directly into the baking dish, use it to make gravy and pour the gravy over the birds before baking. You can also make a simple sauce by mixing canned mushroom soup with a small amount of milk.
If you want to turn quail and doves into a more complete meal, you can arrange a variety of vegetables around the birds, then cover the birds and vegetables with liquid or gravy before baking. Nearly any vegetable complements quail and doves, including chopped onions or leeks, minced garlic, sliced carrots, chopped bell peppers, fresh mushrooms, chunks of potatoes or chopped celery. You can also cover each bird with a strip of bacon to add flavor and moisture.
Baking Quail and Doves
Place quail and doves in a covered baking pan or roaster, then bake them in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking time varies, depending on the size and number of birds, but as a general rule, allow 30 to 60 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the birds are cooked to a safe temperature of 165 F. Insert the meat thermometer into the the thickest part of the meat, but don't let the probe touch bone.
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- Back to Protein: The Low Carb/No Carb Meat Cookbook; Barbara Doyen
- The Fish and Game Cookbook: Over Two Hundred Time-Honored Recipes; Sylvia G. Bashline
- Mississippi Fish and Wildlife Foundation: Smothered Dove
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Dove d'Elegence
- Clemson University Extension: Safe Handling of Wild Game Birds
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images