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Bacon-wrapped dove breasts to stream-side trout: Eating wild right

Bacon-wrapped dove breast plated with produce of the season.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Dreams of grilled dove breasts wrapped in bacon distracted me last week while I pulled together the column on dove hunting.

Grilled, bacon-wrapped dove breasts are about my favorite outdoors meal, if I throw in the caveat that it needs to be something I caught, shot or foraged.

I’ve had memorable feeds while hunting or fishing: numerous ones with Joe McCartin come to mind; a breakfast/brunch in a boat duck blind where we busted ice hunting with guide Todd Gessner on Rend Lake; guide Dustan Harley setting up a red-checkered tablecloth on a table, then whipping out marinated steak and making it by a secret river we were fly fishing for steelhead in southwest Michigan.

But that’s different, here I’m talking about game, fish or forage gathered, then prepped and eaten.

Part of the reason that bacon-wrapped dove breasts stick out is because September is also a good time of the year in gardening, too, with the last of the sweet corn and the peak of tomatoes.

Field to table, if you will.

Mike Arndt introduced me to bacon-wrapped dove breasts years ago. But the recipe has been around in various forms long before him.

My version is marinading the bone-in dove breasts in olive oil, fresh squeezed lime juice, garlic and fresh herbs or going the simple route of Italian dressing. Then wrapping the breasts in bacon. A strip will go around about twice. Then impaling on a soaked wooden skewer.

There are two major variations. Arndt recommended stuffing with cheese, but it never worked well for me, so I stopped trying. What does work well for me is putting a sliver of jalapeno under the bacon slice on each breast side. In early September, I have just-picked jalapenos piled everywhere. When I have enough dove breasts to cook for the whole family, I do half with jalapeno slices and half without.

Dove breasts are relative morsels and the daily bag in Illinois is 15 doves. So a limit of doves feeds five light eaters, more realistically three. You can also use them as conversation-stoking hors d’oeuvres.

To finish off the field to table, I suggest serving with thick fresh tomato slices and boiled just-picked sweet corn. I’ve seen fancy suggestions for wine pairings, but the basic one is pinot noir.

Food memories in simple perfection come to mind.

Perch from the Chicago lakefront in a full presentation.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Trying to mimic the way the Army and Lou’s, the legendary South Side soul-food place, used to do their catfish steaks. Deer backstraps, many times and places. Broiling or deep-frying fresh-caught yellow perch, then serving with berries if early in the year or sweet corn and tomatoes in the summer. Spring coho steamed in foil with lemon, garlic and soy sauce. Morels in May sauteed with garlic, butter and olive oil, then served with buttered long bread.

My all-time favorite meal outdoors was by a mountain stream. It began with catching a brook trout. When the fire was going, I pulled out a pan, butter, and salt and pepper. Then I cleaned the trout, which clean easily, and immediately put it into hot butter. The ambiance of laurel, spruce and gurgling mountain stream properly seasoned the whole deal.

Simple and perfect.

Simple is often best for perfection in cooking wild, such as this simple May morel feast with buttered long bread.
Credit: Dale Bowman