I cannot think of a more special time of the year to me than early September. Just as farmers begin to harvest the literal fruits of their labor it’s time for a Delta tradition like no other. The first weekend of college football and dove season.
I have listened to Jack Cristil’s play by play of the Mississippi State Bulldogs many times on opening weekend from the dove field. I would always try and find a good shade tree to park the truck so it could be partially hidden from the view of the passing doves but still be close enough I could hear that radio.
If you’re not from the Delta it is hard to imagine what a Delta dove hunt is. It is way more than hunting. It is social event. One complete with food, a dress code, a beverage, and the entertainment of flocks of doves descending into a mature sunflower field. It’s one of those things that everyone is invited to. Young and old, women and men, rich and poor. It’s a family event and everyone who is anyone will be in a dove field on opening day.
One of the best parts is that little mourning dove and all the great dishes you can do with it. When I was a kid we would always end up at my Mammy’s that opening day with all the doves we had harvested. The men would clean them and the women would fry them up with big cathead biscuits, rice, and homemade gravy. It will always be my favorite way to eat doves but there are so many good recipes.
As the hunting season would go on and the extended family goes home we would start hunting with our neighbors. I always remember hunting with the Millers on Promised Land Plantation. They always had a good spot and Tucker Miller was always cooking up something good with his doves. He is one of the best cooks I know and I would put him up against any chef. One of my favorites was a dip he called Promised Land Plantation Dip. He was nice enough to share the recipe with us.
12 dove breasts
2 cups beef broth
1 sweet yellow onion
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
Salt and pepper dove breasts. Place breast – down in casserole dish, put sliced onion over top and add some beef broth. Cover with foil and bake in a 300 degree oven until tender. Remove meat from the bone. Save the broth. Make a white sauce using the flour, butter, and 2 Cups of heavy cream heating up in a skillet until the sauce thickens stirring often. Thin with broth the doves were cooked in. Season the sauce with sprinkles of paprika, seasoned salt, garlic powder, parsley. Serve with toast points.
Stafford Shurden is a lifelong resident of the Delta and owns 1933 Restaurant & Bar in Rulstafford@1933restaurantandbar.comeville and Stafford’s Market and Deli in Drew.