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Nonhunters have no idea what you’re talking about. But say the words “jalapeño dove poppers” to a hunter and you’ll see a smile spread from ear to ear. Just looking at a plateful—with crisp bacon wrapped around each meaty, pepper-spiked dove breast, cream cheese oozing decadently around the edges—will bring tears of joy to any Texas sportsman’s eyes.
How to Make It
Every fall, more than 300,000 Texans head to a sunflower patch, a cutover grain field, a stock tank, or some other promising locale to hunt the state’s bountiful populations of mourning and white-winged doves. “Starting when I was about nine,” says Carter Smith, the executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife, “my father would take me out of school early to dove-hunt at our Williamson County farm. The only thing more enjoyable than skipping class and spending time in the country was the reward after the hunt: grilled dove. I’ve been eating these poppers all my life; our family serves them every chance we get and always as appetizers at Thanksgiving.” —PS
Carter Smith’s Jalapeño Dove Poppers
15 whole plucked dove breasts
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
15 jalapeño slices, each slice halved (fresh or canned)
2 packages regular-sliced bacon, cut in half
With a paring knife, separate breasts from breastbones to make 30 lobes. Sprinkle very lightly with garlic salt and pepper. Take a breast lobe, some cream cheese, and a jalapeño slice and wrap in bacon. Secure with a toothpick. Grill over mesquite, oak, or charcoal for 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and continue grilling until bacon is crisp. Serves 8 to 10.