Your Bird Here

Throw out the turkey! This year, turn to a native fowl—dove, duck, or quail—for your holiday dinner centerpiece. With these inventive recipes from three of our favorite chefs, you’ll be starting a new (and juicier) tradition.
Illustration by Darren Braun

Sure, you could have turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. There’s nothing wrong with serving up a gargantuan, dried-out, unwieldy, predictable hunka protein that nobody with a single functioning taste bud really likes very much. It’s a proud American tradition that goes all the way back to 1621 and, ahem, Plymouth, Massachusetts. But there’s a far more Texan way to celebrate, and that is to serve a tasty, juicy, imaginative, and wieldy bird that actually hails from our fair state. And what might that be? Well, what about a choice between duck, quail, and white-winged dove? (Yes, yes, wild turkeys live here too, but be quiet; you’re spoiling my argument.)

To this end, we asked three leading Texas chefs to create original recipes for cooking and accessorizing these indigenous fowl. And did they ever come through. Tyson Cole, chef-owner of Austin’s Japanese fusion restaurant Uchi, has created a combo that pairs dove with sake-ginger sweet potatoes and a savory cinnamon-apple jus. From Fort Worth, Lanny Lancarte, chef-owner of Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana, takes duck, seasons it with bay leaf and allspice, and serves it up with a mushroom, currant, and jalapeño picadillo. Jason Dady, chef-owner of three San Antonio establishments (Tre Trattoria, the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, and Bin 555), has taken an Italian-oriented approach to bobwhite quail, combining it with a butternut squash, apple, and farro stuffing. So make 2008 the year you throw caution to the wind and the turkey out the door. It’s high time for a new tradition—which, with any luck, will become a cherished one.

Pan-Roasted White-Winged Dove With Smashed Sake-Ginger Sweet Potatoes and Spiced Apple Jus

Tyson Cole, Uchi, Austin


White-Winged Dove

Pan-Roasted White-Winged Dove
Photograph By Sarah Sudhoff

Sweet Potatoes

6 medium whole sweet potatoes, preferably garnet or Japanese satsumaimo, available at Central Market
6 garlic cloves
6 pieces ginger, same size as garlic cloves
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons sake
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prick potatoes with a knife and sprinkle each with a little salt and pepper. Place each one on a piece of aluminum foil with a garlic clove (halved), a piece of ginger (halved), and a tablespoon of butter. Drizzle with a tablespoon of sake. Seal and bake until tender, about 50 minutes. Carefully unwrap, reserving seasoned butter, if any. When ready to serve, slice into 1/2-inch disks (you may leave skins on or remove) and gently press an indentation into each disk with the back of a tablespoon.

Spiced Apple Jus

1 cup fresh apple juice, preferably unfiltered
1 stick cinnamon
1 pod star anise
1 pinch coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce, preferably Squid brand, available at Asian markets (optional; do not substitute Thai or Chinese fish sauce)

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and reduce over high heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (not quite syrupy). Remove cinnamon and star anise.

Cherry-Cocoa Nib Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
4 ounces dried cherries, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons cocoa nibs, available at Whole Foods or Central Market; grind finely using a coffee or spice grinder
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
kosher salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a nonreactive bowl, lightly whisk, and let stand for 15 minutes.


2 green apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and cored
1/2 large onion, peeled
2 thumb-size knobs of ginger
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
juice and rinds of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons each of whole juniper berries, coriander seeds, star anise pods, and black peppercorns
24 to 36 doves (allow 4 to 6 per person)
kosher salt and pepper to taste
several tablespoons olive oil
12 or more basil leaves, for garnish (do not omit)

Note: White-winged dove are game birds not available in supermarkets. Squab may be substituted—order well ahead from Central Market or Whole Foods. Or use quail, 2 per person.

Prepare brine: Four hours to a day ahead, put apple, onion, and ginger in a food processor and lightly purée. Combine purée with vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon, spices, and 5 cups water in a nonreactive container. Cover and chill.

Prepare birds: If doves have breast bones intact, you will need to remove them. Lay each bird on a cutting board, breast side up, legs toward you. Using short strokes, cut from top to bottom of left breast, as close to the breast bone (keel bone) as possible; do not cut through to the back yet and do not remove skin. Repeat with right side. Discard keel bone. Fold breasts to each side, as if opening a book, and remove ribs from the front and back (they should come out easily); thighs and legs will still be attached. Now cut bird into halves, down center of back.

Brine birds: Place doves in brine (adding water if needed to cover), put a lid on container, and refrigerate 4 to 8 hours. Remove, rinse, and pat dry.

Cook birds: Put about 1/16 inch cooking oil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan. Heat on high just until oil starts to smoke. Put pieces in pan, skin side down. Lower heat to medium. Press to flatten with a similarly sized pan and, continuing to press, cook until skin is golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip and cook other side, still pressing, until medium rare, about 1 more minute. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes, then cut each piece in half between thigh and breast.

To serve, place sweet potato disks close together on dinner plates. Arrange dove on top of disks, with legs sticking up jauntily. Drizzle with any reserved butter and a little Spiced Apple Jus, then spoon Cherry—Cocoa Nib Sauce around edge. Garnish with basil. Serves 6.

Roasted Duck With Currant, Jalapeño, and Mushroom Picadillo Stuffing

Lanny Lancarte, Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana, Fort Worth

Roasted Duck

Roasted Duck
Photograph By Kevin Marple


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup seeded, deveined, and minced jalapeños
1 1/2 pounds (about 8 cups) mild-flavored

Tags: FOOD

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