1 tsp. butter
Plain bread crumbs
Fried bread crumbs or slices (optional)
To be worth the trouble of picking [plucking], must be well grown, and well fed.
Clean them well, and pepper and salt them; broil them over a clear, slow fire; turn them often, and put a little butter on them.
Garnish with fried bread-crumbs, or sippets; or, when the pigeons are trussed as for boiling, flat them with a cleaver, taking care not to break the skin of the backs or breasts. Season them with pepper and salt, a little bit of butter, and a tea-spoonful of water, and tie them close at both ends; so that when they are brought to table, they bring their sauce with them. Egg and dredge them well with grated bread (mixed with spice and sweet herbs, if you please); then lay them on the gridiron, and turn them frequently; if your fire is not very clear, lay them on a sheet of paper well buttered, to keep them from getting smoked. They are much better broiled whole.
From The Cook’s Oracle by William Kitchiner, MD, New York, 1829
Comment: Here we see signs that not just cooking but papermaking was a very different thing in the 1800s. To replicate this recipe today would probably involve the use of a charcoal or gas grill, and it would be most unwise to use an average sheet of paper as a cooking surface on one of those devices.
Paper in those days was thick and sturdy indeed, made from rags and other scraps of cloth rather than wood pulp as is almost universal nowadays. Cooking was done in front of an open fire in a hearth or fireplace, so the heat radiated more from the side than from directly underneath. A “clear fire” was the ideal, but the smokiness was largely a factor of the type of wood being used and so could not always be controlled.
Then as now, pigeons used for food were normally raised commercially and not considered wild game except on the farthest reaches of the frontier. Cornish hens might be a more practicable substitute nowadays.