Is it just me, or is good food the foundation of true genuine happiness? Whether it’s holiday season and you’re smelling Christmas cookies and pies baking or turkey being roasted in the oven or it's a family reunion and meat is being cooked on the grill, we all have those memories that can take us back years if not decades into our happy place.
Til this day, I can still remember my first moments and experiences with food growing up as a kid in rural and urban Statesboro, GA -- from wood and charcoal burning in the grill with meat wrapped in foil, to stewed vegetables of okra and field peas filling the air as the steam is heating up the house, to fish frying in a pot. One of my favorites is Mama Patricia’s smothered turkey wings.
I mean...just fall off the bone as you’re biting into them and juices falling. Tasting the saltiness from the seasoned broth, sweetness from the chopped onions, creaminess from the slow cooked gravy, and a touch of spiciness from the creole and paprika. There’s no food I look forward to more when I travel back home to see my parents than those turkey wings. I mean smothered anything is amazing, whether it’s pork chops or fried chicken, etc., but it was just something about those turkey wings that made me forget what I was thinking about doing before or after my meal.
They made me present in the moment. Perhaps maybe because they didn’t come as often as other meats or perhaps maybe they reminded me of huge chicken wings as a kid. You can never really be absolute. My theory of why I love them so much is because they were the most complex in flavor and they tend to not just depend on sugar and butter to make them great. It doesn’t take much for something to taste good with those two ingredients involved, but for food to be a highlight in someone else's life without those two ingredients is amazing in itself.
Since the turkey wings weren’t fried, they tend to take on more of whatever flavor my mom put with them. To be honest, I’m sure it was just Salt and pepper and onions in the pot cooking more times than not, but I realized early on the importance of slow cooking and how much time and effort goes into the food that makes people the happiest. In Layman's terms, how long you have to starve until the cook says it’s ready.
Culinary has taken me on a food lover's journey around the world. Though I haven’t physically been outside of the United States just yet, my taste buds have. When people ask, I always like to say that my taste buds have been to over 44 countries, 50 cities, and 4 continents and counting. Somehow no matter how fine dining I tend to cook for others or treat myself, I always come back to the foods that take me home.
One of the best quotes I've come across from playwriter George Bernard Shaw is that “there is no sincere love more than the love of food.” In my professional opinion and after eating my mom’s smothered turkey wings, Mr. Bernard may be on to something. So I hope, as you continue to read this, that you continue to surround yourself with foods that take you back home and make you present in the moment.
That’s the beauty of food isn't it? Throughout history, what we eat and what we discover brings us together. It’s a communal table. It’s how we know who we are and it’s how we know we’re connected.
Just out of curiosity, what are some of your favorite foods? Desserts? Quick meals? Maybe some of your favorite memories come from going out to restaurants with a family member. Whatever the case may be, I hope that my passion for food resonates with you.
After all, the love of food is how we know who we are and it’s how we know we’re connected. Stay hungry, my friends, and thank you for your support!
Mama Patricia’s Smothered Turkey Wings
- 4 turkey wings
- 2 bell peppers (I used red and green), julienned
- 1 medium size onion, julienned
- 4-5 cloves of garlic
- Season to taste. I used:
- 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
- 1/2 tsp Tony Chachere's no salt seasoning
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbs oil
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 tbs butter
- Optional fresh herbs: Sage, Thyme, Oregano
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Let's put it together!
- In a bowl, add turkey wings, bell peppers, onion and garlic.
- Coat with oil. Ensure meat is thoroughly covered with oil.
- Add seasoning to meat and veggies. Massage the seasoning into the meat.
- Optional* Let marinate for 1 hour to overnight.
- Add to a baking pan and add herbs if using.
- Mix chicken broth and flour to create a slurry. Make sure there are no flour lumps.
- In open spaces between the turkey wings pour chicken broth slurry on the bottom of the pan. Make sure not to pour over the turkey wings (don't worry, it will thicken up and become gravy!).
- Place dollops of butter on top of the turkey wings.
- Cover with foil and bake on 350 for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour of baking, remove the foil and baste turkey wings with gravy/pan dripping.
- Bake another hour uncovered, basting every 20 minutes until turkey wings are tender (add more water or chicken broth 1/4 cup at a time if gravy is low).
- Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- I highly suggest to serve with rice and cornbread.
Happy cooking my friends!
Chef Patrick White