The rich Creole history of South Louisiana is a beautiful mixture of heritage and customs that have become an essential ingredient of the cultural gumbo of Acadiana. Time-honored Creole traditions of Zydeco music, the Acadian horse culture, and the delicious recipes handed down through generations add amazing depth to our local folkways.
Soul food I call it and there are few places that do it better than Laura’s II located on West University near Four Corners in my hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. From its facade, you might drive right past this little strip shopping center storefront, but you’d be making a big mistake. This is a down home Creole lunchroom serving up a meat-and-three lineup of favorites. Smothered pork steak, fried pork chops, chicken fricassee are just a few choices as you move down the line just inside the front door. Sides include red beans, smothered cabbage and rice, lots of white rice. But the star dish at Laura’s II is one that is hard to find in restaurants anywhere in Acadiana – Stuffed Turkey Wings.
Recently, after finishing off a plate of these stewed down beauties, I proclaimed it the most authentic interpretation of genuine rural Creole cuisine. Run by Madonna Broussard and her daughter Lacey, Laura’s II café is a shrine to the tastes, flavors, and goodness of all things Creole. Head cook Veronica Phillips has a keen understanding of the balance of spices and the cooking times required to render a tough turkey appendage into a sticky, flavor-filled wing that lifts your taste buds to the high heavens.
These are wings to pray for, and the reverential treatment they are given at Laura’s II is evident in the long lines that wind outside the door. Get there early – the doors open at 10:30 am – and get their wings.
I’ve seen turkey wings in the rural grocery stores and I’ve even seen them pre-stuffed at Janise’s supermarket in Sunset, Louisiana. But it is the huge wings I scored with the butcher at Piggly Wiggly at Four Corners in Lafayette that I am using to make my version of Laura’s famous dish. The ingredient list is short, but the attention to cooking time and the temperature is crucial as this dish requires that same spiritual fervor as Ms. Veronica applies in her humble Creole recipe.
Amen and pass the napkins.
- 4 large fresh turkey wings, mid-section and wing tip only
- 2 tablespoons Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- 1 cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 whole yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 8 cups dark chicken stock
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 tablespoons cold water
- Dash of hot sauce
- 6 cups cooked Louisiana long grain white rice, such as Supreme
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Wash the turkey wings and dry. Remove the wing tips and save for the stock. Sprinkle the wing mid-section portions lightly with Cajun seasoning.
- In a large cast-iron pot with a heavy lid over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the 4 wing mid-section pieces. Let them brown on one side and then turn to brown the other side. Remove from the pot and let cool.
- In the same pot over medium heat, add the diced onions, celery, and bell pepper. Stir until the onions turn translucent and add the garlic. Season the mixture lightly with more Cajun seasoning and salt and pepper. Continue stirring until all the vegetables are browned. Turn the heat off and remove the vegetable mixture to a platter. Let cool.
- Place the wing mid-section portions on a cutting board and using a sharp knife make a lengthwise incision along the center (do not go all the way through) to open up a cavity. With your fingers, pull the skin and flesh of the wing mid-section to widen the cavity for stuffing. With a spoon, add the vegetable mixture inside the cavity and pull the skin of the wing mid-section to close the cavity as much as you can.
- In the cast-iron pot, place the stuffed wings on the bottom. Spread the chunks of chopped onions, celery and carrots around in the pot. Add the reserved wing tips. Add the chicken stock to cover the wings and place a heavy lid on top. Place the pot in the oven and cook for 90 minutes without opening.
- Remove the pot from the oven and uncover. Test the wings for doneness by sticking a fork into the meat and pulling it apart. It should be fork tender. Remove the wings to a platter and keep warm.
- With a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the pot. Place the pot containing the gravy on the stovetop over medium heat. Make a slurry by combining cornstarch and a little cold water. Stir half of the slurry into the gravy and bring to a boil. Add more slurry to thicken, or water to thin. Once the gravy reaches the thickness you want, turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
- For serving, add a mound of rice in the center of a plate and place a stuffed wing on top. Spoon the gravy over and serve any extra on the side. Serve with sweet tea and yeast rolls.
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