When someone says the word, “turkey,” chances are you think of Thanksgiving. Hey, this is America and that’s a very American holiday.
Next to my mind, however, is the quote, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” That’s for you “WKRP in Cincinnati” fans. And it’s true, they can’t. (Well, at least the domesticated ones can’t.)
The next thing that comes to mind circles back to Thanksgivings past and my late grandfather’s affinity for turkey appendages. I remember him eating the legs — everyone knew not to claim them when the bird was served — and sometimes even the wings. It was well into my adulthood before I ventured into turkey appendages, as I was simply accustomed to eating the carved breast.
And then my friend Eric tipped me off that Garage Bar has turkey wings on its menu (for $9.50). Not long ago, I found turkey legs at Floyd County Brewing Co. — you can also get those at pretty much any festival — and I’ve noticed turkey ribs in a few area barbecue joints. But wings? That was a new one for me, at least on a restaurant’s menu. (Occasionally, I run across smoked turkey wings at Kroger.)
The question, then, was simple: Just how good are these things? So, I hoofed it down to Garage Bar, plopped myself down at the bar and ordered some flightless wings.
After ordering, I asked the bartender, Will, how the wings are prepared and he said they were first brined overnight, then braised. When ordered, they are deep fried and then sautéed in a house Jamaican jerk sauce. Sounded good to me.
I sipped a Monnik IPA as I waited, and the wait wasn’t long. A few drinks into my beer, I spotted someone coming from the kitchen in my peripheral vision, and soon a plate was laid before me bearing a single, sectioned turkey wing, with a double-boned flapper section and a drumette section, sort of how chicken wings are split.
The key difference, of course, was size. These wing sections were ridiculously enormous.
“Holy crap,” I said instinctively. Will laughed and said, “That’s kind of what we’re going for.”
Seriously, what does a chicken drumette top out at in length? Three, maybe 4 inches? Try 8 for this turkey version, with girth that pretty much matches those smoked turkey legs at the festival.
The light brown sauce was actually more like a spiced gravy and there’s no heat to speak of — just spice that is enough to complement the ample meat, which is predictably richer in flavor than its chicken counterpart and perhaps just a tad denser. In addition, the careful preparation ensures that the meat literally falls off the bone, so there’s no gnashing of teeth to pry meat from bone.
I still couldn’t get over the size, which outdistanced even what I had expected. I asked Will if he might have served me pterodactyl wings by mistake.
He chuckled and said, “Yeah, people think of them like they’re chicken wings. We say they come two to an order and they say, ‘What?’”
Trust me, folks: Two are plenty.
Coincidentally, Garage Bar Executive Chef Richard Sidle frequents one of the same watering holes that I do, and I ran into him later that day. I told him how much I enjoyed the wings and asked about the sauce. He assured me that if I revisit the wings, I can ask for a spicy version and get lit up. The dish was designed for a more mainstream palate.
“I wanted to make a jerk sauce that was flavorful, but you didn’t have to watch your butt,” he said. Good to know.
But all that aside, when it was all said and done and my belly was full of turkey, I thought of two things — one was that I wish my grandfather was still living. I’d take him to Garage Bar, buy him a beer and fill his belly with turkey, too.
The second was the more obvious: With wings that big, how on Earth is it that turkeys can’t fly?