Norman Van Aken, the legendary, world renowned chef, has been called a culinary genius and the founding father of "New World Cuisine."
Van Aken is the chef and owner of Norman's at The Ritz-Carlton in Grande Lakes, Orlando.
It's considered to be South Florida's finest restaurant.
He is the author of five cookbooks, including "My Key West Kitchen," which he wrote with his son, Justin, and a memoir titled, "No Experience Necessary: The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken."
The James Beard Award-winning chef joined "CBS This Morning: Saturday" to serve up his ultimate dish: "Green Parrot" fried chicken and waffles.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
For Chicken and Waffles (at The Green Parrot)
The late great Southern Chef Bill Neal's cookbook came into my possession while I was at Louie's Backyard (1986 exactly). I'd like to think I had the brains to buy it but maybe it was a gift. So was Mr. Neal's way with teaching Southern cooking. At a time when invention in cooking was rife all over the land he held fast to time-honored traditions. I also admired his sense of humor. He wrote, "First the bird; only a whole, fresh chicken will do. Frozen chicken tasted bloody and turns dark at the bone when fired. If you find yourself in the possession of one, stew it or bury it."
For the chicken and the marinade/batter:
1 quality chicken, cut into pieces through the various bones
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
1/2 tablespoon toasted and freshly ground black pepper
1 rib celery, washed and cut into large dice
1 clove garlic, rough chopped
1. Place the chicken in a large bowl or a food bag.
2. Puree ingredients in a blender. Pour over chicken pieces and allow to brine for at least 8 hours or overnight, stirring once or twice.
3. When ready to cook drain the chicken marinade off through a colander into the sink. Set aside a moment.
For the seasoned flour:
3 cups self-rising or A.P. flour
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon pimentón or sweet paprika
1 tablespoon cumin, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon toasted and freshly ground black pepper
1. Mix all the ingredients. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture. Lay the breaded chicken on a sheet pan wire type rack to air dry about 10-15 minutes. Now dredge the chicken a second time but take care to knock off all the "extra" flour that doesn't adhere to the bird in that it will just BURN in the oil. Not good.
1. Melt the oil, (vegetable shortening) in a heavy frying pan large enough for all of the chicken pieces. The oil needs to come up 1/3 of the way in the pan, (this is a technique called "shallow frying") and be at 350 degrees to start. (Note: Once the chicken is place in the oil the temperature will drop.)
2. Cook starting with the dark meat (adding the skin side down first).
3. Add the white meat pieces after 2-3 minutes. I like to keep the thighs in the middle of the pan where the heat is most direct since it is the thighs that take the longest to reach the correct internal temperature.
4. Now cook about 10 minutes ON EACH SIDE. But ladies and gents...An instant-read thermometer is much more important than a clock on this quest.
5. Maintain the oil temp at about 325 degrees while it cooks. This will be advice that might be hard to follow but keep adjusting the heat as need be. A "screen splatter protector" is a great aid. It is a way to trap an instant read thermometer between said screen and the edge of the pan which allows your thermometer to not fall into the oil.
6. When fully ready the chicken will be at 180 degrees when pierced in its thickest part.
7. The chicken is actually fully cooked before that temp but for fried chicken to work best and stay crispy and ready for "finger style eating" the higher interior temp is required to assure the best crust. When it is remove it to a drain rack and keep it warm. It is best not to hold it in the oven as it will lose the crispness you just fought to achieve.
8. Don't drain on paper toweling, etc. either as that spoils the texture too. Sense a theme here? A "tent" of aluminum foil is better.
1. Since this is a "Brunch Dish" where we serve it with Waffles and that requires Maple Syrup the salt level we call for is a notch higher than if not. If you are doing this sans waffles then you might want to back off on the salt a shake or two. The absence of sugary syrup is a game changer.
2. When cutting the chicken I cut out the back bone and wingtips and freeze them for stock making.
Key Lime Pies
Recipe by Justin Van Aken
Yield: pairs of pies
For the crust:
3/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly pan toasted
1 pkg. box graham crackers, crushed in the bag
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup (1 lb.) melted butter
1 6 oz. pkg. sliced almonds, lightly pan toasted
1 14-oz. box graham crackers, crushed in the bag
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon nutmeg
2 cups (1 lb.) melted butter
1. Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse few times. Then add the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pulse until all the ingredients are well ground, but not quite dust. (Note: At this stage, the mixture can be held for later baking for about a week.)
2. Place the crust mixture in a bowl and stir in the melted butter to combine. Divide the mixture evenly between the pans, spread the crust evenly around and press it into place along the bottom and sides of the pans. Bake the crusts until bubbling and turning from shiny to matte, about 10-12 minutes. Remove to a rack and allow to cool.
To make the pies:
10 each egg yolks, extra large (reserve the clean whites for meringue)
2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces bottles key lime juice
30 ea. (1 flat) egg yolks, extra large (reserve the clean whites for meringue)
6 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
36-oz. bottles key lime juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350
2. Pour in the condensed milk into a container. Thin this out by stirring in the key lime juice.
3. Whisk the egg yolks until pale yellow in a large bowl. Stir in the mixture and pour this into the pie crusts.
4. Tap the pans on the counter top to remove any air bubbles and bake about 15 minutes, rotating halfway.
5. Once done, remove from the oven, allow to cool to room temperature, then wrap and place in a fridge to chill.
To make meringue:
(2 pies:) (6 pies: split into 2 batches for countertop mixer)
30 ea. egg whites, extra large
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups granulated sugar
Yield: 3 quarts
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Shelf Life (approx) 12 hours
9 cups buttermilk
6 ea. eggs,
Large 9 ounces
Butter, melted 1 1/2 quarts
Cornmeal 11 1/4 ounces whole rye flour
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons Belgian Pearl sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1. Put the dry ingredients together in a container and shake well to combine. In a bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients, then whisk the dry mix into the wet. Rest 10 minutes.
2. When the wafﬂe iron is hot, spray with nonstick spray and ladle in 6 ounces of batter.
Close the wafﬂe maker and cook for 2 minutes and 40 seconds, then ﬂip and repeat.
3. Remove from the wafﬂe maker and serve immediately.
90 miles to Cuba rum runner
The great Stetson Kennedy was often called "the Bard of the South." He lived to be more than 90 and his whole life was a champion of the poor and the immigrants of the 20th century. He wrote an amazing book on Key West titled "Grits and Grunts." He tells the story of one of Key West's most colorful rum runners...a chap named Cockeye Billy. He eluded the Customs cops many times by swimming away and hiding in the mangroves. He would have tunnels at the ready in key places so when the boats came around he'd have already disguised his lair with branches. Eventually his was shot but they never found out if they killed the man. Blood was found...but no Billy.
Yield: 1 Cocktail
Need lime juice? ice
1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
1 ounce orange juice
1 ounce blackberry liqueur
1 ounce banana liqueur
1 ounce light rum
1 ounce aged rum splash of Angostura grenadine
1 ounce of Bacardi 151 rum to float on top, (optional) Orange slice for garnish
1. Fill a glass with ice. Add all of the liquids but the 151 to a blender and shake. Pour the liquids over the ice. "Float" the 151 on top.
2. Garnish with sliced orange. Note: Supposedly invented up in Islamorada when a bar manager found himself overstocked on some of the ingredients. He was making history instead of the frugality he sought.
Key West shrimp with "salsa of life"
1 1/2 pounds fresh shrimp, cleaned and diced
Small kosher salt (to season the raw shrimp) lime juice (to season the raw shrimp)
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 of a red onion, diced small
1 red pepper, diced small
1 yellow bell pepper, diced small
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced small
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 recipe "Salsa of Life" (recipe follows)
1. Put the shrimp in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt and lime juice. After 15-30 minutes rinse well and pat dry. (This helps with the shrimp's texture).
2. Place the shrimp in a bowl with the garlic, onion, peppers, cucumber, olive oil and cilantro. Mix.
3. Pour the "Salsa of Life" over it and combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight, allowing the citrus juices to "cook" the shrimp. Taste and season with Tabasco, salt and pepper.
4. Serve in small bowls garnished with lemon or lime wedges.
"Salsa of life"
Yield: 5 Cups
1 ripe tomato, halved, stem and seeds removed
1 jalapeño pepper, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
2 red bell peppers halved, stem and seeds removed
1/2 sweet onion, peeled and halved
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly toasted and ground black pepper Tabasco, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil. Place the tomato, jalapeño, bell peppers and onion, cut sides down, on the pan and roast until charred, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Slip the skins off the tomato, jalapeno and peppers and put in a blender with the onion, juices, sugar, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
3. The "Salsa of Life" can be made a day in advance and held covered in the refrigerator.
We had no food in our carnival beyond cotton candy, popcorn, a hot dog and cokes. The marriage of the polyglot ethnic foods that is so evident in carnivals and county fairs had dried up during this period in the early 1970's. We were too far north for what might have been the luck for a good soul food entrepreneur to have joined us for a three day gig and the Hispanic community was still just churning out the magical flavors of its foods in the still uncrossed borders where they lived and we didn't. It was a shame! It was just a dry season in that little window of history. You could go to a state fair and still find a lot of American fare cooked by junior leaguers and get plenty of what is much more bland food than I love...but we only lasted three days in each town and the communities we went to never seemed to know we were coming until the day our muddy, aging trucks pulled into an area of each town and we started to set up. It was not until after I got electrocuted on a Ferris Wheel and left the carnival, (oh yes the story is within) that I found the joy of making my own Carny Dogs.
Yield: 6 "dogs."
6 hot dogs, bratwurst or "Maxwell Street" Polish sausages
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk, (or as needed to make a smooth, thick batter)
1 quart oil, for frying 6 wooden skewers
1. Pre-heat the oil in a deep pot over medium heat to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium large bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne, black pepper, sugar and baking powder.
3. Stir in the egg and milk. Set aside.
4. Insert the wooden skewers into the sausages going at least 2/3 of the way up.
5. Roll them in the batter until well coated. Try not to coat the stick.
6. Fry 2 to 3 at a time until golden brown.
7. Allow about about 3 minutes turning them over a few times. Drain on paper towels.
8. Serve with your choice of condiments. Mustard is my choice.
Gale St. Style slaw
The Grand Opening of the Gale Street brought hundreds of folks from as far away as Chicago where the family's original restaurant was located. The mood was contagious and I took to the job with a fervor I hadn't known before. Janet got a job as a waitress and she looked so cute in her sailor motif uniform meant to go with the nautical feel of the place. We had a Salad Bar... or more accurately a Salad "Boat." There was cole slaw to be sure but it lacked the snap and spice of what I love about my kind of cole slaw. (You can tone down the vinegar and cayenne if you like). This slaw falls right between a creamy and a natural kind of slaw. It is easy to make it creamier if you like. Add the mayo. Try this slaw on burgers and grilled sausages and not only as a Side Dish.
Yield: 3 1/2 cups
1/4 head green cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds discarded, diced small
1/2 sweet onion, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
2-3 radishes, cleaned and diced small
1 large or 2 small carrots, cleaned and grated
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, finely ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
3 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons blended oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise, or more if desired, some like creamy and some do not.
1. Mix cabbage, bell pepper, onion, celery, radishes and carrot together.
2. Add in the fennel seeds, cayenne, salt, pepper, sugar.
3. Pour the vinegar over mix and stir and let sit for 10-15 minutes. This marinates the mix and pulls out some of the "water" within. Discard the resulting liquid from the slaw and proceed.
4. Mix in the blended oil.
5. Fold all with the mayonnaise.
6. Mix well and chill.