By Kaitlynn Miller | June 14, 2017 | People
We chatted with cookbook author and celebrated chef Norman Van Aken of the acclaimed Florida restaurants 1921 and Norman’s (which has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Restaurant in America”) before his James Beard House dinner to discuss his favorite places to dine in New York, his dream dinner guest, and what he’s looking forward to most about his upcoming event.
Chef Norman Van Aken.
In a melting pot like New York City, you're bound to find flavors and cuisines from all around the globe—much like what happens in a dining experience with renowned chef Norman Van Aken. The "founding father of New World Cusine" will bring his flare for fusion to the Big Apple with a dinner from his latest Florida eatery, 1921, on Wednesday, June 21 (member price, $160; public price, $210, on jamesbeard.org). Served alongside a selection of fine wines, attendees will start off with hors d’oeuvres like Florida lionfish ceviche, hush puppies, and savory chocolate tarts before moving on to entrées like grilled Cape Canaveral white shrimp and ponce inlet barrelfish with boiled peanut romesco, charred scallion, onion escabéche, and sorrel. The meal will finish off with an indulgent Redland guanabana mousse served with mango, pistachio sponge cake, toasted meringue, and chocolate.
Before his event, we caught up with the chef and cookbook author about the New York chefs to watch, and his roasted duck recipe.
What is your favorite place to eat in New York, and what do you order there?
Norman Van Aken: I always have a list of places we haven’t yet been to and want to go. But for a place that has stood the test of time, we love to go to Daniel. I love Daniel’s way with the rustic foods he learned of growing up.
In your opinion, who is a rising-star chef to watch in New York?
NVA: Though not a young chef, Daniel Rose of Le Coucou is new to NYC, and he is great. We dined at his restaurant in Paris and it was beautiful.
If you could have dinner with any New York chef, dead or alive, who would it be?
NVA: Gilbert Le Coze. I was able to cook for him and know him a little bit long ago when he and his sister opened up a restaurant in Miami. I loved his humor, intelligence, and lust for life.
What New York City neighborhood do you think has the best food scene?
NVA: The Lower East Side for many reasons, but I love to visit Queens on a sunny day and hit all of the ethnic foods to revel in!
What are you most looking forward to about the James Beard Foundation event?
NVA: This time, I’m looking forward to returning to share the magic with my young culinary team from our restaurant in Central Florida, Mount Dora. The upside of getting to this part of life is watching the younger generation experience the amazing emotions of being there in the great James Beard’s home [and] to know they are cooking exactly where he cooked, too.
What kind of food does New York need more of?
NVA: I miss the classic French ones. NYC has all of the rest covered pretty much!
(Excerpted from Norman Van Aken’s Florida Kitchen, by Norman Van Aken. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the University Press of Florida.)
Yields: Serves 2 with leftovers
Ingredients for the duck
4-5 pound duck, rinsed and patted dry; giblets removed and saved for another recipe
3 tablespoons Escabeche Spice Rub, (Root Cellar)
1 orange, cut in half
1 long sprig of fresh rosemary
1 head of garlic, cut in half
Remove the excess fat from the bird as well as some skin flap near the neck area. Take a sharp knife and prick the duck all over but only skin deep.
Rub the spice rub all over the duck, and rub inside the cavity as well. Place the orange, rosemary, and garlic in the duck’s cavity. Tie the legs together with butcher’s twine. Place it on a rack, and refrigerate it uncovered for one or two nights. Leaving it uncovered helps promote crispy skin.
This would be a good time to prepare the gastrique as it can be prepared almost a day or two in advance, especially when kept refrigerated.
When you are getting ready to cook, take the spice-rubbed duck and the gastrique out of the refrigerator a few hours beforehand. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roast the duck for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning it over every 30 minutes. Discard the duck fat from the roasting pan as you cook. This will be much needed for the first and possibly second time when the fat is flowing. The duck fat that accumulates can be saved for other cooking projects.
Ingredients for the sorghum and benne seed gastrique
Yields: 1 1/3-1 1/2 Cups
1/2 of a poblano chile, (or other chile as desired) stemmed, seeded, and diced
2 shallots, peeled and diced
3 cups fresh orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup Sherry vinegar
1/2 cup sorghum
1 tablespoon pimentón
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon benne seeds, (a.k.a. sesame seeds), lightly toasted in a dry skillet. (I like organic ones for deep flavor).
3/4 cup chicken stock (optional, see note in the method)
Now add in the soy sauce and benne seeds, and set aside again.
If desired you can add more 'meatiness' to this by adding in 3/4 cup of chicken stock. If so do that now.
When the duck is close to temperature—about 130 degrees when measured with a meat thermometer deep in the thigh—heat up the gastrique. When it would coat a spoon, take the duck out and baste it about 8-12 times. Return the duck to the oven. Baste the duck about every 15 minutes, turning it to cover the entire bird. Cook until the temperature reaches the 165 mark. Take it out.
Let it rest tented underneath aluminum foil for about 10 minutes while you get the rest of the prep done. Cut the backbone off the duck now using poultry shears. Remove the legs and cut away the thighs. Place on a warm platter. Slice the breast meat and add it to the warm platter. Serve with the remaining sorghum and benne seed gastrique in a bowl alongside it.