It’s always a treat for us at The Halli Casser-Jayne Show when renowned Chef Norman Van Aken stops by for a visit, as he did Wednesday, on his way to an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “The Father of New World cuisine is out with a truly delicious new memoir, “No Experience Necessary, The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken,” a book you’ll want to pick up. The book spans twenty-plus years of the culinary renegade and pioneering restaurateur’s career, offering a uniquely personal, highly-entertaining under-the-tablecloth view of the high stakes world of American cuisine, told with wit, insight, and great affection by a natural storyteller.
We talked about the book, of course, but also about the art of entertainment. Chef Norman was kind enough to send over two recipes he thought you might like to use for your upcoming Super Bowl Party, and we post them below.
Chef Norman Van Aken’s Carny Corn Dogs
During the 1970s in the Midwest, carnivals and state fairs served up cotton candy, popcorn, hot dogs, ice cream, soda, and not much else. It would be several decades before they would become venues not only for entertainment and agricultural prize giving but also for the huge variety of ethnic and regional foods we enjoy and take for granted today. And after nearly being electrocuted on a Ferris wheel, it would be several decades before I started to appreciate and enjoy making my own Carny Corn Dogs.
1 quart oil, for frying
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk, or as needed to make a smooth, thick batter
6 wooden skewers
6 hot dogs, bratwurst, or Maxwell Street brand Polish sausages
Preheat the oil in a deep pot over medium heat to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne, black pepper, cumin, sugar, and baking powder. Stir in the egg and both kinds of milk, and set aside.
Insert a wooden skewer into each sausage at least two-thirds of the way up. Roll each skewered sausage in the batter, being careful to avoid the skewer, until the sausage is well coated.
In the hot oil, fry 2 to 3 skewered sausages at a time for about 3 minutes, turning them several times, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Serve with your favorite condiments. Mustard is my choice.
Makes 6 corn dogs
Chef Norman Van Aken’s Vietnamese Soft Spring Rolls
This was a recipe I began making a few years before the birth of a Mano, but I think it reached its zenith in the small kitchen on Ocean Drive, as far as my versions of it. A chef I really loved having on the team named Maria figured out how to write the word “delicious” in Japanese—with wasabi. Of course almost no one got it but when a person literate in the Japanese language did understand it we felt a kind of kinship with humanity that bordered on the cosmic.
For the marinade and dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons plum sauce
5 tablespoons hoisin
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
5 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon mirin
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chile oil
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Reserve.
For the noodles:
1 sleeve (2¼ ounces dry weight) uncooked somen noodles
In a large pot, cook the noodles in rapidly boiling salted water for about 30 to 45 seconds. Rinse quickly under cold running water, and drain well. Toss the noodles with enough marinade to evenly coat. Reserve the remaining marinade for dipping sauce.
For the filling:
4 (8½-inch) round rice paper wrappers
1½ cups cooked duck or chicken or pork
3 cups shiitake (or other) cooked mushroom caps, sliced
kosher salt and cracked pepper, to taste
Season the protein with the salt and pepper. Fill a wide, shallow bowl halfway up with warm water. Working one by one, dampen the wrappers in the water until they are pliant. (This usually takes 1 to 2 minutes per wrapper and should be done immediately prior to stuffing.) Remove and pat dry.
To fill each roll, place some of the marinated noodles about a third of the way down the wrapper. Fold in the bottom and each side of the wrapper burrito-style, then add some of the meat and some of the mushrooms, and continue rolling, keeping a little pressure on the bundle as you roll.
Reserve the filled spring rolls between layers of slightly moist toweling in the refrigerator until ready to serve. (Note: Spring Rolls may be made up to 4 hours before serving.) Trim off the ends (you can eat or discard them). Slice the rolls into bite-sized sections. Serve with the reserved remaining marinade in small dipping cups for each guest.
Makes 2½ cups
Recipes reprinted with permission of Norman Van Aken.