Norman Van Aken
chef/owner of Norman's, Coral Gables, Florida

"I like to divide the turkey into two sections so you end up with two different kinds of turkeys. I roast the legs first and then the breast. I like to rub the legs and the breast with a spice rub. I make my own spice rub toasting whole seeds which I then grind or I use a calypso spice rub or new world cuisine spice rub. I roast the legs low and slow. I increase the temperature for the breast and rest it on a meat rack so the breast is on it's bones and can be cooked through.
I have a great recipe for a braised turkey leg mole with a corn-turmeric rice I wrote for my new book Norman Van Aken's New World Cuisine that would make a nice Thanksgiving for four." The recipe is as follows:

Pilau Braised Turkey Legs Mole with a Corn-Turmeric Rice
Copyright by Norman Van Aken, NORMAN'S

"Pilaus", wrote Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, "are almost a sacred Florida dish." The word and the dishes that pilaus include come from a much further place than Florida. The Moors, once again, contributed to these one pot meals during the Spanish occupational period. Once they were added to the American scene various cultures twisted and turned the pilau pot to each culture's taste. Here I give it a Mexican touch, which is fitting given the turkey was one of the few meats native to the New World.

Serves 4

  • 1 cup prepared "21st Century Mole" (recipe below)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 fresh turkey legs
  • peanut oil to sear the legs in
  • 2 ounces diced smoked slab bacon, rind removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons, butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and diced small
  • 2 small stalks celery, diced small
  • 1 poblano chile, stem and seeds discarded, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
Pre-heat oven to 350F.

1. Begin by seasoning the legs all over with the salt and pepper. Now sear the legs on all sides in some peanut oil in a very hot skillet. When they are seared remove them from the pan and set aside on a platter.
2. Now put a large heavy sauce pan on the stove. (It must be large enough to hold the turkey legs too). Put the bacon in the pan with the olive oil and turn the heat to medium high. When the bacon is almost cooked, add the butter. When the butter foams add the garlic, celery, onion and poblano chile. Allow the vegetables to cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are nicely glazed, add the vinegar and red wine. Allow to boil one minute and then add the stock. Bring to simmer. Place the seared turkey legs into this and then loosely cover the pot.

Compass Points: The braising liquid should come no more than 3/4 of the way up the thighs. This lets the meat get a nice texture and not boil. Now place the pan in the oven and cook 1 hour, turning the legs once during the time.

3. Now remove the pan from the oven and place the cooked thighs on a platter in a warm place to rest. Meanwhile, take the braising liquid and strain off the vegetables. Discard them and let the excess fat come to the top. Skim it off and discard it. Now return the
de-greased braising liquid to a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce it by half. Add in the one cup of prepared mole and let the liquid reduce to just over one cup.

For the corn-turmeric pilau:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup of freshly peeled and minced tumeric
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced small
  • 1 stalk celery, diced small
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and diced small
  • 2 cups of fresh corn cut off the cob
  • 1 cup of raw long grained rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat the olive oil and the butter. When the butter foams add the garlic and tumeric. Allow to cook about 2 minutes. Now add the carrot, celery and onion and stir.

2. Allow this to cook together for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Now add the corn and the rice. Stir. Add the stock and season. Stir once and bring the mixture just to a boil. Put a cover on the rice and cook until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice (about 15 minutes).

3. Put some of the prepared rice on the bottom of four warm plates. Put the turkey leg on top of it and then spoon some of the sauce over the leg and serve.

Compass Points: Turmeric stains like crazy. So don't scratch your nose until you've had a chance to wash you hands very well after peeling and mincing it. This dish is left-over heaven. Any remaining cooked turkey can be taken off the bone and diced, combined with the leftover rice and sauced with a good amount of leftover a bowl, in a taco, in a baked stuffed sweet potato.

21st Century Mole
Copyright 1997 by Norman Van Aken, NORMAN'S

Yields 4 cups
  • 1 tomato, cored and roasted for 10 minutes in a preheated 400F oven
  • 2 tomatillos, husk discarded, cored and roasted with the tomato
  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted and peeled, stem and seeds discarded, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chilies, Mezcla (mixed dried chilies)
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and diced small
  • 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 scotch bonnet, stem and seeds discarded, minced
  • 1/2 of a very ripe plantain, peeled and diced small
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, freshly toasted and ground
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, freshly toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup raisins soaked in 1/2 cup of port wine
  • 1/4 cup of Spanish sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons toasted unsalted Spanish peanuts
  • 1/4 cup+ 1 tablespoon pure olive oil
  • 1/4 cup stale bread, ripped up and briefly sauteed in some olive oil, set aside
  • 2 cups of hot chicken stock
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
Core the tomatoes and tomatillos,
put them cored side down on a small pan
and make an 'x' with a sharp knife on the bottom.
Now roast them for 10 minutes. Let them cool.
Skin the tomato and then roughly chop them both.

2. Get a large heavy saucepan hot and add the olive oil.
Add the Mexcla and fry it for about twenty seconds, stirring.
Now add the onion, garlic, scotch bonnet and plantain and stir well to coat.
Allow to cook 4-5 minutes.

3. Now add the sesame seeds, spices, roasted poblano,
tomato and tomatillo and stir. Add the bread and nuts
and stir again. Add the port, port soaked raisins
and the Spanish vinegar and allow to come to a boil.
Add the chicken stock, cocoa, herbs and a pinch of salt.
Stir well and cook about 10 minutes. Now ladle this
into a blender and puree in batches. Store until needed.

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