Stuck on maple
Maple Pretzel-Crusted Pork Medallions created by Chef Matt McMillin, Director of Culinary Arts and Beverage Operations for Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants.
Eddie Merlot’s Maple Cider Vinaigrette
1 ounce Dijon mustard
4 ounces apple cider vinegar
4 ounces maple syrup
1 tablespoon shallots, minced
4 ounces olive oil
8 ounces canola oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients, except oil, and blend using a hand-held immersion blender. Continue to blend while slowly drizzling in oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss with salad.
— Executive Chef Dan Tucker
Updated: March 7, 2013 3:24PM
Tap. Tap. It’s maple harvest time.
In Vermont, where nearly half of the maple syrup in the U.S. is produced, tapping is underway. The Vermont Switchel Company will tap maple to use in their heirloom recipe, which they revitalized and introduced last year.
Switchel, a rustic farmhouse drink made of apple cider vinegar, ginger — and a comforting dose of maple syrup — is also known as “haymaker’s punch.” Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about the homemade beverage (she called it ginger water) in her memoir The Long Winter, when she recalled quenching her thirst while making hay.
Switchel has relieved plenty of hay workers for centuries in Vermont, where maple remains a way of life.
“In Vermont, you see maple trees everywhere; you go to people’s sugar shacks; everyone knows someone who makes maple syrup. You don’t waste it. If you pour it all over your pancakes, you better end up with a clean plate,” said cookbook author Julie Richardson.
When the Underhill, Vt. native took ownership of Baker & Spice, a 50-year-old bakery in Portland, Ore., she found a curious cake recipe amid “a whole filing cabinet full of recipes” left by the bakery’s previous owner. A recipe for Vermont Maple Cake with Burnt Sugar curiously had no maple in it.
“I asked myself: ‘Why wouldn’t you have maple in a recipe for Vermont maple cake?’ ” Richardson said.
The original recipe she found reflects a time when maple syrup was not available to bakers everywhere. Likewise, vanilla extract was not available. Instead, bakers used burned sugar to flavor cakes.
But when Richardson breathed life back into the recipe, she inserted a much-needed dose of maple syrup. Her voluptuous Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting is the only maple recipe in her newest cookbook, Vintage Cakes (Ten Speed Press, 2012), but many more, including one for a Maple Apple Dumpling, are featured in her earlier cookbook Rustic Fruit Desserts (Ten Speed Press, 2009).
Local chefs share Richardson’s appreciation for maple syrup. Chef Matt McMillin, Director of Culinary Arts and Beverage Operations for Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants, which has eateries in Burr Ridge and South Barrington, incorporates maple into multiple popular recipes.
“We use a lot of maple syrup in the restaurants,” he said. “Drizzled on plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and almond and vanilla granola, it is spectacular.”
A maple-mustard glaze adds texture to Cooper’s Maple-Pretzel-Crusted Pork Medallions.
“Because it’s sugar, maple glazes very well under high heat,” McMillin explained.
Cooper’s Maple and Cashew-Crusted Chicken Sandwich also showcases the salty-sweet flavor combination of mustard and maple syrup.
“We add the maple because it sweetens the sandwich up a bit. It’s a really nice contrast with the nuts,” McMillan said.
At Eddie Merlot’s in Burr Ridge, maple syrup adds a sweet touch to Maple Cider Vinaigrette over a Waldorf Salad.
“Maple syrup has a much more subtle and complex flavor than sugar, and provides more depth to the dressing. It also brings a more velvety texture and mouth feel to the dish than most similar vinaigrettes. Normally, to achieve this consistency a larger amount of oil needs to be emulsified into the dressing, making it heavy and cloying,” said Eddie Merlot’s Executive Chef Dan Tucker. “Honey would have worked as well in the recipe, too, but maple has a depth to its flavor that honey lacks.”
Tucker also uses maple syrup in a sauce for pan-roasted bass. He has used maple in sauces and brines for pork or with bourbon in desserts. And, of course, the simplest use of maple syrup is still a favorite.
“On my waffles in the morning,” Tucker said.