Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cooking with Maple Syrup

After hinata’s zucchini flower and fig theme dinner a few months back, I took on the responsibility of hosting the next cooking project. I spent a few nights lying in bed trying to think of what to whip up for the guest that I had invited, I was a little intimidated. The problem with having foodies over is that you cannot serve them bad food and they are discerning eaters. I thought about going with dishes that I have more or less perfected through numerous taste-and-tweak sessions, but I felt like experimenting, so I still had to answer the pertinent question, what to cook? I pottered about the kitchen looking for some inspiration and I found the sweet gifts of maple syrup #2 amber and maple syrup mustard (and delicate and delicious homemade macaroons) that Clement of a la cuisine gave me when we met up in Toronto, alas, I had my answer, I’ll have a maple syrup-themed lunch!

I haven’t got too much experience in cooking with maple syrup; all I knew was that it was the golden liquid that I enjoy with my waffles and pancakes. So I decided to consult the source, Clement, who pointed me to 2 good recipes and conducted some research of my own. My research was twofold; the first was physical test: I opened the bottle and was greeted by a rich waft smell of caramel then I dipped my pinky finger into the bottle and tasted a strong maple taste. The second thing I did was to gather as much as information as I could, I found out that in Ontario, maple syrup into two broad categories, #1 and #2, the former being lighter in colour and sub-divided into ultra-light, light and medium, this is the maple syrup that we drizzle or drown out waffles and pancakes with and the latter is darker in colour and stronger flavoured, which is also the cooking maple syrup.

I was feeling slightly more educated and so I was ready to cook. The original menu cooked sounded like this: Sweet Potato Soup with Nutmeg and Maple Syrup, Maple Syrup Glazed Salmon with Mustard Mashed Potatoes and Maple Syrup Tart. That was the original plan, but it all went pear-shape when I was preparing my maple syrup glaze that I realised that I only had about two tablespoons of maple syrup left, just enough for the soup, but definitely not enough for a whole tart. Plan B that was hashed that night was to go with something simple and equally delicious, a comforting sticky date pudding with caramel sauce.

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Lunch was filling and drowsy (too much sugar!). To start off, I served hot toasty bread with truffle butter, just for good measure, so that if everything else went wrong, at least the guest could say, we had some damn good butter. The truffles for the truffle butter was a food gift from N, a good foodie friend of mine, who came back from Sydney a while ago beaming and gushing about her meal at Tetsuya (we are jealous) and brought a bottle truffles (for butter) by Tetsuya, the recipe for the decadent and utterly sinful butter and a warning that the butter is addictively yummy that her sister got rather full on it even before their dinner even started. Well, it was some damn fine truffle butter and rightfully so: butter (fat = smooth texture + flavour) + truffles (flavour) = smooth super flavour.

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Not to be outdone by truffles, the maple syrup courses were rather good too. The maple syrup in the soup gave it a roundness and deeper sweetness, but with the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg, it tasted more like a Christmas soup rather than a soup. Good soup but maybe wrong season. The pride of lunch, however, was the plump slab of Norwegian salmon in the oven. I’m proud to announce that I (thankfully) didn’t overcook it and the maple syrup glaze cum sauce that was like nectar punctuated with candied pieces of ginger that mellowed during the reduction process. Credit to Clement for pointing me to the recipe, Thanks!

Cedar Planked Salmon with Maple Glaze
Serves 6

1 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh gingerroot
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlican untreated cedar plank (about 17 by 10 1/2 inches; if desired)
2 1/2-pound center-cut salmon fillet with skin
greens from 1 bunch scallions


1. In a small heavy saucepan simmer maple syrup, gingerroot, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste until reduced to about 1 cup, about 30 minutes, and let cool. (Maple glaze may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring maple glaze to room temperature before proceeding.)

2. Preheat oven to 175° C (350° F). If using cedar plank, lightly oil and heat in middle of oven 15 minutes; or lightly oil a shallow baking pan large enough to hold salmon.

3. Arrange scallion greens in one layer on plank or in baking pan to form a bed for fish.

4. In another small saucepan heat half of glaze over low heat until heated through to use as a sauce. Stir in remaining tablespoon lemon juice. Remove pan from heat and keep sauce warm, covered.

5. Put salmon, skin side down, on scallion greens and brush with remaining glaze. Season salmon with salt and pepper and roast in middle of oven until just cooked through, about 20 minutes if using baking pan or about 35 if using plank.

6. Cut salmon crosswise into 6 pieces. On each of 6 plates arrange salmon and scallion greens on a bed of mashed potatoes. Drizzle salmon with warm sauce.

* I substituted paperbark for cedar plank.

Recipe source:

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Blogger hinata said...

Thanks again for lunch! Don't think we deserved the honour of so much planning but thanksthanksthanks! The salmon looked and tasted gorgeous and the glaze was fabulous - I'm sure it'd work well with other meats too, like a nice ham or maybe even duck and lamb.

P.S. That's what I have from Williams-Sonoma - cedar plank! We should do something with it soon :)

11:04 AM  
Blogger joone! said...

hinata: I'm so pleased with the glaze and since i have about another 1/2 cup left i'm thinking about putting that glaze on some pork loin or something like that.. (think char siew) and then maybe grill it till i get some nice charred bits.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

Ohhh...that sounds divine. I just had dinner but my mouth is watering!

9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, these recipes sound very interesting - thanks for sharing them. Could you let me know what sort of paper bark you used, and where to get some in Singapore? If you know where to get untreated cedar planks that are suitable for cooking purposes, I'd also appreciate your advice. Thanks very much.

11:57 AM  
Blogger joone! said...

wei neng: hmm.. i don't think i can of much help because the paperbark was a given to me and the only thing i know about it is that it is from Australia and as for cedar plank, as hinata has mentioned above.. the only place we know where to get it is from the USA. You could try some hardware stores that sell smoking chips .. they might have cedar planks. I hope you find it!

10:29 PM  

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