Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maple syrup: Think outside the pancake

Chicken in Thai red curry and maple syrup with eggplants

Source: Montreal Gazette

Maple syrup has a complexity that sugar lacks. It is imbued with a more subtle sweetness, with a hint of smoke and caramel – echoes, perhaps, of the sugar maple grove from which it dripped and the long, slow boil over a wood fire that transformed it into this most quintessential trademark of Quebec.

Used in moderation, maple marries well with a panoply of other flavours. Its sweet flavour is a great foil in salty dishes. And it rounds out the edges of spicy dishes. Maple also tames the sour twang of lemon, lime or vinegar in a recipe.

But don’t take my word for it. Take your cue from a host of Montreal chefs who are maple maniacs. Au Pied de Cochon chef Martin Picard poaches eggs in it, then adds it to a duck and maple sauce that he slathers over foie gras. Laurent Godbout’s new bistro La Fabrique does pea soup with maple cream on the side. And – who knew? – there's maple syrup all over the place in the dishes at the trendy St. Laurent Blvd. Asian restaurant Soy.

Soy’s chef-owner Suzanne Liu says one of her restaurant’s most asked-for dishes is shrimp sauté with Thai herbs and maple syrup. It features seared shrimp in a sauce of maple syrup, coconut milk, Thai fish sauce, hot sauce and garlic, served on a bed of bean sprouts.

Liu also loves using maple syrup in a glaze for duck breast. She’ll sear thick slices of duck glazed with maple syrup, then braise the duck and its juices to allow the maple flavour to better penetrate the meat.

“Maple lends a smoother flavour than other sweeteners. It isn’t harsh like sugar,” she says. “It gives the dish a smooth feel, and it doesn’t add a bad aftertaste like sugar or honey can.”

Her customers are sometimes surprised to see maple syrup on an Asian menu. What’s that taste, they ask.

Hmmmm not sure about this. For example when you have dimsum you'd dip the shrimp and dumpling into soy sauce. Could we dip it into maple syrup? I think it's too sweet!

No comments: