Friday, April 3, 2015

A Few Tastes of Maple

I got a chance today to talk maple syrup cookery with Rob Ferrett on the Food Friday segement of Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time and have compiled here a few of the recipes I mentioned on the show.  I've made this dish a lot lately, while testing the recipe out for the cook-off, at the cook-off, and then as the featured dish I prepared at Kate's Occasional Cafe at the Dairyland Cafe in Ridgeland this past week.  I'm still not tired of it.

Sichuan-Spiced Maple Chicken Wings (This recipe was inspired by Teresa Marrone’s Two-Pepper Maple Chicken Wings from Modern Maple.)

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Serve these spicy-sweet wings over a bowl of rice, accompanied by a stir-fried vegetable, for a main course; or as a zingy appetizer—keep a cold beer close at hand.

2 pounds chicken wings (about 10 wings), tips removed, separated in 2 pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oil (sunflower, canola, or the like)
2 teaspoons sambal chile paste (or to taste)
¼ cup maple syrup
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground roasted Sichuan pepper
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Preheat your oven to 425.  Combine all the ingredients except the scallions in a large bowl and toss to coat the wings with the seasonings.  Place the wings and seasonings in a heavy roasting pan, and bake, stirring every 15 minutes or so, for 45 minutes.  Add the scallions and continue baking, stirring occasionally, until the wings are well browned and the seasonings have become a glaze that coats the wings.  This will probably take another 15 to 25 minutes.

Options:  For really dark and glazy wings, turn on the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking, and turn the wings a couple of times so they brown evenly, being careful that they don’t burn.
            If you have a convection feature on your oven, you can produce excellent results without resorting to the broiler.  Bake at 400 convection and check every 10 minutes, adding the scallions after 30 minutes.  Total cooking time with convection should be 40-45 minutes.

These wings can be made ahead and reheated before serving.  

Maple Spice Grilled Sirloin (original post here)
serves 4--next time I make this I'm going to try it with venison

1 1/2-2 pounds sirloin steak 

½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sunflower or canola oil
1 teaspoon sambal oelek chile paste
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Pinch salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 large clove garlic minced
Combine all marinade ingredients and pour over the steak, coating well.  Marinate the steak for a couple of hours at room temp.  Prior to grilling remove the steak to a separate plate, saving the marinade.  Add hte marinade to 1/3 cup chicken stock in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. 
Grill the steak over hot natural wood coals to desired doneness--about 3 minutes per side for rare, 4 for medium rare.  Let the steak rest on a platter for at least 5 minutes; add the juices that the resting steak produces to the stock and marinade mixture.  Serve with grilled vegetables and salad. 

The Thighs Have It

In terms of underappreciated, tasty bargain meats, chicken thighs are right there with pork shoulder steaks, in my opinion.  The thigh is my preferred part of the bird, though I fully appreciate the wing thing, too.  Chicken wings prepared in a Sichuan dry-fried manner are an exquisite treat.  The thighs, though, are more accommodating in a knife-and-fork meal context, and when they are boneless, why, they make positively civilized eating--cooking them over nice smoky hardwood coals keeps them on the rustic side.

Ramps season is starting as the maple season ends, and I often wind up putting the two together, frequently on chicken.  This is a flavorful, simple dish to celebrate the return of grilling weather (well, comfortable grilling weather; we cook over the coals year-round).

A paillard is a flattened out piece of meat.  I wail away at my thighs with the side of a heavy cleaver--a meat mallet, or even a small sauté pan will get the job done.
Maple-Ramp Marinated Chicken Paillards
Serves two to three

4 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
½ cup chopped ramps, whites and greens
Juice of ¼ lemon, and some zest, if you like
2 tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste (or more, to taste)
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Purchase boneless skin-on chicken thighs, or bone them yourself. Place one thigh at a time on a cutting board, and with a meat mallet, the side of a heavy cleaver, or a small, clean saucepan, pound each thigh vigorously until the meat is about ½ inch thick—the surface area of the thighs should nearly double.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the chicken, coating it well on all sides. Let the chicken marinate for at least 60 minutes at room temp, or longer in the fridge. When you’re ready to cook, prepare a fire of natural wood coals, and grill the chicken over medium-hot coals, turning often, for 12 to 15 minutes total. The chicken should be very well browned on both sides.

If you have extra ramps, toss a few in what remains of the marinade, and grill them along with the chicken.

Sweet & Sour (Tree Crop) Chard (original post)
serves two generously
5-6 good-sized chard leaves (2 cups chopped)
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken stock (or 1/2 cup stock, 1/2 cup water)
2 good pinches salt
a few grinds black pepper
2 to 3 tsp maple syrup
1 to 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
options: a bit of thyme, a small knob of butter stirred in at the end

Cut the thick ribs out of the chard leaves, and slice these diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces. Tear or cut each leaf into four or five pieces. Heat a 10-inch skillet or the like, and add the olive oil, then the onion and the chard rib pieces. Add a couple of pinches of salt, the stock (or stock and water, or water). Cover and cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, until the chard is starting to soften. Then add the chard leaves, and as soon as they wilt into the liquid add the vinegar and maple syrup. Cook uncovered for another three to four minutes, until the chard is tender to taste and the liquid is somewhat reduced. Taste for salt, sweet, and sour. Serve in a dish

Roast Baby Carrots with Maple-Mustard Glaze (original post)
2 cups baby carrots, scrubbed (mine weighed 9 ounces)
1 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp canola or grapeseed oil
pinch of salt, grind of pepper

Combine all the above in a gratin dish or small baking dish. Roast, uncovered, at 375 for 45 minutes, until they become a little brown and glazy. Stir them every 15 minutes during this time.

Remove from the oven and add:

1 rounded tsp grain mustard
1/8 tsp piment d'espelette, or a good pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 tsp red wine vinegar

Add another grind of pepper, taste for salt. Serve warm or at room temp.

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