Get Cooking: Maple syrup isn't just for pancakes


Aunt Jemima, say “Uncle.”

Maple syrup isn’t purely for pancakes anymore, or just for waffles, or as a topping for vanilla ice cream (sorry, Dad).

“If you use maple syrup to add an element of sweetness in a recipe,” says Laura Sorkin, who owns Runamok Maple in Fairfax, Vt., with her husband, Eric, “you get a much more nuanced complexity than with just plain sugar or corn syrup.

“You’d miss it if it weren’t there.”

Sorkin, who writes about cooking and farming and holds a degree from the French Culinary Institute, uses maple syrup much as other cooks might use a soupcon of cane sugar or a tablespoon of honey in the many savory dishes for which she has developed recipes.

“Thai cooking in particular,” she says, “is a good example of often adding a splash of sweetness.” Many Asians add a sweet thing to their main dishes, as a crucial balancing element to other important factors at play in those same preparations, such as acidity or chili heat. And to that end, the Sorkins developed a maple syrup infused with the flavors of makrut (also known as kaffir) lime leaf that lends a floral, citrusy note and finds a comfortable home in Asian savory dishes.

Today’s recipe is deliciously individual, using pure maple syrup, cream and horseradish to spark a casserole of roasted cabbage.

“Braising the cabbage with the cream tames its sourness,” writes Sorkin, “so the horseradish can step in and be the dominant note.”

You’d think a mere tablespoon of maple syrup would get lost with all those other brassy flavors, but it does what it might do in a more Asian preparation: It ties everything together.


Roasted Cabbage with Maple, Horseradish and Cream

From Laura Sorkin, Runamok Maple Syrup

Ingredients

1 medium cabbage
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup horseradish
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup (see note)
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove any wilted leaves from the outside of the cabbage, then cut it into wedges, removing the center core. Place the wedges, slim side up in a wide, oven-proof pot.  They should be fairly snug.

Whisk together the cream, vermouth, and maple syrup in a bowl and then pour over the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper and then dot with the pieces of butter. Put a lid on the pot and place on the stove on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and let the cabbage steam in the pot until the leaves have wilted a little, about 8 minutes. Remove the lid and take the cabbage off the heat. Tilt the pot to gather some of the cream to baste over the tops of the cabbage.

Put the pot in the oven, uncovered and bake until the center is tender and the tops have started to brown a little, about 35 minutes. Keep an eye on the liquid and add some extra cream if it gets too dry.

Serve with pork chops or sausage.

Note: Pure maple syrup contains nothing but; there aren’t additives such as corn syrup or liquid sugar. Top brands include Runamok, Camp, Jed’s, Shaver Hill and Wolcott, among others.

Reach Bill St John at bsjpost@gmail.com

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