A while ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends, was writing an International Gluten-Free cookbook. Michael’s question to me was what could he include that would be truly Canadian. To me, the answer was very simple. With apologies to the entire state of Vermont, anything with Maple Sugar or Maple Syrup is as Canadian as it comes.
When I was growing up it was such a part of Canadian culture that, as young children, one of the great treats after our long winters was when ‘Sugaring Off’ parties took place. When the sap rose in the early spring. off our entire school class would go to the country and to farms and woodlots where they gathered the syrup from our national symbol, the Maple. They’d tap the trees with metal spigots, attach long aluminum pails to them and the syrup would drip from the trees. It’s a clear liquid and looks and tastes very much like sweetened water. Once they’d collected enough, it would be put into caldrons and set over wood fires where it thickened and turned amber. For our visit, the syrup was poured over wooden troughs of snow, where depending on its thickness, it formed maple candy. We ate so much of the stuff that most of the ride back to the city was punctuated by the moans of the overeaters and vows never to do that again. Until, of course, next year.
Today, I have a seemingly endless supply of Maple Syrup because it is one of the first things my Canadian family brings when they come to visit. Anytime I can find use for it, I do. So when I saw Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Glazed Pork Chops, I went straight to the pantry to haul out the deliciously dark amber syrup bearing the Maple Leaf and the label “Produit de Quebec”. This recipe comes from “Jamie’s Food Revolution”. If you know the book and its author, you know that Jamie is all about getting people to cook sensible, healthy and delicious food in very easy-to-make recipes. And pictured on top of the photograph of Jamie’s Pork Chops were nice crisp onion rings. My go-to recipe for Onion Rings are Ina Garten’s wonderful cornmeal crusted ones. They are a snap to make, crispy and crunchy and perfect with the maple flavored pork. And so that the whole dish doesn’t look like one brown heap, Jamie sautés sage leaves to decorate the dish.
A word about the pork. As you know, pork is a passion of mine in all its forms. However, it is to be noted that pork in this country is being bred to be as fatless as chicken. As a consequence you can end up with some of the driest meat imaginable. If you buy organic or at minimum free-range chops there will be a distinct difference which I highly recommend. I went to Trader Joe’s for mine. Here are the recipes:
Recipe for Maple Glazed Pork Chops via Jamie Oliver
2 pork chops
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
maple syrup to glaze
maple syrup to glaze
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Sprigs of Fresh Sage
2 Sprigs of Fresh Sage
The juice of one lemon (optional)
1. Trim the skin off the edge of the chops and cut into 2 long strips.
2. Rub the pork chop with salt and pepper and heat a little oil in a pan.
3. When the pan is hot add the strips of skin and move about. Remove when crispy and golden.
4. Lay the chops in the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, turning every minute.
5. Spoon a large spoonful of Maple Syrup over each chop and keep turning to be sure both sides are evenly glazed. Cook until golden brown.
6. Remove from the pan and leave to rest for a minute before serving.
7. Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and sauté the sage leaves in it till they are just done.
8. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top to balance out sweetness. Garnish with Sage leaves.
Note, you can easily double this recipe.
Recipe for Cornmeal Crusted Onion Rings courtesy of Ina Garten
1 large Spanish onion
2 cups buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (medium) yellow cornmeal
- Peel the onions, slice them 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, and separate them into rings. Combine the buttermilk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add the onion rings, toss well, and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (The onion rings can sit in the buttermilk for a few hours.)
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
- When you’re ready to fry the onion rings, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
- Heat about two inches of oil to 350 degrees F in a large pot or Dutch oven. (A candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot will help you maintain the proper temperature.) Working in batches, lift some onions out of the buttermilk and dredge them in the cornmeal and flour mixture. Drop into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown, turning them once with tongs.
- Place the finished onion rings on the baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with salt, and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the next batch. Continue frying the onion rings and placing them in the warm oven until all the onions are fried. They will remain crisp in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.