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June 19, 2007 / Tony

Maple Syrup Burritos?

I’m always on the lookout for odd combinations of flavors and ingredients.  Recently, a co-worker of mine (Casey) shared his practice of pouring maple syrup over spicy foods.  Namely, he has sweetened burritos, jambalaya, breakfast meats, and deer sausage with maple syrup.  When queried as to why he does so, he said he loves the combination of sweet and hot.  The addition of the syrup created a pleasing balance of sweetness, saltiness, and spiciness on his palate.  Apparently, he learned this practice from his father when he was 12 years old and has been doing it ever since (about 15 years).  And now he is an ardent advocate of this practice.  He even had written and editorial about it while he was the editor of a small newspaper.

After getting past my initial revulsion at this practice, I began to be intrigued by this idea.  After all, I like the combination of sweet and spicy in my foods as well.  I am a huge fan of adding cayenne pepper to my hot chocolate during the winter and I love sweet and spicy Chinese sauces and dishes.  So, I wanted to explore this idea a little further.  So I made some cursory searches for recipes that included maple syrup and cumin.  I chose cumin because it is (I think) a universal spice used in the making of burritos and is usually accompanied by other more spicy ingredients. 

 I searched on Food Network, Epicurious,, and a smattering of maple syrup sites.  I’m not claiming an exhaustive search or even a good one.  I just needed to see what would come up on some of the preeminent sites using my crude search criteria.  Under my basic search, I got no hits on any Food Network or  On Epicurious, I found one recipe:  Lamb burgers with red and green tomato chutney.  There, the maple syrup was added to a chutney of green tomatoes, red tomaotes, cider vinegar, garlic, cumin, cilantro and red pepper flakes.  When searching by cuisine and maple syrup, I found two other recipes: Short ribs braised in ancho chile sauce and Grilled pork with maple cranberry glaze.  The spicy ingredients in the first recipe were ancho chiles (dried) and canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce.  The second recipe featured hot smoked paprika, dry mustard, and chile powder.  Finally, I found a maple syrup site with a pork chop recipe with maple syrup and chili powder. 

So, under my rather cursory search, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support the idea that using maple syrup with spicy ingredients is a common practice.  But, it is not unheard of, and according to these recipes it goes well with chili powder and various types of chiles, at least when paired with meat.  With those principles in place, here’s an idea for a simple recipe:

Rubbed Pork Chops with Maple Syrup Glaze

Make a rub of cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, chili powder, kosher salt, and pepper (equal proportions of everything except the salt.  Use double the amount of salt of any other ingredient.)  Generously rub on an 8 oz. pork chop (your choice of cut) and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour.  Meanwhile, prepare a hot grill and the glaze.  The maple glaze consists of equal parts maple syrup and olive oil. 

When the grill is hot and I mean hot, put another layer of rub on the pork chops, and put them over the hot part of the grill.  When it gets nice and crusty, flip over and repeat.  Now, at this point, check for doneness and if need be, move the pork chop to a cool part of the grill so it can finish cooking.  When the pork is about 1 minute from being done, brush the glaze over the chops (both sides) let it finish cook and then when you take them off, give each chop another brush of the glaze.  Serve immediately. 

Well, this recipe would be fun to try out.  It should marry the sweet, spicy, and salty flavors that my co-worker is so fond of.  Maybe he isn’t so crazy after all.  However, he did say at the end of our conversation that he sometimes add ranch dressing to his mix of burritos and maple syrup.  I don’t plan on following that flavor combination up. 

ADDED: I made this recipe last night with only a few modifications.  I substituted 1/2 a part of allspice for the coriander.  They pork chops were delicious.  They were pleasant spiciness that was cooled by the sweetness of the maple syrup.  They grilled beautifully and the glaze added a nice sheen.  Definitely worth trying at home. 

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