Pancakes, waffles and French toast? They're fine, but they're also just the start.
Because if you're limiting maple syrup to the breakfast table, you're missing out on all sorts of excuses to add its gentle, yet distinct flavor to all manner of foods, from roasted vegetables and chicken wings to pasta sauce and ice cream sundaes. Heck, we even think it belongs at the bar (check out our maple martini idea below).
It's worth noting that the system for grading maple syrup — a classification that rates syrups on color and strength of flavor — recently was updated to make the U.S. and Canadian systems consistent. The previous system used "Fancy" and "Grade A" to indicate syrups with lighter flavors and colors, while "Grade B" was darker and more robust.
Under the new system, everything is Grade A, but descriptions have been added. The lightest syrup is now "Grade A: Golden Color with Delicate Taste" and the darkest is "Grade A: Very Dark with Strong Taste."
When shopping for syrup, let your preferences guide you. Many people prefer a lighter syrup on pancakes and waffles, but chefs generally gravitate toward a darker, more robust maple syrup when cooking with it or using it with savory foods.
— Syrup sundae: Top vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of maple syrup, crushed shortbread cookies and toasted almonds.
— Maple-balsamic vinaigrette: Whisk together 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons walnut oil, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and a hefty pinch each of salt and black pepper. Toss with your favorite greens.
— Maple martini: Muddle a quarter of an orange and a quarter of a lime with 1 tablespoon maple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add 1 ounce of apple cider, 1/2 ounce orange liqueur and 1 1/2 ounces vodka. Shake vigorously with several ice cubes. Strain into a cocktail glass.
— Maple garlic cream: Saute 2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender. Add 1 cup of heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Simmer the cream until thickened and reduced by half. Stir in 1/4 cup maple syrup and season with salt and black pepper. Serve over a pork chop or chicken.
— Maple-brown butter pan-roasted parsnips: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Cook until fragrant and browned. Add 2 pounds parsnips, cut into bite-size pieces. Season with salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and continue to cook until tender and caramelized, another 4 to 5 minutes.
— Maple-blueberry milkshake: In a blender, combine 1/2 pint vanilla ice cream, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon maple extract, 2/3 cup frozen wild blueberries and 1/2 cup milk. Blend until smooth.
— Maple eggplant agrodolce: Saute a large thinly sliced onion and 1 tablespoon minced garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add a large diced eggplant and a pinch of salt and cook for 6 minutes. Add 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 3 tablespoons dried currants, 2 tablespoons capers and a 1/2 cup halved green olives. Cook for 5 minutes, then serve over pasta.
— Maple-rosemary pecans: In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup maple syrup with 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups pecans and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Spread on a baking sheet lined with kitchen parchment coated with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt, then bake for 7 t0 10 minutes at 350 F.
— Maple-miso wings: Mix together 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup yellow miso in a gallon zip close bag. Add 2 pounds chicken wings and let marinate for 8 to 24 hours. Drain the wings and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 F until crispy and cooked through, 25 to 35 minutes, turning once or twice.
— Maple-mint shortcakes: Gently mix 4 cups mixed berries with 1/3 cup maple syrup and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint. Allow to marinate for 1 hour. Spoon over biscuits or angel food cake and top with whipped cream.