Sunday, November 14, 2010

Let's Party Pecans


The holidays will soon be upon us...you know, those days of celebration where we all get together with our friends and families, tell stories, actually do our hair and makeup, let the little ones get away with just a teensy bit more, and get fat. But at least we'll have fun doing it. In our family, we all stand around the kitchen (despite what else is highlighted or going on in other parts of the house), talking, drinking, and munching--all while watching the women of the house prepare the big meals.

But, even while waiting for the special holiday food to appear, we seem to crave something delightfully special and different. These pecans are PERFECT alongside some bubbly or sweet juice punches that are often served during the holidays. They are salty, smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy all at once (let's see how many adjectives that start with 's' can I come up with?!)

There are dozens of recipes online for mixed nuts, and this one was inspired by another great cookbook that I received at my wedding--The Bride and Groom First & Forever Cookbook by the Corpening sisters. One of the best things about party pecans is that they will taste fresh just as flavorful, even weeks after they were made--if they last that long.

Below, I am including the original recipe and my version. Suit yourself on which one you'd like to try--or find a combination of the two for yourself...; yes, I was embarrassed by my 'secret' ingredient--until I tasted them. It will knock your socks off--yes, that good.

The authors note that their friends go absolutely "nuts" for these nuts and that over the years, they have become a holiday gift-giving tradition for them. So, if you are a handmade Christmas gift kind of person....this may be a recipe for you!

PARTY PECANS
Makes 2 cups

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke
2 cups (6 ounces) pecan halves
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. seasoning salt (such as Lawry's)
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil to allow for easier cleanup.

Combine the Worcestershire sauce, butter, and liquid smoke in a medium bowl. Add the pecans and stir to coat. In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, seasoning salt, sugar, and cayenne. Sprinkle half the spice mixture over the nuts and stir well. Add the remaining spice mixture and stir again.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the nuts are dry and toasted, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

ANCA'S VERSION OF PARTY PECANS:
Makes 3 cups

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. LIGHT unsalted butter, melted
1/2 Tbsp. chili-flavored olive oil
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. smoked salt (if you can find it--if not, use 1/2 tsp. liquid salt and 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt)
*1/2-1 tsp. mixed spices of your choice (like any from the Weber seasonings line)-
1 Tbsp.. agave nectar
Secret ingredient: 2-3 Tbsp. taco sauce (or about 3 packets of Taco Bell mild sauce--yup, for real)
3 cups pecan halves

*Note: if your spices include salt in the ingredients, lessen the amount of salt or eliminate it all together.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil to allow for easier cleanup.

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl (with the exception of the pecans)--it will be sauce-like (see picture below).


Add the pecans to the baking sheet and drizzle this  sauce on them. Using your clean hands, combine the nuts with the seasoning sauce until the nuts are evenly coated.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the nuts are dry and toasted, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

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