Monday, November 17, 2008
Little Splurges: Spiced Candied Pecans
I know, I know: pecans are most certainly not a cheap eat, but hear me out on this one.
You know how nearly every restaurant in the country has some form of salad with candied nuts and blue cheese and dried fruit on mixed greens? And those salads, though tasty, will cost you somewhere between eight and eighteen dollars? Well, for less than the price of one restaurant salad, you can make a great, big batch of these pecans that will turn plate after plate of your humble, home-tossed greens into something special. Plus, this recipe couldn't be simpler. Many candied nut recipes call for deep-frying the nuts or lots of added butter, which isn't really necessary or worth the mess/cost/added fat calories.
So, please: check out my nuts, won't you?
Start with a pound of raw pecans.
Whisk together one egg white and one tablespoon of water.
In a large bowl, toss the watery egg whites with the pecans and then transfer the nuts to a colander and let them drain for five minutes. Failure to properly drain your nuts will result in excessive nut goo, and nobody wants that.
While the nuts drain, round up your spices. Here we have cinnamon, cayenne, powdered ginger, and salt. Mix the seasonings together with about one cup of sugar. (For the best sugary adhesion, superfine sugar is the ticket. If you don't have any--and why would you?--just run granulated sugar through a food processor or blender for one minute. Voila!)
In a large bowl, toss the nuts together with the sugar-spice mixture and then spread evenly on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper, besides preventing sticking, encourages a nice crispy, lacy, caramel-y exterior on the nuts. Plus, you don't have to wash your pans, which is just plain thrilling.
Bake for about 50 minutes in a 275 degree oven, stirring once half-way through and rotating the pans for even toasting. Added bonus: your house is going to smell fantastic.
The nuts will come out toasty and dry, perfectly coated and crispy, knocking around on the pan with a satisfying crunchy sound not unlike fallen leaves. After letting them cool for about half an hour, toss some of the nuts with mixed greens and vinaigrette, or just store them in an airtight container for a week. (FYI: they will never, ever survive the whole week.)
It probably goes without saying that these nuts are also perfectly delicious straight-up. Put them in a pretty bowl on your coffee table, mix a cocktail, and pretend you're in the bar of a fahncy boutique hotel. Or package some in a little bag and give them away as cheap holiday or hostess gifts. Or put the whole pound in your own mouth in one fell, decadent swoop: what you do with your nuts in the privacy of your home is entirely your business.
(Click here for print-ready recipe.)
Spiced Candied Pecans from BeanPlate
yield: about 4 cups
1 lb. raw pecans (or walnuts)
1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 T. water
1 cup sugar (or 2/3 cup superfine sugar)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. salt
Preheat oven (with one rack in the upper and and one in the lower-middle positions) to 275 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, toss nuts together with egg white mixture. Transfer to a colander and drain for 5 to 10 minutes. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, and salt. Toss the sugar-spice mixture with the drained nuts. Spread nuts evenly on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 50 minutes, stirring once and rotating the sheets half-way through baking time. Once crisp, remove nuts from oven and allow to cool completely on cookie sheet. Store in an airtight container.