I love spiced nuts, a staple for many of us during the holidays. Whether as a feature on the appetizer table or coming as a present in a tin box, spiced nuts can warm us on the coldest winter nights.
My recipe below will surely put some sweat on your brow. This is the first time I have been able to make spiced nuts that are worth a darn. It’s just always escaped me how to do it correctly. I end up with nuts that are burnt, or dry, or lack the flavor I crave.
This recipe is my success. How did I do it? I added. I began with an interesting recipe from Stephen Pyles’ great book Southwestern Vegetarian [more recipes to come from that book by the way].
But I had googled and found other recipes that seem interesting too: adding more and different spices, some honey, …
What should I do? I decided not to select, but to combine. The recipe below is my own amalgam of three different ideas, all merged into my gooey mess.
About the goo. I use an abundance of butter, sugar and honey before the nuts go into the oven. When they had been in the oven for twice the recommended time, the sheet pan was simply one mass of nuts in bubbling sugary broth. So I pulled the pan and put it on our outside porch on a cold afternoon. I ended up with a half-sheet of nuts encased in what can only be termed a solidified butter-sugar-honey candy coating.
Like a bark or a brittle, all I had to do was break the pieces apart. When it’s not freezing out, and I don’t have the porch asset, I will try again with less of the ingredients here that forge the bark, so that hopefully the nuts end up coming out of the oven as individuals instead of a massed army. But for now, with cold at my disposal, this is really a seasonal treat.
Brian’s Spiced Nut Bark
Yield: about 5 cups
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups pecans
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons of paprika
- 4 teaspoons red chili powder
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- ¼ cup honey
- ½ cup cider vinegar
- Salt to taste
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Cover a half sheet cookie pan with aluminum foil [do not put the nuts directly on the pan unless you enjoy scrubbing, and scrubbing ..]
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the pecans and sauté for a few minutes until lightly browned. Be careful not to burn.
Add the brown sugar and cook for a few more minutes until the sugar begins to caramelize. You will see pools of brown liquid forming between mounds of the nuts as you stir.
Add the spices and the honey, then stir to mix. Then add the vinegar. You get some sizzling as you stir. Cook briefly until the vinegar liquid has most evaporated.
Spread the nuts on the prepared pan. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 5+ minutes. Do not cook longer than 10 minutes. You want the nuts crisp and the liquid reduced.
Transfer the cookie sheet to a cold environment. Let the whole thing solidify. Break into bits. Serve in bowls. Store the leftovers in ziplock bags.
Source: Inspired by Southwestern Vegetarian by Stephen Pyles
Photo Information: Canon T2i, 18-53MM Macro Lens, F/2.8, 1/60th second, ISO 3200
In the coming weeks, leading up to the Super Bowl, there will be chips and salsa aplenty. You can treat yourself, and any family or friends, to a salsa combination you almost surely have never had before. Here pecans and chipotles merge for a slow-building heat. This recipe, from Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales by Roberto Santibanez, is said to be ideal for tacos or simple tortas. I think it’s a great chips salsa because of the surprising flavor combination. You’ll dip that chip, have it snap in your mouth, and then wonder just what it is that is now filling your mouth with such substance.
The recipe calls for chipotle mora chiles, pictured above. They are small and purple-red in color. You should be able to find them in a Mexican market. Of course, your chili of choice can be substituted to give you a different flavor experience. If you are Googling, you’ll see some different discussions about chipotles, moras, and chipotle moras. If possible get some professional assistance. The color is the key.
You can make this salsa up to 5 days in advance, refrigerate, and then bring to room temperature before serving.
Yield: 1 cup
- 3 dried chipotle mora chiles [small, purplish-red], whipped clean and stemmed
- ½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- ½ cup finely chopped white onion
- 1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat a dry small pan over medium-low heat and toast the chiles, turning them over occasionally, until they have puffed up and blistered in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer them to a blender along with ½ cup of water.
Preheat the oven to 350⁰F and toast the pecans in one layer on a baking sheet, shaking once or twice, until they are two shades darker and very fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer them to a blender. Blend the mixture to form a slightly chunky puree, gradually adding more water if necessary to blend.
Wipe the small pan clean, add the oil and set the pan over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and garlic and cook just until the onion is translucent and soft, about 2 minutes. Add the blended mixture to the pan, then pour 1 tablespoon of water into the blender to loosen the remaining puree and pour it into the pan.
Add the salt and let the mixture come to a strong simmer, stirring constantly, then turn off the heat. Let the salsa cool, then season it to taste with more salt.
Source: Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales by Roberto Santibanez