One of the things I like to do most Christmases is to make candied nuts. They’re so easy to do and everyone in my family loves them, I don’t know why I don’t make them more often. Hell, it’s gotten to the point where we always talk about “Dad’s Nuts,” and, well, the headline above clearly demonstrates where this can sink. My 14 year old son started actually walked into the dining room yesterday, carrying a bowl of nuts, asking his grandmother — HIS GRANDMOTHER, for chrissake, whether she wanted to taste his nuts. I think he’s still blushing over it, but it’s pretty damn funny. Almost as funny as the Schwetty Balls skit from SNL.
So, what’s so special about my nuts? First, they’re sweet, but not overly so. They’re not pralines or anything close to that. They’re easy to make, and you don’t have to coat them with egg white. The flavor is fairly complex, but perfect for the holidays. And frankly, you can use whatever spices you want. You can add a kick of cayenne if you wan’t a hot and sweet effect. Want some more warmth, add a bit of clove. It’s up to you. I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks in the world, the Frog-Commissary Cookbook.
These make great gifts, too. Just put some tasty nuts in a Mason jar, put on a ribbon, and you’re good to go.
Candied Vanilla-Spiced Pecans
- 1 pound pecan halves
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 vanilla bean, ground finely)*
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 325°F. Add pecans to a small pot of boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Drain. While nuts are blanching, combine sugars and vegetable oil in a boil. Add drained, hot pecans to sugar mixture, toss to coat thoroughly, and let stand for about 10 minutes. Spread on a baking sheet, preferably lined with a Silpat (for easier clean-up), and bake for about 30 minutes, turning them every 8 minutes or so, until the nuts are medium brown and crispy. While baking, combine the dry ingredients, including the pulverized vanilla bean, if using one. Add the hot, baked nuts to a bowl and thoroughly toss with the spices and vanilla. Allow the nuts to cool completely. They will get crunchier as they cool.
Note: If you don’t have vanilla powder or a vanilla bean, add 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract to the sugar and oil mixture.