Now that Halloween is behind us (how the heck did that happen!?), I immediately have to brace myself for the rushing tidal wave that brings in the holiday season. My to-do list immediately grows longer as I begin planning family gatherings, testing new Thanksgiving recipes, and pondering edible gift ideas. It's a chaotic time for sure, but I look forward to every single minute of it.
One thing I have learned over the years is that you can never start too early. Yes, I admit the stores get a bit overzealous when it comes to Christmas displays in July, but I do have to admire their forethought. (Okay, somewhat admire. For the most part it is rather quite obnoxious.) Still, it never hurt anyone to get a jump start in the right direction. As for me, I've especially been thinking about holiday hostess gifts lately, as well as easy snacks and nibbles. I want to have a smart assortment ready to make and give come "party time."
One of my most requested fall recipes is for spicy maple pecans, which I love tossing with salads, serving with an assorted cheese platter, or just eating straight from the bowl. It will always be a no-fail favorite, but in my perpetual attempt to never bore, I decided to roll out a new-and-improved version this year. With all the other sweets and treats I can rely on to flood our home, I began craving something just a bit more savory. I started out with inspiration from another Southern favorite: deviled eggs. Using those same spicy ingredients—Worcestershire, Tabasco, ground mustard, and cayenne—I created an incredibly good, incredibly addictive snack.
Too good, in fact. My mother warned me to hide the pecans from my father until I had a chance to take the pictures. Despite my dad's obsession with nuts, I still gave him a handful, just as a little tease. The look on his face was all I needed to confirm what I already knew: these things are insanely delicious. "Can I have just two more?" My father whimpered. I gave in to his request but hid the container just in case. These people can't be trusted...
Savory Spiced Pecans
4 cups (1 pound) pecans halves
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Place the pecans in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, ground mustard, Tabasco, and cayenne. Pour the butter mixture over the pecans and stir until well combined. Taste a pecan and add more Tabasco or cayenne if desired.
Arrange the pecans on a large sheet pan and bake for 20-22 minutes until toasted and lightly browned, stirring halfway cooking time to prevent burning. Remove from the oven and cool completely, tossing occasionally, before transferring to an airtight container.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)