There’s a reason why the pecan tree is the official state tree. (Mob connections, maybe?) They’re also located, conveniently enough, all over*- including a gigantic pair right behind my apartment.
As it happens, I like pecans. Last fall, I thought, “My god, I am so smart. Pecan trees yield pecans. I’ll forage for pecans by picking them up off of my patio! Goodbye outrageous pecan costs, hello savings!”
Late in October when the husks started splitting open and pecans started dropping to the ground, I gathered a ton of them. “A bumper crop,” I thought, “and it shall last me nigh into the summer.” I was living off the land.** (At least as far as pecans were concerned.) Boosh.
The problem was – compared to normal pecans – these were small, malnourished-looking pecans.*** They were grubby little street urchin pecans. If you succeeded in cracking one open without smashing half or all of it to bits, they tasted fine, but a sorry, sad nut overall.
Lesson learned: Foraging is dumb. I bought the pecans for this recipe at the grocery store like a smart person. Easy recipe, versatile result. Blah, blah, blah… enjoy.
2 cups pecan halves
scant 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
pat of butter
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1. Toast the pecan pieces over medium low heat until dark and fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Stir them around every 30 seconds or so. Nuts are delicate and they scorch easily, so you want to keep them moving. Let them cool to room temperature and place in a bowl.
2. Over medium high heat, stir together brown sugar, water, cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne and butter. Stir constantly for 4-5 minutes, until the wake left by stirring leaves wispy threads (just keep stirring, it’s exactly what it sounds like).
3. Pour mixture over toasted pecans. Gently stir until pecans are well coated. Pour out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper (finally, a use for wax paper!) to cool, separating any pieces that are stuck together. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
4. Your journey may end at step three. Mine did not. After cooling down for over an hour, my pecans were still quite sticky. Five minutes in a 300 degree oven and another few minutes of cooling down fixed that.
* Or at least they are in the older parts of DFW- a lot of the ‘burbs are a flora-free-for-all.
** And maybe more importantly, I was sticking it to slacker, freeloader squirrels.
*** Which is so strange to me, because I know if there’s one thing I think of when I think of East Dallas, it’s the nutrient rich soil.