Serious Eats: Recipes

Cook the Book: Candied Pecans and Herbed Toasted Walnuts

"I left these on my kitchen counter and by midafternoon the bowl was almost empty."

[Flickr: elana's pantry]

Memorable dinners don't have to begin with fancy canap├ęs or the perfect amuse-bouche. More often than not, a bowl of mixed nuts or a hunk of cheese and some crackers are an ideal way to welcome your guests, along with a cocktail or a glass of wine. Even a culinary mastermind like Thomas Keller agrees that a few bowls of nuts are a perfectly acceptable hors d'oeuvre. Here are a pair of recipes to add a little extra panache to simple and satisfying roasted nuts.

I was curious to see how Keller would handle a preparation that usually requires nothing more than some oil olive or butter and a sprinkling of salt. In these recipes for Candied Pecans and Herbed Toasted Walnuts from Ad Hoc at Home, Keller keeps the list of ingredients to a minimum but employs a few extra cheffy techniques that keep these nuts from tasting like they came from a can.

The pecans are coated in clover honey and roasted at a temperature low enough that the honey permeates the surface and leaves the nuts with a caramelized honey flavor that is deep and rich, almost like a praline without the cloying sweetness. Two hours might seem like a long time to spend on a simple snack but one taste and all of that time will be well worth it.

Walnuts are not the most popular nuts around, falling well behind cashews, hazelnuts, and even the lowly peanut in popularity. By toasting the walnuts and tossing them in a butter infused with chopped fresh herbs, Keller makes walnuts into something you have to force yourself to stop eating. I left these on my kitchen counter and by midafternoon the bowl was almost empty—there was just something about the combination of that herbed butter, toasty walnuts, and crunchy fleur de sel.

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