Does anyone else remember long and short vowels? Do they still teach it that way? Yes, there’s a reason for my question, read on and all will become clear…
Before I moved to Texas I never thought much about pecans. Oh, I’d had the occasional slice of pecan pie, but I was more of a walnut/hazelnut girl. But, down here the trees practically throw pecans at you, like the apple trees in the film version of Wizard of Oz. You have to be mindful of parking under the pecan trees. In the good years, the urban harvest is amazing. I’ve learned a few places to go, now, and can scavenge with the best of them.
Since I never thought much about pecans, I certainly never dwelt on pronunciation. I heard the word pronounced several different ways, and didn’t blink. However, my friends here informed me that it is absolutely a short “e”, followed by a sort of “aw” sound — never, never that “CanCan” sounding “a”. Kind of “pehkawn” if you will, and that a “pee-can” is something you use in the night if you are leery of going to the outhouse because of bahrs. You get the idea? Yikes.
Anyway, whatever you call them, I love them. Good fresh pecans are buttery and tender, almost like pine nuts, and that make them a great baking nut. They can be coarsely ground and used instead of breadcrumbs when coating fish (especially trout, oh my!) for baking, ground into a fine “flour” and used to make a gluten-free pie crust, or taken even further into a pecan butter. They make pralines something to write home about, and they are wonderful with a variety of sweet to savoury crusty coatings as a nosh.
I like ’em sweet. If you know me at all, either from this blog or from the real world, you probably guessed that. I love sweets but with a twist. Again, if you know me you know I am partial (ok, addicted) to Armenian seven-spice. This blend of very finely ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, fennel and black pepper is great (great, I tell you) in coffee, in stews, soups, as a rub with chicken, in granola, in banana-nut bread, in pancakes, and for making sweet spiced pecans.
This is a very easy recipe, and since it is mostly about whisking and mixing it is great to make with kids. They can do pretty much everything once the egg is separated (and for older kids, well, let them try — no harm if a tiny bit of yolk gets in the white in this recipe). If a grown-up does the oven part, everything else is kid-friendly.
These will keep well once cooled (good luck with that – they never last long here!) if stored in an airtight tin. They make nice gifts in a pretty glass canister, or just a nice nosh before or after dinner. They are good crumbled over vanilla ice cream, and please, please send me any other uses you can think of. Quick, yummy, store-able, good enough! Here’s how:
Makes about 4 1/2 cups
1 medium egg white
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon seven spice*
4-5 cups pecan halves
2 T turbinado sugar
Move your oven racks to the lower part of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F.In a bowl, whisk together the egg white and vanilla until just a little frothy. Stir in the brown sugar and spices. Mix until well blended and shiny. Add the pecans and mix/toss until the nuts are evenly coated. (Start with 4 cups. If it seems rather wet, add more nuts.)
Spread the pecans evenly on parchment on a cookie sheet. (It may take 2 cookie sheets.) Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. This give a bit of extra “crunch”.
Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until the nuts are dry, about 35-40 minutes. (Be careful – nothing is hotter than hot sugar!) Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Enjoy!*If you don’t have seven spice available, you can make your own mixture of ginger, cinnamon, allspice, etc as listed above. Just be sure it is all ground very fine (especially the pepper!) and well blended. I go through it quickly, so I don’t really know how long it will last, but if all your spices are nice and fresh it should last a few months. Yum!