Pecans for Click*
Welcome new readers! If you’re visiting this blog for the first time, either because of the mention in Vegetarian Times or because of the Food Blog Awards, you may be wondering, “What’s a blog about ‘fat-free’ cooking doing with a post about pecans, which are almost all fat?” The truth is that the recipes on this blog are not really fat-free; what they are free of, for the most part, is refined oils (olive oil, canola oil, etc.), margarine (and butter, of course), shortening, and other “man-made,” processed fats. Around the holidays I sometimes make exceptions to this rule, but even then I try to reduce the fat whenever possible. I try to keep the fat below 15% of the total calories in the dish, and when I exceed that, I label the recipe “higher-fat” (the labels appear at the end of the post). I’ve never featured a recipe that’s almost 100% fat–until now.
A long time ago, a friend’s mother told me how she made the delicious roasted pecans she’d served at a party: You melt butter in a skillet, add the pecans, sauté them until they’re fragrant, and sprinkle them with salt before cooling. For years that’s how I made them, using high-quality margarine instead of butter. It’s a treat so irresistible that it’s possible for me to consume huge amounts of fat just by nibbling as I cook (each ounce contains over 21 grams of fat). This year I wanted to give roasted pecans as Christmas presents, and I got to thinking that there must be a way to roast them without the margarine and have them taste just as good.
I started doing some research, and I found a little-known trick to making pecans taste sweeter: Soaking and rinsing the shelled nuts in lukewarm water before roasting removes the tannins and pieces of corky material that can cause pecans to taste bitter. I was intrigued and decided to give it a try. The results were amazing! The pecans not only taste sweeter, but they seem to retain their moistness better during roasting, resulting in plumper roasted nuts.
While experimenting, I tried this technique two ways. One batch I roasted without added fat; to the other I added some margarine right at the end. Though the batch with the margarine did taste a little richer, mainly it tasted saltier because the margarine helps the salt adhere better. Both batches were delicious, and I doubt that most people would notice the missing margarine. I’m including the instructions for both methods, so you can do your own testing at home.
I like to keep these simple, using only salt so that the rich, sweet taste of the pecans shines through. You can, of course, use other seasonings, if you choose. Creole seasoning is particularly tasty.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Begin with 12 ounces to 1 pound of shelled pecans. Put them in a rectangular baking dish big enough for them to spread out in a single layer. Check for any shriveled or black pecans and remove them. Then cover the pecans with lukewarm water and stir for a minute.
You’ll see that the water immediately becomes dark with the impurities that you’re removing. Let the pecans soak for 5 minutes, and then drain them in a colander. Return them to the dish and cover them again with lukewarm water. Repeat the 5 minute soaking and drain. The water should have been a little lighter in color that time. Repeat the process one more time and return the pecans to the pan.
Spread the pecans out in a single layer and sprinkle with salt (I used Kosher flake salt because it is more finely ground than regular salt). Put the pan in the preheated oven. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Watch them carefully and remove them if they begin to get too brown.
Remove from the oven and salt again if necessary. If you are not adding margarine, allow them to cool completely before serving or storing in a tightly sealed container.
If you want to add margarine, add about 1 tablespoon as soon as the pecans come out of the oven. Stir well, using a spatula to scrape up the dried salt from the dish and distribute it to all the nuts. Allow to cool completely before serving or storing in a tightly sealed container.
I’ll be taking the next week or so off to spend time with my family, but I’ll be back before the new year to share some more delicious treats with you. Happy Holidays to all who celebrate!
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