On one of my business trips to the US, I was served an unforgettable nuts cocktail. Not the usual boring-too-salty peanuts... no, a real little dish of warm mix of fancy nuts! And since then, being nuts about nuts, I have been trying to find a recipe for nuts cocktail. I tried the one where you soak nuts in egg whites. I have tried some of the store-brand pre-mix... but none came close to the ones I had on that flight... Then again, I am sure that if I were to taste that same nuts cocktail again today, I would not find them that good! This is why it's always dangerous to want to reproduce something you had once a long time ago and tasted soooo good to you! (Even more true when it comes to a dish that your husband grew up with (ie, that his mother or grand-mother made): unless HE makes it, you are NEVER going to win!! )
I came up with this specific recipe because, one day, I had decided to purchase some caramelized pecans at a store to make a "healthy basket of American goodies" to offer to Europeans (because, yes, to me caramelized pecans are fully associated with American food)... to realize when reading the label (yes, I ALWAYS read the label!), that they were coming from....... Spain! How disappointing!!! Especially, when you know that the US produce more than 75% of the world Pecans (mostly in the Southern states of the US where there is even such an aread called "Pecans belt"!!) I obviously did not purchase these pecans for my friends. It just gave me the idea to try to make my own instead!
Since I don't like things too sweet and that I had this nostalgy of that 2000-era nuts cocktail in mind, I decided to do something both sweet & savory. The result?
Let me warn you (and the people who have had the opportunity to taste them would confirm), these nuts are deadly addictive! If I make a batch for my family or guests, I know that they won't last long! Always a good sign when it comes to cooking, no?
Now, if I could only find a good salty-cocktail mix recipe!! Bon Appétit!
- Raw unsalted nuts: I generally use a mix of walnuts, pecans, almonds and peanuts. You could use hazelnuts, brazilian and sunflower seeds as well. However, I never liked when I used cashews in that mix.
- Cayenne pepper (to taste)
- A pinch or two of salt
- Maple syrup : enough to coat the nuts
- A sprig of rosemary, scissored
- Pre-heat oven to 350F (175C)
- Take a baking pan and lay out all the nuts on the pan. If the nuts are on top of each other, you will have to make a second batch.
- Transfer the nuts in a bowl, add the pepper, salt, rosemary.
- Pour enough maple syrup to have all the nuts nicely coated when you mix them (including in the creases). You don't want them to soak in maple syrup, though!
- Lay the nuts on the baking pan and put in the oven.
- Cook for 15 mns, stirring every 5 minutes. You should start to see the syrup cristallized but the nuts (especially the pecans) should not be burnt.
- Cool on a flat non-sticky surface (I use a silpat) before eating.