This is a Hooray for Husbands! post. Last Tuesday it was Michael’s birthday. He would have been 86 years old. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and imbibing in Woe is Me, I decided to do what Michael loved best and invite friends to dinner. I asked two Aspen couples with a friendship history of 25 years, and another couple, who had only known Michael through my eyes, to join me.
I warned the gals about wearing lipstick, my code phrase for blogging purposes and photo ops and got down to the business of planning and cooking a meal. We neglected to mention to the men that this would be a work/blog dinner as well as, hopefully, a pleasurable evening.
…..which brings me to my French Fridays recipe choice, Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts. The Doristas made these in 2010 prior to my joining the clan. Since everything I was serving for dinner I’d never made before, these would be a simple and tasty cocktail nibble. If as delicious as anticipated, wouldn’t they be a great hostess gift when packaged in holiday finery?
Although you can use a variety of nuts, I chose only whole almonds. After beating an egg white to a runny froth, I swished 2 cups of almonds until all were coated and shiny. Then I poured in a mixture of sweet (sugar and cinnamon) and spicy (salt, chili powder and cayenne). After the almonds were thoroughly coated, I separated the last bit of egg white from the nuts and transferred them to a parchment lined baking sheet. Thirty-five minutes later at 300 degreesF, I had toasty brown almonds to serve my guests.
Fast forward to Tuesday evening. Picture the scene: we have our wine and have just settled down to deal with the appetizers. The first guest to go for the nuts was Steve Chase who hardly got one into his mouth before I said, “What do you think?”
“About what?” he asked.
“The nuts,” I replied. “Do you taste the sweet? The spicy?”
At this point, all conversation has stopped to hear Steve’s and my exchange. At this point, also, Steve is looking at me like I’m nuts. (He’s given me this look before so I’m unbothered by it.) By the way, during the conversation I am also clicking photos of Steve eating the almonds. His wife, Donna, jumps in to explain that ‘Mary made these and is blogging about them’.
Long story short, the two other husbands, Philip Salet and Don Wrigley, took a handful of nuts and the critiquing began: “some spice, not too much, however,” “festive,” “still salty but sweet,” “perfect with a light red,” and “I just like them.” Not to be outdone, Philip’s wife, Jessica, suggested, “How about profound? These nuts are profound.”
We all agreed, Dorie’s Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts are “profound”. I’ll include photos and more about our dinner party in next week’s post when our recipe is Béatrix’s phenomenal Red Kuri Soup. In the meantime, if you would enjoy making these Profound Sweet & Spicy Cocktail Nuts, here’s the recipe:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch cayenne
- 1 large egg white
- 2 cups nuts, whole or halves, but not small pieces, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, or a mix
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with a silicone baking mat.
- Mix the sugar and spices together in a small bowl.
- Beat the egg white lightly with a fork in a larger bowl – you’re not making a meringue, just breaking up the white so that it’s liquid.
- Toss in the nuts, stir to coat them with egg white, then add the sugar-and-spice mixture and continue to stir so that the nuts are evenly covered.
- Using your fingers, lift the nuts from the bowl, letting the excess egg white drip back into the bowl (you can run the dipped nuts against the side of the bowl to de-excess them), and transfer them to the baking sheet, separating them as best you can. Discard whatever sugar-egg mix is left in the bowl.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and the coating is dry.
- Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the nuts to another baking sheet, a cutting board or a piece of parchment paper, break them apart, and let them cool completely. The nuts crisp as they cool.
- Storing: Kept covered in a dry place, the nuts will hold for about 5 days at room temperature.
Bonne Idée: You can swap the spices at whim. For a change, omit the chile powder and go for 5-spice powder (you can keep the cinnamon, if you’d like), curry powder (I’d use just a smidgen of cinnamon with the curry) or even cardamom (in which case, I’d cut out the cinnamon). You can also make herb-flavored nuts using finely chopped fresh herbs or dried herbs (just make sure your dried herbs are brightly colored and still fragrant). Keep the sugar and salt, drop the chile powder and cinnamon, and try mixing the nuts with fresh rosemary or thyme or dried herbes de Provence.