Reflections on perfect pairings

This week’s recipe comes courtesy of my cousin’s husband’s family, whatever that relation is called. It melds the flavors of sweet and spicy, a combination I would have been skeptical of and probably never tried if my cousin hadn’t brought it to a recent family gathering.

But I loved the bourbon pecan recipe so much I asked her to pass it along.

Bourbon pecan ingredients; yes, I buy cheap whiskey.

As I made the recipe for the first time this week, it got me thinking about perfect pairings.

One of the more joyous things about growing up is seeing the people you love find their love. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s been wonderful to see the family grow to include these new people into our lives, and marvel as they put up with all of us, especially when we get together.

This is true throughout my immediate family, where my mom, dad, and oldest brother, found partners that complement them so well, and fit them to a T. But it’s also been true for much of my extended family, as well.

And, of course, it’s the case with my cousin Stephanie who shared this recipe and who married her sweetie 10 years ago this summer, just weeks before I met my own sweetie.

Since around that time, the Crippes clan has been trying to have regular get-togethers. At each, our family of foodies has shared our favorite recipes to try to impress one another.

Stephanie is overly kind in praising my contributions (her mom, Sue, however, deservedly gets credit), so she was especially pleased at how much I enjoyed this bourbon pecan recipe.

For my part, I’m just delighted that when she tried it, she thought of us and decided to share. Candied pecans coated in a cayenne spice mix might at first blush seem like they’re going to clash, but trust me, it’s a match made in heaven.

Soooooo good.

Here’s what we did:

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. bourbon (2 shots, or 1/4 cup+2 tbsp.)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Angostura bitters
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. pecans (4 cups)
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin

Directions

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Simmer the bourbon to reduce it by half (3 T.). It happens relatively quickly so I kept a heat-proof measuring cup by the pot to keep checking it didn’t boil down too much.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, bitters, Worcestershire, and oil. Add the warm bourbon. Stir until sugar is nearly dissolved; the nuts will take care of the rest of dissolving if you’re not sure.

Separately, in a large pot, blanch the pecans for 1 minute in boiling water and drain. Add to bourbon mixture and toss, and then let it stand for 10 minutes.

Then, spread the candied nuts on a large rimmed sheet pan, pouring the remaining marinade over them. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes.

When the nuts are crisp and lightly browned and the liquid has evaporated, turn nuts into a clean bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the cayenne, salt, pepper, and cumin and mix well. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the nuts while tossing them.

Turn out onto a clean non stick or foil lined cookie sheet to cool. When cool and dry, store in an airtight container, and enjoy!

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