March Madness may mean basketball to SOME PEOPLE—but as far as I’m concerned it’s all about maple syrup. The weather is plum crazy, but the sugarhouses are boiling sap, and I’m thinking of new ways to use my favorite sweetener.
Last week I invited over some friends and relatives and concocted a maple meal for an article in our local paper, the West County Independent.
Actually, I didn’t quite manage to flavor the entire meal. I was going to do some kind of roasting thing with potatoes and carrots and chickened out at the last minute. I mashed the potatoes and threw the carrots into my maple coleslaw. The rest of the meal was all maple, however.
Glazed pecans were our appetizer.
I love spicy foods. I wasn’t sure exactly how much heat my dinner guests’ palates could takes, however. I therefore made my maple nuts just a little bit hot and just a little bit sweet. We loved them!
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus a bit more to taste later if you like)
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 cups raw pecans
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Melt the butter over low heat in a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Stir in the maple syrup and spices. Add the pecans and toss them well to make sure they are coated.
Place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake the nuts for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Taste a nut after 1/2 hour to see if the seasonings suit your taste; if not, add a little more salt and/or even a little more spice.
When the hour is up remove the nuts from the oven and let them cool on wire racks lined with brown paper. They will be soft at first but will crunch up as they cool.
When the nuts have cooled completely store them in a tin, a jar, or a well sealed plastic bag … or just eat them!
Makes about 3 cups.