Sweet and Spicy Pecans

Love of nuts runs in my family.  You may have noticed I'm not shy about them.  Our friend Richard (Mary's other spouse) always makes fun of me because I once put in Mary's recipe book, "Never underestimate the power of nuts."  He thinks that's hilarious.  It is a little hyperbolic.  Okay, Rich. It's funny.  For some reason, I manage to say the stupidest things around Richard, and he's got comedy material to last him for weeks.  

But these nuts...there's nothing funny about them.  They are seriously good.  I've been making spiced nuts of one sort or another for a long time and for lots of occasions--Christmas presents, parties.  They've almost always turned out tasting good, but I've never hit on the perfect combo of dry/oily (and I steer away from any recipe that looks like it will take longer than 10 minutes).  The ones calling for oil or butter end up too slick, and the ones with just an egg white are so sandpapery that I once rubbed all my fingertips off while bagging them up.  I've finally had the bright idea of doing both butter and egg white.  

Loretta likes these.  She wrinkles up her nose and says, "Can I have more spicy nut?"  It would really be a hardship if she developed a nut allergy in her life.  She likes to stand at the counter and watch me cook, and I always have a little bowl of toasted nuts up there.  She eats happily, which keeps her from spilling my olive oil or getting her fingers chopped off.

It's lucky for me that close-up food photos are the rage right now.  Otherwise, you'd be seeing a lot more of my kitchen table, which hosts every important and messy activity in this household.  My friend Jackie used to say, "I wish all the surfaces in my house were slanted.   That way I couldn't pile crap on top of everything."  

The opening photo in this post is staged, obviously.  Like I was drinking beer and watching T.V. at 2:00 in the afternoon. But I do think these nuts would be the perfect thing to have while watching the American Idol finale, for instance.  Not that I know anything about that competition.  I think it's a cheerleading competition?  Or poetry?  I don't know.  I've heard the young people are into it.  If I did watch, I probably couldn't decide if I wanted Adam or Chris to win.  My boss Michael is rooting for Chris.  Chris is predictably decent, but I think he's gotten the sweetheart vote a couple times.  

I'm going to grab another handful of nuts while I watch C-SPAN.

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

1 lb. pecans (4 or 5 cups)
1 egg white
4 Tb. butter
1 ts. cumin
pinch cayenne
1 ts. smoked paprika
1 Tb. brown sugar
1 ts. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
salt (at least 2 ts.)

Preheat oven to 300.

Put pecans in a medium bowl.  Add egg white and mix gently with your hands, making sure all nuts are evenly coated with the egg white.

Melt butter in small saucepan.  Take off heat, and add cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Add butter mixture to pecans, and mix gently with your hands.  Then add sugar and salt, mixing with your hands again until all nuts are evenly coated.

Spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Toast for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Nuts won't be crackly when you pull them out, but they will be after they cool for a few minutes.  Put them into a bowl and continue watching American Idol C-SPAN.