Saturday, November 15, 2008
At every dinner party, there's that period of time when the cook needs to put the finishing touches on the meal, when everyone has a cocktail, but as the host, you're wondering if you're keeping them waiting too long. An easy, make-ahead munchie can save the day, cutting hunger without filling anyone up.
Since Thanksgiving is the ultimate dinner party, and I have a huge group of starving people to fend off, I like to put out some really great cheese, an antipasto platter, crudite and these spiced nuts. It's all easy and store-bought except for the nuts. I make them the weekend before and all I have to do is plop em in a bowl and put them on the table. Take a glance back in a couple minutes and they'll be gone - but you'll be a hero.
Spicy Mixed Nuts
2 1/2 cups mixed nuts - any combination of whole almonds, cashews, macademia nuts, peanuts, pecan halves or walnuts
1 1/2 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
3 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 cup mini-pretzels, broken up slightly
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Spread out the nuts on top of a silpat* on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring occasionally and checking frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix butter, sugar, spices and maple syrup in a medium bowl.
When nuts are done, empty them into the bowl, followed by salt and pretzels. Toss to coat, then turn back out onto the silpat. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring twice. Remove from oven and let cool.
These are good slightly warm, but if you cool them completely they'll last for a week in an airtight container (ready and waiting for the doorbell to ring!)
*A silpat is a silicone coated sheet pan lined that I strongly suggest you invest in if you do a lot of baking. If you don't have one, parchment paper will work, but it may stick a bit more and it can be awkward to work with.