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Like a herald 

Canadian Thanksgiving was two weeks ago. It landed perfectly, squarely, on the start of a week that was particularly fine. On that day, my father carved the roast bird, my brother made a mushroom gravy for which I immediately begged the recipe, the house was full, and despite some autumn coughs nagging little ones, it felt a grand affair.

It felt like a herald. It felt like my favourite holiday of the year, which it is.

The next day, in that funny routine of the morning after, I puttered about the kitchen considering a bout of dietetic austerity to balance out the (glorious) feast of the night before. 

Fueling these virtuous ideas in my tired mind were immodest handfuls of candied pecans. It wasn't even nine o'clock in the morning and I was crunching my way through a jar in the pantry like a crazed chipmunk. Temperance has never been one of my strong points.

The nuts had been a late entry onto our celebratory menu. On a last-minute run to the market I'd decided additional provisions were required for guests to crunchily munch while we tasked ourselves with the preparation of the main event. I settled on pecan halves without a set inspiration; an unspecific thought of roasting and salting was about as far as I'd gone.

It was the abundance of herbs on the counter and a long-standing addiction that took the pecans further than that initial route - all the way to New York city, into a wardrobe of sugar and rosemary with the addition of thyme, and enough cayenne for some downtown sparkle. As an ensemble the combination hints at boskiness against an urban sensibility - a woolen dress paired with a bright red lip.

Now my first go I should tell you, as seems habit with me, was not a unmitigated success. The seasoning was bang on but I'd rushed the baking - the coating was ever so slightly sticky. Thank goodness for my family, kind souls they are, nobody complained. 

Being ever the fusspot I felt that stickiness had to be addressed. After the plates were cleared and the house had emptied, the remaining nuts went back onto a sheet pan and into the oven. Five more minutes tacked on to the baking. This time, once cooled, they snapped.

That's the trick for early autumn. The coat you wear won't be down or duffle, and the same is true for pecans on Thanksgiving. Their dressing was thin, a sheer, shining wrap, that caught, pleating and folding around the craggy profile of the nuts. Tailor-made garb for an October evening. 

Or an October morning as well, if we're keeping track.


Rosemary and Thyme Candied Pecans
With inspiration from the spiced nuts served at the Union Square Café in New York City. It will look as though there too much glaze as the nuts go in the oven - don't fret. As they bake the syrup will thicken and gather around the pecans. By the time they're done pan will be almost dry.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
3/4 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Scant 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 pound pecan halves
Fleur de sel or other sea salt, to finish (optional)

Preheat an oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Line a standard half sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the maple syrup and Demerara. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, spices and salt. 

Toss the pecans with the butter mixture in a large bowl, making sure to coat well. Spread nuts in a single layer on the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven, turning occasionally, until the nuts are glazed and shiny with a deep golden colour, around 15 minutes. Upon removing from the oven, sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel if using and stir again.

Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Makes 1 pound.  



Thanks to Sheri for inviting me to be a part of the "On This Fall Day" series over at The Stir. I am so happy to be part. You can read my entry here if you'd like!

Reader Comments (40)

this is a great spin on regular pecans. maple syrup, cayenne and herbs sound delicious. i will have to try this flavor profile. also, do you have a dedicated photo setup to get such stunning pics?

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatt gordon

Oh, perfect! I've made something similar but the recipe had corn syrup in it. I'm going to add this to my Thanksgiving idea list - makes me grateful that you had yours first!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel (heart of light)

This sounds amazingly good! No wonder you found it addictive. I am almost scared to try it...

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathalie

Yum. I love roasted nuts, from a street cart (almonds!) to a baseball game (peanuts!). The woodiness of the rosemary with the pecans is positively inspired. What a lovely post.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Mmmmmm - what a fabulous mix of spices. How could anyone resist nibbling on them??

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCookiePie

oh my goodness, these sound amazing!

I don't have demerara sugar - do you think sucanat or brown sugar would work? How long will they store for?

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeri [a foodie stays fit]

Oh how I love candied pecans! definitely a great addition to a thanksgiving menu, and i'm sure that first batch was more than edible :O)

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterheather @ chiknpastry

I'm a huge fan of herbed and spiced nuts like this, especially pecans. But I love the little flourish of fleur de sel at the end; that's one thing I haven't tried. I bet it puts it over the top!

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

i am going to love these.
and i have i told you lately how glorious your photos + writing are?

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertara thayer

Lovely post! This just happens to be my go-to recipe for spiced nuts. It works splendidly with walnuts, because they've got even more nooks and crannies for the glaze to crystallize around.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmma @ shichimi

mmmmmmmmm i'm addicted to union square nuts even though i've never been to union square! i love your addition of maple syrup! will try it next time for sure.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I love pecan nuts with maple syrup, how lovely - this photo looks so warm and cosy ..

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

Beautiful, dear Tara. But what I want to know is this: Did you get the recipe for that mushroom gravy?

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Oh, these are lovely, indeed (and addictive, absolutely!). Laurie Colwin once wrote of an earlier version, but Union Square's is my more usual go to, also.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to you. And crisp crunchy fall, as long as it lasts.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermolly

These sound absolutly fabulous but it hard for me to get pecans over here in France.
I'll be tring this recipe with some other nut.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralwayshungry

love all the flavours! i think pecan can carry them very well. might try this on the stove top.

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLimeCake

I'm in love with those! Rosemary and thyme are my pick everytime! And the salt...Yum...Thank you :)


October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmalia

I love candied nuts, but never think to make them. These will be perfect for my Thanksgiving too!

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfresh365

I love candied pecans. The cayenne works perfectly to add a bit of a kick but nothing too extreme. The addition of thyme and rosemary is intriguing. I already have this bookmarked to try as soon as possible!

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSharlene

this makes me wonder why i don't make spiced nuts every single day

October 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjustcooknyc

i looove candied pecans, what an amazing idea to add thyme and rosemary! i must try this recipe this year.:)

October 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramanda@seegirlcook

I share your feelings (which, as usual, you captured so beautifully with your words and photos) about this recipe, tara. The cashew version was a part of my Thanksgiving last year and promises to be there again this year. Sounds like you had a lovely holiday.

October 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

you write so well it is as if birds are singing at my window! this sound delicious!

October 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternadia

I have got to try this for christmas. It looks great.

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

I still have herbs in the garden, and I look forward to trying this recipe. Your descriptions of Autumn days and moments are something to aspire to. I enjoyed your guest post, as well. It is so inspiring to read good writing, dream of making mouth-watering recipes and looking at stunning photographs.

October 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClarice

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