Make These 3 Dishes With Pecans – Orange County Register

Flat side down, the pecans look like wooden angel wings cut by a country carver. Deep, nearly parallel grooves run from top to bottom, creating crunchy flavor dips in the nutty meat. Flat side up, sharp fjord-like grooves meander from a central groove, creating cleaner, barely brittle surfaces.

Every little fold seems to capture the sweet nutty. Wrinkles bend around the richness of butter. No wonder these North American nuts, members of the hickory family, are delicious in everything from appetizers and salads to entrees and desserts. They offer the spiciness of the nut, without any hint of nut astringency.

Pecans are among the highest fat nuts. But many nutritionists say they are “good fats” and that when eaten in wise amounts can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol without affecting “good” HDL cholesterol.

Not everyone agrees, but the good news is that you don’t need to use a lot to add flavor and crunch to a wide variety of dishes. Here is a sampling of some of my favorite ways to use pecans.

Candied pecans can be used as a garnish for salads, but also make a wonderful snack or cocktail snack. (Photo by Curt Norris)

Candied pecan nuts with spices

Spiced candied pecans make a delicious garnish on mixed salads (made with hearty greens like romaine, spinach or watercress), dressed in a simple oil and vinegar dressing. For extra interest, add some crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese and sliced ​​fruit, such as apples, pears or oranges. They also make a wonderful snack or cocktail snack.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups


1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 1/4 cup pecan halves


1. In a small bowl, combine sugar and pepper. Place it next to the stove, with a rimmed baking sheet and a spatula.

2. In a wok or deep skillet, heat 1 1/4 cups pecan halves, about 1 minute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add half of the sugar mixture and stir constantly until the sugar melts, about 1 minute. Add the rest of the sugar mixture and stir constantly until the sugar melts. Immediately turn the nuts on the baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, crack the nuts open and allow them to cool completely. Store tightly at room temperature. They keep for 1 1/2 weeks.

Finely chopped pecans tossed with panko provide the breading for this boneless, skinless chicken breast.  (Photo by Cathy Thomas)
Finely chopped pecans tossed with panko provide the breading for this boneless, skinless chicken breast. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Chicken breasts with pecans and panko

Recently I purchased a package of chicken breasts that weighed 2 1/3 lbs. I couldn’t see through the package and assumed it contained 4 boneless skinned breasts, each weighing about 6-7 ounces. But to my surprise, there were only three in the package – three very big boobs. I increased the cooking time to 30 minutes due to their girth and gave guests half breast portions. Note that this recipe called for a large, deep, oven-safe skillet. It is important that it is oven safe because the process begins on the stovetop but ends in the oven.

Yield: 4 servings


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1 cup finely chopped pecans

4 tablespoons of butter

Coarse salt to taste

Garnishes: 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges


1. Set oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a rimmed plate or pie plate, toss panko and pecans to combine.

2. Melt butter in a large, deep ovenproof skillet on medium-high heat. Remove skillet from heat. Brush both sides of the chicken breasts with melted butter and press both sides into the panko-pecan mixture, pressing the coating onto the chicken (don’t panic if some fall out).

3. Return skillet with remaining melted butter to medium heat. Add the chicken in a single layer. If the top part of the chicken (not the part that sits against the surface of the pan) has any bare spots, carefully squeeze some of the remaining panko-pecan mixture onto that part. Cook chicken on one side until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn with a thin spatula. Place the skillet in the preheated oven for about 22 minutes (or about 30 minutes if the breasts are very large). Check for doneness; chicken breasts should be 165 degrees.

4. Plate: Place the chicken breasts on 4 plates. Taste a crispy piece left in the pan. If it tastes delicious, pour it over the chicken. Sprinkle each serving with parsley. Add a lemon wedge to each plate for optional use.

Gougères, or French cheese puff pastries, are a tasty appetizer anyway, but topping them with chopped pecans adds a nice richness.  (Photo by Cathy Thomas)
Gougères, or French cheese puff pastries, are a tasty appetizer anyway, but topping them with chopped pecans adds a nice richness. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Gougères with Pecan Nuts

Gougères, French cheese puff pastries, are hard to beat when it comes to savory appetizers to accompany cocktails or appetizers. They are easy to prepare and very convenient if you have freezer space. I like to serve some and freeze some of the scooped dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet to bake and serve later. I freeze them, then put them in a plastic zipper bag and put them back in the freezer.

This recipe is topped off with chopped pecans, which add a nice richness to the gougères. Its source is “Everyday Dorie” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, $35). Greenspan notes that his formula has a structural fit. Instead of the 5 eggs usually used to make the dough, she uses 4 plus a white, a change that makes the puffs more solid. Plus, she uses a small cookie scoop to shape the puffs, a time-saving trick.

Yield: 55 to 65 small gougères


1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup of water

4 ounces (1 stick) butter, cut into 4 pieces

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 large egg white, room temperature

2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard

2 cups coarsely grated cheese, such as Gruyère, Comté or sharp cheddar

2/3 cup pecans, chopped


1. Position the oven racks to split the oven in three and preheat to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

2. Bring milk, water, butter and salt to boil in medium saucepan over high heat, stirring to melt butter. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium and immediately begin to stir vigorously with a large spoon or whisk. The dough will form a ball and there will probably be a slight film at the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring for another 2 minutes or so to dry out the dough: the dry dough will puff up.

3. Transfer the dough to the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or work by hand in a large bowl with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease). Let the batter rest for a minute, then add the eggs one at a time, followed by the white, beating until each is incorporated before adding the next. The dough may seem to fall apart – just keep going and by the time the white comes in, the dough will be nice. Stir in mustard, then cheese and pecans. Give the dough a final mix by hand.

4. Using a small cookie scoop (1 1/2 teaspoon size), scoop out the dough (leave some extra dough on the hollowed out dough, do not level it) and place the hollowed out dough on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving 2-inch spaces between them. I often find it makes up to 70 small gougères.

5. Place the baking sheets in the preheated oven and immediately lower the heat to 375 degrees. Bake 12 minutes. Rotate pans back and forth, up and down. Continue baking until the gougères are puffed, golden and firm enough to pick up, about 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye out for them because sometimes they only take an extra 8 minutes to cook in my oven. Serve immediately if possible, or at room temperature.

Source: Adapted from “Everyday Dorie” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, $35)

Kitchen issue? Contact Cathy Thomas at [email protected]

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