The best Christmas gift I ever received?
That’s a tough call.
When I was 9, Santa brought me the full-sized Death Star Playstation. I remember breaking into a dance when I saw it. (I still have it too. You know that I do. I even have the little orange plastic rope piece that every other child lost immediately.)
About 6 years ago, Jamie gave me a Tiffany Atlas ring that he got at the flagship store in Manhattan. I imagine him strolling down 5th Avenue on a brisk, lightly snowy December day ……just enjoying the holiday window displays ……then, on a whim, he darts into Tiffany & Co. to buy me something shiny. I rarely take it off.
One year my Mother gave me the “How Babies are Made” book that she used to answer those questions when I was in the 4th grade. She’d saved it for about 35 years in a box in the closet. I loved that book as a child, even took it to school every day……until it was confiscated by my appalled teacher. It wasn’t the subject matter that captivated me, far from it, it was the illustrations. They were all made with decoupage construction paper. If ever there was a Sex-Ed book that catered to my creative imagination…….this was the one.
Those were all great gifts.
But one gift tops them all.
About 15 years ago, my dear friend Kylie gave me a gift certificate for a hands-on holiday cooking class at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. There’s always going to be a part of me that wants to be a chef, and she tapped right into that.
I’ve had the good fortune of dining at the Mansion’s 5-star restaurant a few times. Thanks, of course, to the use of Kylie’s generous employee discount.
(Side note here) I’ve never been intimidated by fancy restaurants; and I know that I should credit my Mother with giving me that trait. Good manners instill confidence. She always told my brothers and me that our manners were a direct reflection on her. Napkin in lap immediately, ladies order first, no one touches their food until everyone has been served. I would never, ever, dare talk on the phone at a table in a restaurant ……(Or while buying groceries, or ordering coffee, or in a crowded elevator……Y’all get the idea. Put your phone down occasionally) I’ve eaten with many poor souls who weren’t raised by my mother.
Me, and about 2 dozen blond Dallas socialites, who all seemed to know each other, met in a small ballroom at the Mansion for a 2 hour class with James Wagner, the Executive Pastry Chef for the restaurant.
The class was just heaven. We made cranberry syrup first (which we drank mixed with champagne for the rest of the 2 hours), peanut butter fudge, Buche de Noel (That’s a Christmas yule log cake for you non-French speakers), and these little gems (that I’m going to share with y’all right now)……..sugar and spice pecans.
In a large pot combine the following:
- 4 Cups Water
- 4 cups Sugar
- 2 TBS Cinnamon
- 1 TBS Ginger
- 1 TSP Nutmeg
- 1 TSP Cayenne
- Zest of a Lemon
- Zest of an Orange
Bring it all to a boil and add 2 pounds of pecan halves.
Continue to stir the pecans in the boiling sugar/water for about 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the pecans to a Silpat-covered cookie sheet and pop them in a preheated 300 degree oven.
But not like the picture below. This is wrong….oh so wrong.
I couldn’t quite figure out why the sugar wasn’t crystallizing. The pecans are way to crowded on the baking sheet.
….so I divided them onto 2 baking sheets……and then it happened.
After about 30 minutes, the sugar hardens on the nuts…and makes the most delicious – “Sweet and Spicy”, go figure – coating.
I haven’t made them since that class. But I’m going to every Christmas from now on.
They really are easy to make….and are just sinfully delicious too.
They’re best in a bowl, on the bar of course, during a holiday party.
Your guests won’t be able to resist.
They make a pretty nice gift as well.
Quite possibly the best gift anyone’s ever received.
Either way, enjoy.
Lord have MERCY!!! I LOVE this recipe!!! Love the story MORE and WANT to be friends with your friend, Kylie. That cooking class would have been a dream come true for me! What a thoughtful and AMAZING gift!!! Thanks for sharin
…dang! My keyboard betrayed me!!! I was trying to say: Thanks for sharing: you continue to inspire me, in EVERY season! Merry Christmas, y’all!
LOL, So glad that we can inspire you Vickie!!! Merry Christmas!
Ok…10 days down the road since my last comment: I just put two cookie sheets full of pecans in my ovens and have another sheet left sitting on the counter, waiting it’s turn….I have shared this recipe with a ton of friends and will be sharing the finished product with others in the days ahead. Can’t wait to get them out of the oven! I bought little “party bags” by Wilton @ Party City to bag these up for gifts! Gonna be some happy folks around me this coming week! Thank you again!!
And now my feet have hit the ground after my initial elation: this was a semi-epic fail…..I think my sugar water concoction turned to syrup…..never got any pretty pecans that had the pretty sugar crystals on them….just shiny over-cooked pecans from one pan and a just missed over-cooking on pan #2….pan #3 cooked the right amount of time so they are ok but just shiny. I didn’t think about that sugar dissolving too much and making syrup…..I AM going to try this again ($$$ dammit!!) because we love the flavor. I will use a smaller orange and a bigger lemon…and maybe a touch more cayenne. I want mine to look like yours….big disappointment for me…..we can eat what we made but not great enough for gifting……. 😦 !! Guess I will google how to make sugared nuts and see if the internet has any tips for me. I will NOT be deterred….pecans are reasonable (?) at Sam’s for 2 lbs/$12.98…..small price for an education! I will let you know……fingers crossed.
Vickie, the sugar mixture SHOUld turn into a syrup..that’s how it coats the pecans. I had trouble getting the sugar to crystalize in the oven too, I just kept them in the oven till it happened. Hope your next batch turns out…….fingers crossed here too.
I can’t wait to try these! Merry Christmas and hope your New Year is filled with love and laughter.
Same to you Tracie!!! Love and Laughter!!!
Thank you for sharing the recipe for sugar and spice pecans; they look scrumptious. I hope to prepare a large enough batch to share. Happy holidays to you and yours…
Happy Holidays Back at ya Velia!!! They are scrumptious.
Those look so yummy. Might have to try these myself! But, what really caught the eye of a Kentucky girl is that big gorgeous bottle of Makers Mark, being an Ambassador and all! I’ll be glad to sponsor you if you want! They give you great little gifts every year and when your barrel is “born” you get to go tour the facilities and dip your own bottles in that beautiful red wax! As a matter of fact, put the Kentucky Bourbon Trail on your bucket list! Beautiful country, not to mention great bourbon and great scenery! Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Patricia that sounds so awesome. I’ve been to Kentucky (driving through to Ohio) and it is beautiful….Even more of an incentive to visit the Maker’s MArk distillery now.
Thanks for the suggestion.
I have only 1 Silpat, so I’ll have to bake them in shifts, unless you think that 30 minute wait time for the ones not in the oven would make them just all stick together. I have lots of parchment paper. They’d probably stick to the paper wouldn’t they?
I don’t think the wait would hurt them at all, but I think you could bake them on just a cookie sheet without the silpat…..but they may stick a little……
Thanks for your input. I’ll use my old ugly cookie sheet. It can’t look any worse than it already does!