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.