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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Other ways to use pecans

Pecans are one of the most Southern ingredients used in cooking. One of the more popular answers to the question of your favorite pie is pecan. This nut has started turning up in other preparations than pie. Trout with Pecans was created in New Orleans as a local alternative to Trout Almandine. So I started thinking of other ways to use them.

Today, I thought I would share with you a couple of recipes using our Southern treasure. The first one is a salad dressing that you don’t often see, Warm Pecan and Bacon Vinaigrette. The second one is a little more traditional, Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan topping. Remove the pecans from their shells and Let’s head to the kitchen!

Warm Pecan and Bacon Vinaigrette

Warm dressings aren’t the best for regular salads. It takes a hearty green to stand up to a little heat. Spinach makes a great vehicle for this dressing.

4 strips bacon, chopped

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup chopped red onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350℉.

Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high meat. Render until crispy. Push bacon to side of skillet and tilt to separate hot fat. Spoon bacon into a small bowl and set aside. Add pecan halves to hot fat and sauté for two minutes or until fragrant (do not burn). Push pecans to one side and again, tilt to separate hot fat. Spoon pecans into a small bowl and set aside. Add onion and garlic to hot fat, then sauté four minutes. Deglaze with red wine vinegar, honey, and hot sauce. Simmer, stirring vigorously, two minutes. Taste; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Return crisp bacon and pecans and stir well. Serve over hearty greens.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Topping

Sweet potatoes are a mainstay on Southern holiday tables. Here’s a different take on that classic. Often, you will find a topping of marshmallows on top of sweet potato casserole. Here we use a topping of sweet pecans.

6 large sweet potatoes

1 stick butter

3/4 cup half and half

Salt and pepper

Hot sauce (optional)

Brown sugar (optional)

Pumpkin pie spice (optional)

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375℉.

Bake potatoes for 75 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and cool; reduce heat to 350℉.

Peel potatoes and purée with butter and half and half. Season to taste with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and/or brown sugar (for those who like their sweet potato spiced, you can add up to one and a half teaspoons pumpkin pie spice). Spoon evenly into a greased two quart baking dish.

Combine brown sugar, water, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix well. Add chopped pecans and mix well. Evenly spoon mixture over sweet potatoes in baking dish. Bake at 350℉ for 45 minutes or until hot and browned around the edges.

You don’t have to go and pick your own pecans. Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of shelling pecans. Fortunately, you can buy pecans in different forms in your local grocery store. Hopefully, you can find a local supplier for a fresher product. They also have some good health benefits. They contain antioxidants and help your immune system. For those of you like me who are thinning on their head, they help promote hair growth. I think that is more for people who have a fuller head of hair than I do. But there’s always hope!

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