Thanksgiving Day, boys and girls, officially starts the beginning of the Season of Overeating, at least in the South. Can you count the ways we use cream cheese? No, you cannot. And the dairy cows run in fear to cower behind the barn this time of year because we are all in butter overload.
Cooking magazines always feature “healthy eating” recipes during this time of year. Why in the world would you want to do that? Show me a woman at a holiday party with carrot sticks on her plate and I will guarantee you she is on some kind of appetite suppressant. I well remember traveling to Bunny’s in Knoxville one year for Christmas and accompanying her to a dress shop where they were serving the patrons sausage balls. You have to have some kind of moxy to serve sausage balls to women trying to fit into a size 2 Christmas sweater. But those sausage balls were going like hotcakes.
Nuts are always part of a Southern holiday tradition. They crust cheese balls, find their way into hot dips and, of course, are a star ingredient in fruitcake. Yes, we are the people who actually like fruit cake. I have a theory about this. Back in the day, it was frowned upon for good Christian women to imbibe. However, if you are making fruitcake one of the requirements is that it be soaked in rum or bourbon and allowed to sit for several months before serving. No one ever questioned the baker’s devotion to the production of fruitcake. But I think it was just their way of getting a good snort, as my mother used to say.
So here is the Mayhew standard for beginning the holiday season: butter-roasted pecans. I usually make a batch up right before Thanksgiving and keep making them through New Year’s. They are addictive.
1 pound pecan halves
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Dash of Tabasco Sauce
Sea salt in a coarse grinder
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Melt the butter (I do this in the microwave using a coffee cup) and add the Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Line a large rimmed cookie sheet with foil and mound the nuts in the center. Pour the butter mixture over the nuts and coat thoroughly, spreading them out into a single layer.
Bake for 10 minutes. Stir to redistribute nuts and bake another 10 minutes or until nuts are a golden brown. After removing them from the oven, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and stir one more time. Let cool completely before storing them in a glass jar.