In addition to the best pimiento cheese, there's one other family recipe that I crave around the holidays: my Aunt Peta's spicy-sweet pecans.
But first we need to clear up a couple of things. For one, my Aunt Peta wants to make sure I tell you that this is not actually her recipe. She remembers having these pecans at a school or church function and then asking for the recipe. But for all of my life I've associated these spicy-sweet pecans with my Aunt Peta and so I think of this recipe as hers. Plus I always love a recipe with someone's name in it. Secondly, although these are a Christmas tradition in my family these pecans would be great any time of the year.
You might wonder if you could swap other nuts for the pecans in the recipe. I've never tried it but I have to ask, why would you want to? In my opinion the pecan is superior to all other nuts. When toasted (and I believe all nuts should be toasted, no exceptions) the pecan's toasty nuttiness and delicate crunch cannot be rivaled. I feel very strongly about this. In this recipe pecans are coated with a mixture of melted butter, brown sugar, chili powder, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire (pronounced by my southern grandfather, Doc Doc, as "wooster" and still how I always want to say it), and salt. Sometimes my mom would make a batch of these pecans during the holidays and I distinctly remember the scent of toasty nuts and tangy baking Worcestershire wafting through the house.
What results is a dressed-up glazed pecan that at first tastes savory-sweet from the Worcestershire and brown sugar and then delivers a zing of spice with chili powder and red pepper flakes. It's just enough of a kick to leave you reaching into the bowl for a few more. (Seriously, I've been snacking on them while writing this and I need to move the container to another room.) Also, like pimiento cheese, this is a great recipe to make as a gift.
Aunt Peta's Spicy-Sweet Christmas Pecans
2 tablespoons butter, melted
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups pecan halves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine all ingredients except for pecans. Pour melted butter mixture over pecans and stir until all pecans are coated. Spread pecans in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until pecans smell toasty. Let the pecans cool before removing them from the baking sheet.
*I baked one batch of these on my silicone baking mat and found that the glaze stayed too sticky so I wouldn't recommend using a silicone mat.
*When you open the oven, stand back a bit – the baking Worcestershire in the oven air will sting your eyes if you get the initial waft of it!