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Serving for the Season: The Lee Brothers' Spiced Pecans

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Last Chance Foods asked five guests from 2010 to share the recipes they'll be serving to their families over the holidays.

Matt Lee and Ted Lee (pictured below right and left) are the authors of "Simple Fresh Southern" and "The Lee Brothers' Southern Cookbook." The Charleston, S.C. natives started in the food business by launching The Lee Brothers' Boiled Peanuts Catalogue, which specializes in mail-order Southern pantry staples. Matt and Ted Lee have become oft-consulted Southern food experts and recently wrote a New York Times article about Marilyn Monroe's recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing.

Earlier this year, Matt Lee appeared on Last Chance Foods to discuss the polarizing Southern vegetable okra. Below is the Lees' recipe for a timeless Southern holiday favorite.

The Lee Brothers’ Spiced Pecans It’s unclear where spiced pecans originated, but in the South and the Midwest, through to Texas, where pecan trees are legion, a round tin of cinnamon-scented roasted pecans is a popular homemade gift in November and December. The best spiced pecans we’ve tasted combine the classic Christmas spices with a faint peppery afterburn. They’re often seasoned to be both salty and sweet, and the wonderful butterscotch flavor of the nuts does a nice job of binding together all the different spices. It’s fun to personalize each batch of spiced pecans with a slightly different formula. Whatever blend of spices you use, there should always be a mysterious note, one spice that’s a little hard to place; in our recipe, it’s the ground cumin. If you’re averse to spicy heat, then omit the cayenne and use 2 teaspoons sweet paprika.

Matt Lee and Ted Lee

Makes 3 cups; enough for snacking for 8 to 10 people.

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • H teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
  • H teaspoon ground ginger
  • H teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey, sorghum or cane syrup
  • 3 cups shelled raw pecan halves (about 1 pound)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Combine the spices, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside 1 teaspoon of the blended mixture.

Melt the butter slowly over low heat in a small saucepan. After the foam subsides, turn off the heat and skim the white milk solids from the butter. Whisk the spice mixture into the butter in a slow stream. Whisk the honey into the spiced butter in a slow stream.

Put the pecans in a medium mixing bowl and pour the warm spiced syrup mixture over them. Toss the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Spread the pecans evenly on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake on the top rack for 45 minutes. The syrup should look dry (it will still be slightly sticky) and the pecans will have darkened to the color of mahogany. Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle the reserved 1 teaspoon spice mixture over the pecans.

Serve the nuts as soon as they have cooled, or store them. Stored in an airtight container, roasted pecans will keep two weeks.