Simple Saltine Toffee

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An oldie but a goodie.

About 50 saltine crackers
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a 12-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment paper.

Lay the crackers out in one layer as close together as possible, filling the baking sheet.

Melt the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the butter is melted, raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, and keep at a boil for about 3 minutes, stirring. When the 3 minutes are up, give it a good stir and pour evenly over the crackers on the baking sheet.

Spread the caramel around with a spatula if needed, but don’t worry if the surface isn’t covered completely, you just don’t want it pooling in one place. Bake the crackers for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top in an even layer. Let sit for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to spread the chocolate in an even layer over the crackers.

Sprinkle the pecans and the sea salt evenly over the top of the toffee. Leave to cool, then place in the refrigerator for about an hour for the chocolate to set. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

 

 

Easy Sweet Potato Fries

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2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
1½ teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt *

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes, if desired, and cut them into slabs, batons, wedges, coins, half-moons, whatever your heart desires. They can be any size, really, as long as they are not less than ¼ inch and not more than 1 inch thick.

Place them in a large bowl and drizzle with the oil. Season with salt and your choice of spices *, if using, and toss to coat. (Use about 1½ teaspoons salt if you’re not using additional seasoning; adjust salt content depending on your preferred spice mix.)

Add the sweet potatoes onto the baking sheet, scraping out any seasoning or fat clinging to the bowl, and arrange them in a single layer.

Roast, turning once if their bottoms darken quickly, until tender and browned, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on size.

* Try adding a teaspoon or two of any of your favorite seasonings. Got some herbes de Provence? Toss it in there. Spanish paprika? Definitely. Za’atar, curry powder Cajun seasonings, Old Bay?  Why not.

 

“New South” Sweet Sriracha Pecans

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4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
2 cups pecan halves
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the honey and Sriracha in a small saucepan and warm over medium-low heat until thinned and well mixed.

Remove from the heat and add the pecans. Stir well until the pecans are lightly coated.

Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes.

Add the sugar and salt in a bowl. When the pecans are done, add them to the bowl with the sugar/salt mixture. Stir until the pecans are completely coated.

Spread out pecans and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, not that they will last that long.

Warning these pecans are highly addictive.

 

 

Quintessential Boiled Peanuts

South Louisianans boil peanuts with Tabasco mash, others throw in crab boil. Some fans prefer them warm, others demand that they be chilled.  People eating boiled peanuts are usually engaged in other tasks—driving, chatting, fishing, watching a ball game.

Peanuts came to North America from Africa and the Caribbean with the slave trade, sometime before the American Revolution. African Americans grew and popularized the peanut both boiled and roasted.

For many the quintessential experience is purchasing them by the side of the road or in a gas station, in soggy brown kraft-paper bags.

Here is the simplest recipe from which a thousand variations can be made:

  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 pounds (8 cups) freshly dug green peanuts in shell
  • 3 tablespoons salt

Bring the water and salt to a low boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the peanuts and cook to taste, usually 1 to 2 hours. Some like the shell to become soft enough almost to be edible. Let the peanuts sit in the water off the heat until the desired degree of saltiness is reached.