On my first trip to New Orleans, I took a cooking class in which the instructor weighed in on one of the great questions of our time: The proper pronunciation of the nut is pa-KAWN, she said, because a PEE-can is something our ancestors kept under the bed in their time.
The authors of “Pecans From Soup to Nuts” (Pelican Publishing Co., $19.95) have a more diplomatic — and decidedly less humorous response: “It really doesn’t matter how you say the name of the nut,” they say, they just want you to enjoy this culinary delight, whether it’s roasted with butter and salt, tossed in salads or used to crust meats.
Do we ever.
When it comes to pecans, Texas is as much a part of the South as Georgia and Louisiana. The trees dot the landscape, from orchards to back yards, showering us each fall with rich treats that last us through the year.
That’s why this cookbook, from Keith Courrégé and Marcelle Bienvenu, is so welcome. The authors offer a great wealth of ideas that extend far beyond desserts. Sure, there’s a recipe for Olivia’s Perfect Pecan Pie, with molasses cutting the corn syrup; Macaroon Pie, with coconut added to the mix; and even a Pecan Martini, with vodka mixed with pecan liqueur and served in a chilled glass with pecan meal on the rim.
But there’s also recipes for Egg Salad With Bacon and Pecans, which gets a lively kick from horseradish in the dressing; Asparagus and Pecan Butter, a side dish that goes together in a snap; and Crabmeat Royale, in which lump crab is tossed with butter, lemon juice, parsley and chopped pecans. In fact, the majority of the book is made up of savory suggestions that left me truly hungry.
The authors,working under the aegis of the Louisiana pecan orchard, Cane River Pecan Company, also include some handy information about shelling and storing. (“Package shelled pecans in moisture/vapor-proof containers, such as plastic cartons, glass freezer jars, reusable cans, or plastic freezer bags,” they write. “Nuts can be thawed and refrozen without loss of quality.”)
Need a quick guide on making your own pecan meal? Just follow this simple rule: “Put pecan halves or pieces in a food processor or electric blender and pulse several times until very fine. Do not overprocess. Due to the high oil content, the meal can turn almost into butter if ground too quickly. One cup of pecan halves or pieces yields about one cup of meal. You can make a large batch of the meal and store it in airtight containers in the freezer for later use. ”
“Pecans From Soup to Nuts” is not exactly a new book. It started out in 1984 as a self-published book written by the late Courrégé, who was known as “the Crown Price of the Nut Kingdom.” Over the years, the book was reprinted and has now been revised and updated by Bienvenu. It should be welcome by anyone whose mouth waters at the mention of pecans, no matter how the word is pronounced.