NUTS: They’re what to make when friends are coming

I had peanuts (I always do – my husband loves them) and some whole almonds and a bag of walnuts in the freezer, so I mixed them together.  But you can make these with any assortment of nuts or just one kind.   Similarly, feel free to customize the spices to your taste.  You’ll want to keep the egg white – it’s the glue; the sugar – it’s what caramelizes the nuts; and the salt – what are nuts without salt?  After that, it’s whatever you’d like or whatever you have on hand.
And, just in case you were wondering, we drank a Jurancon Sec.
Makes 6 servings
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch cayenne
1 large egg white
2 cups nuts, whole or halves, but not small pieces, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, or a mix
Postion a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Spray a nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with a silicone baking mat.
Mix the sugar and spices together in a small bowl.  Beat the egg white lightly with a fork in a larger bowl – you’re not making a meringue, just breaking up the white so that it’s liquid.  Toss in the nuts, stir to coat them with egg white, then add the sugar-and-spice mixture and continue to stir so that the nuts are evenly covered.
Using your fingers, lift the nuts from the bowl, letting the excess egg white drip back into the bowl (you can run the dipped nuts against the side of the bowl to de-excess them), and transfer them to the baking sheet, separating them as best you can.  Discard whatever sugar-egg mix is left in the bowl.  
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and the coating is dry.  Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the nuts to another baking sheet, a cutting board or a piece of parchment paper, break them apart, and let them cool completely.  The nuts crisp as they cool.
Serving:  These are good with everything from cider and beer to Champagne.
Storing:  Kept covered in a dry place, the nuts will hold for about 5 days at room temperature.
Bonne Idée:  You can swap the spices at whim.  For a change, omit the chile powder and go for 5-spice powder (you can keep the cinnamon, if you’d like), curry powder (I’d use just a smidgen of cinnamon with the curry) or even cardamom (in which case, I’d cut out the cinnamon).  You can also make herb-flavored nuts using finely chopped fresh herbs or dried herbs (just make sure your dried herbs are brightly colored and still fragrant).  Keep the sugar and salt, drop the chile powder and cinnamon, and try mixing the nuts with fresh rosemary or thyme or dried herbes de Provence.


Dorie Greenspan