Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From The South To My Mouth

Classic Southern Pralines
Have you ever had a real southern-style praline? You'd know it if you had. Buttery, rich, nutty and sweet, with a bit of snap and a touch of grit... sounds like the type of person I wouldn't mind being, actually.

As some of the roots anchoring my family tree pass through southern soil, I find myself wondering if my affinity for pecans, ripe peaches, bourbon and bluegrass has been genetically gifted to me. My mother has always had a soft spot for things like pickled watermelon rind and pimiento cheese... is that a familial proclivity? I discovered grits (well, polenta actually, but close enough) a few years ago and it immediately became a staple at my house, both at breakfast and dinner. Could that be some latent awakening of my southern soul? I sometimes wonder about these things.

Puddles Of Sweetness
As for pralines... when I was a child, my parents went to New Orleans on vacation and brought us back a box of pecan pralines. I'd never tasted anything like them. They became the high-point on my scale of confection perfection. I was officially obsessed. I even tried to make them once when I was a teenager... which led me to believe that pralines were not something you could make successfully at home.

I came across some purely by chance at a restaurant in San Antonio once... and happily brought some home with me of course. But that was a dozen years ago. Everything is different now. I won't have to wait another decade or travel a couple thousand miles for my next one. Now I can make them whenever I want*, no matter where I am...

The Lady Insisted
When I first read this recipe for Classic Southern Pralines I was surprised by its simplicity. It looked almost... easy. So I bookmarked it and forgot about it. Well, my inner-southern "belle" started ringing in the back of my head and she just kept getting more and more insistent. So I gave in and gave it a go... my mother always told me, "When a lady insists, there is no further argument". I wonder if that's a southern-thing?

You'll want to make some yourself... Classic Southern Pralines from The Kitchn

Notes: I made these twice in two weeks. The first time I was a little too slow in realizing the point at which to stop stirring and start dropping. Nevertheless they were delicious enough to make again (in the interest of perfecting my skill, of course). The second batch turned out perfectly. It really comes down to observing and anticipating what's happening in the pot after you take it off the heat. That and having everything ready and set up beforehand. Like a roller-coaster ride, it doesn't take very long but there's no stopping once you've started! Once you've scooped out and dropped all the pralines, scrape the pan immediately with a metal spoon, don't wait. Save the scrapings to sprinkle over ice cream or fruit later.

A Note About Nuts: I made these with walnuts instead of pecans. Not because I prefer them, and not as a nod to my northern home, but because they are cheaper. Period. And I toast them in a pan first. I think they taste even better that way.

*Why this is an ever so slightly erroneous statement: I will most likely not make more of these until Christmas. I'd really better not. You see, I cannot be left alone in the house with them. I will eat them all. They really are that good. So while I can make these whenever I want...  really, I don't dare.

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