Brown Butter Pecans, with Beet Salad

January 27, 2014 § 6 Comments

Let’s see,where was I….  It has been a year and a half since I wrote here.  But I’ve missed documenting recipes and writing about my successes and screw-ups in the kitchen.  And right now I have the luxury of time, so I thought: Heck. Revive the cooking blog. So here we are!  Thanks for reading.


Today I will share with you a very simple recipe that produces an extraordinary little nut.  A nut that is elevated, better than all of the other nuts.  It is the brown butter pecan.  Mother nature does not create these beauties without the help of human hands, because Brown Butter Pecan Trees would be irresistible. Men would wage wars over them and empires would fall, tragedy would ensue.  But you can create these objects of desire in your own kitchen.  And you can eat them all and not share a single one, because let those other folks make their own damn brown butter pecans.  I would not know about these tasty morsels if my friend John hadn’t told me; he’s a great chef and I take his cooking advice whenever he gives it to me.  So when John told me to coat toasted pecans in a copious amount of brown butter and a bit of salt, I did it.  And dang, they were GOOD. In retrospect, they were obviously destined to be delicious: a toasted nut, slicked with nutty butter, and a sprinkling of sea salt. Yeah, it makes sense.

If you haven’t cooked with brown butter before, I encourage you to acquaint yourself. Plop a stick of  unsalted butter into a small saucepan, set it over medium-low heat and walk away from the stove.  Get distracted, lose your train of thought.  In fifteen or twenty minutes, when you cruise past the stove top again, your brown butter will be there waiting.  The solid bits from the butter will be collected at the bottom of the pan and they will be toasty brown, the liquid butter will be a light caramel color.  You can use this nectar of the Dairy Gods in place of ‘plain’ butter most anywhere.  It raises buttered noodles to new heights, is awesome on popcorn, and makes killer baked goods.

Here is a recipe for Beet Salad with Citrus, the most common setting for brown butter pecans at my house (when I’m not eating them straight outta my greasy palm).  The rich nuttiness of the pecans, plus the sweetness of roasted beets and the zing of citrus puts me in a happy place.

Beet Salad

Beet Salad with Citrus and Brown Butter Pecans

serves 6

For the Pecans:

1 – 1.5  C pecans

1/2 stick unsalted butter

sea salt

For the Salad:

4 medium beets

1 navel orange

1 head of butter lettuce, leaves rinsed and dried

For the Dressing:

2 teaspoons of shallot, minced

juice from 1/2 a lemon

freshly squeezed orange juice, about 1/4 C

1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar

pinch of salt

1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil

1. First, roast the beets. Preheat the oven to 400.  Remove the greens and long root from the beets, and arrange them in a foil packet with a few splashes of water.  The foil needs to be loose enough to allow to steam to circulate around the beets, but tightly sealed so that the steam doesn’t escape.  Place the packet on a baking sheet and cook beets until they are tender all the way through, about 45 minutes. Allow them to cool before peeling (all of this can be done up to three days in advance, just keep the cooked beets in the fridge until you’re ready to use them).  To peel, rub the skin off of the beets and cut off the knobbly tops.  If you are using red beets your fingertips will be magenta for the rest of the day, a memento of your time in the kitchen. Slice the beets into bite-sized wedges.

2. Then, brown the butter.  Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Allow the butter to cook for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on the temperature – if it’s too high you’ll end up with black butter, which is not our aim.  When the solid bits from the butter are collected at the bottom of the pan and toasty brown and the liquid butter is a light caramel color, remove the pan from the heat.

3. Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat on the stove, or on a sheet tray in the hot oven with the beets.  Watch them carefully – the line between toasted pecans and burnt pecans is very thin.  Allow the nuts to cool, then drizzle them with brown butter and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

4. Next, assemble the salad.  Hold the orange over a bowl while you peel and section it, to collect the juice for the dressing.  If you’re in a hurry, simply slice the peeled orange.  If you have a bit more time, consider cutting the orange into supremes – skinless sections.  There’s a good how-to here .  Arrange the lettuce in a salad bowl, and scatter the orange sections, beets, and brown butter pecans on top.  You may have more nuts than you need for this salad, if you have will power and haven’t eaten half of them already. They can be kept in a sealed container for a few days (I think – they’re always devoured on day one at my house).

4. Finally, make the dressing.  In a small bowl combine all of the dressing ingredients except for the oil.  Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, until the salt dissolves and shallot has asserted itself.  Whisk in the olive oil and pour the dressing over the salad.  If you prefer a lightly dressed salad save the extra dressing for another dish on another day.  It will keep in the refrigerator for one week.

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