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Cayenne Candied Pecans

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One of the hardest foods for me to resist at fairs, carnivals, and outdoor concerts is candied nuts.  The smell of them lure me in and I can’t say no.  My favorite nut, the pecan, is also my favorite candied nut.  I like it when nuts are not just sweet when candied, but also spicy, so when I make them at home, I mix in a little cayenne to give it a kick.

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Candied pecans are a malleable food because they can be served alone as a snack or used as a topping in salads, on top of soups, or with a little vanilla ice cream.  They have a shelf life of a few weeks, so you can make a batch and then dole them out as needed, which is something I always appreciate.  They’re like the bacon bits of sweet toppings.

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Candying nuts is pretty easy.  You want to moisten the nuts so that the sugar and spice can stick, so you dip them in frothed egg whites first, and then in the dry mix.  For my dry mix I used brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, red pepper, and nutmeg.  My main flavor makers were cayenne and cinnamon, but I added the other flavors to make a complete taste.  After I baked them I tossed them again in more sugar and spice and then let them cool.  This makes sure that there is a crusty sugar layer on the outside.  The spice is subtle and the overall experience is wonderful- crunchy, chewy, sweet, and spicy.

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Cayenne Candied Pecans

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pecans

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 tbsp cayenne

1 tbsp cinnamon

Dash of red pepper

Dash of nutmeg

Use a whisk, mixer, or immersion blender to froth your egg whites.  Add vanilla extract.  Add the pecans and coat entirely.

In a separate bowl, mix white sugar and spices.  Split in half and set one half inside.  To the other half add brown sugar.  Dip the pecans in the brown sugar mix and place on a wax paper covered baking sheet.

Bake your pecans in a 350 oven for 20 minutes.

When they’re done, toss them in the remaining sugar mix and place them on a rack to cool.

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Catch of the Day

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This weekend Dan and I journeyed south to Morehead City on some wedding business. It was a great weekend, full of the unexpected and a lot of fun. My two brothers, Reid and Ryan, and my father and stepmother were there the whole weekend, and Dan’s parents joined us for Saturday. On Friday we were treated to what turned out to just be a boat ride on the Tortuga, as the weather turned out to be a little much past the inlet.

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Dan recently finished his open water SCUBA certification, and this weekend was his first open ocean dive. Originally we had intended to take him to the USS Indra, a landing craft repair ship that is sunk in 70 feet of water. When it started to look a little rough to go offshore, we opted for the USS Theodore Parker, a liberty ship that sits in 60 feet of water inshore. Unfortunately our boat ride ended up being a “look and see.” With three foot swells none of us wanted to try and fight to dive, and I definitely didn’t want Dan’s first NC dive to be one where he got bucked off the ladder because of rough waters.

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We were all really bummed out on the way back, because there’s nothing quite as depressing as going to all the trouble to gear up and ride out there only to have to scratch the dive. However, my brother Reid saved the day by suggesting that we do a drift dive on the Beaufort Rock Jetty. Jetties aren’t necessarily my favorite dives, but in a tight spot they’re fun and most importantly they afford you the opportunity to breathe underwater, which is the main goal.

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We switched over to a smaller boat and motored over there. Most people who dive the jetty drive up and carry their gear to the water, but we have a 20′ Robolo that’s the perfect size to pull up and anchor. Reid, who is my father’s first mate and a recent divemaster, was going to dive with us, but in poor DM form shook us within a few minutes of descending. Thankfully we’re fully competent and didn’t need his pretentious hovering anyway. The dive was a drift dive with 3-5 feet of visibility in 30-40 feet of water, and I had such a good time. Since we live in DC we don’t get to dive as often as we’d like, and just being underwater was good enough for us.

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Dan also had a wonderful time. I keep telling him that not a lot of people would have enjoyed that dive, and even fewer would have raved about it. I could not have been happier that Dan loved North Carolina diving. I’m taking it as an incredibly good sign that he had a great time in what were pretty much the worst case scenario conditions. Usually the perpetual pessimist, he found the best in the situation, which makes me happier than I can even express. I can’t wait to show him what NC can offer on a good day.

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After Reid ditched us, he speared a flounder and a small tautog. When we got home he cleaned them, breaded them, and fried them for fish sandwiches. I love flounder and this was probably as fresh as it gets. We ate that fish within two hours of spearing it, and it was completely delicious. Later in the weekend my dad made freshly caught grouper fingers, which were equally amazing.

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My dad’s friend Scotty (the one he wrote a book about) turned him on to the House of Autry fish breading a few years ago, which is what my dad uses pretty exclusively on his fish these days. I meant to take a look at the ingredients, but if I had to take a guess, I would say it’s cornmeal, flour, and some spices. If you can find House of Autry, you can use that, or you could make your own breading. My dad also crumbles up some triscuits (or potato chips if you’re in a tight spot) and mixes them in for some crunch.

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We ate the flounder on sandwiches with fresh tomato, salt and pepper, and a little dijonaisse (the only condiment in the refrigerator- tartar sauce would have been preferable). The grouper was cut and fried in fingers, perfect for eating alone or dipped in some dijonaisse. It combined two of my favorite southern culinary treats- tomato sandwiches and fried fish. I know that it seems insanely simple and that the foodie in me should revolt, but no food makes me close my eyes and sigh a sigh of pure happiness like fresh fish and tomato.

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Fried Flounder Sandwiches

1 whole flounder, or 2 flounder filets

2 cups House of Autry seafood breader

1/2 cup crunched triscuits

1 tomato

2 rolls

1 cup peanut oil

Tartar sauce

Salt & pepper

If you’re working with a whole flounder, you want to skin and filet it.

Combine your breader with the triscuits in a bag. Throw the filets in the bag and shake until thoroughly coated.

In a large skillet, heat your peanut oil until it bubbles around the bottom of a wooden spoon, or dances when you splash water in it. These are very scientific tests, clearly.

Place your fish in the oil and cook 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. While the fish is cooking, slice the tomato, toast the rolls, and spread on some tartar sauce. When the fish is cooked, toss those on the sandwich, put your feet up on the front porch, and enjoy.

Serves 2.

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Herb Roasted Chicken

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When I’m at the grocery store, I always look at the whole chickens and think about what I would do with them.  Usually I refrain because a whole chicken is a little more than Dan and I can eat by ourselves.  But last week when I was planning out our meals I found a way to make it economical and totally doable.  I’ve been itching to show y’all how to make chicken stock, so this chicken served three purposes.  Dan and I ate some with rosemary red potatoes and green beans for dinner, Dan used the remaining meat in his lunch sandwiches for the week instead of the herb turkey we get at the store, and I froze the bones to give you my chicken stock recipe in the next few weeks.

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One thing I particularly like about making whole birds is that they’re insanely easy.  You season them and then throw them in the oven, occasionally adjusting the temperature and moving around the turkey triangle (or I guess the chicken triangle in this case).  Since they cook for a while, you can start it a few hours before you’re ready to eat and then spend the time reading, cleaning, napping, and, eventually, making your side dishes.

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I know in November when I posted our Thanksgiving recipes I introduced the concept of a turkey triangle on b&s, but that was AGES ago, so I’ll refresh your memories.  A turkey triangle is something I learned from Alton brown, and it allows the legs and wings to get cooked well enough without overcooking the breast meats.  In addition, to give the chicken a nice, crispy skin, you cook it for a bit at a higher temperature and then drop it down to cook it under the triangle.

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I seasoned this particular chicken with a homemade herb butter.  I’ll admit that a part of my motivation was trying to prove that if we repotted our rosemary in a larger pot and let it get bigger, I’d use more.  The rest of the motivation came from an opportunity to use my beautiful immersion blender.  I combined fresh and dried herbs, butter, a little milk, and some olive oil.  You can easily do it without an immersion blender (or, for that matter any electronics) in a food processor, with a beater, or with a plain old whisk.  I like using a little electricity behind it because it breaks up the herbs a little to give it an extra punch.

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Now, coating the chicken is not for the faint of heart.  Generally speaking, working with whole birds is not for the faint of heart.  When you unwrap your bird the first thing you want to do is remove the gizzards, which will be in a tidy bag in the cavity.  If you’re not planning on eating them, you can throw them away.  Next, you want to rub the butter into the chicken.  I also try and get some under the skin so that the flavor can really soak into the meat  and not just drip off.  It’s kind of like massaging someone’s back, and if you imagine you’re massing someone particularly appealing (Clive Owen, perchance), it’ll go a little easier.  You’re also going to want to tie the legs together so that the chicken can cook easily.  You can do this with a little kitchen twine.  Then, cook, relax, and enjoy!

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an interesting article in glamour magazine about what meryl streep does to make a roasted chicken last a whole week

Herb Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken

1 tbsp fresh rosemary

Dash of oregano

Dash of herbs de provence

Dash of coriander

Dash of celery salt

1/2 stick butter, room temperature

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp olive oil

Tin foil

Kitchen twine

Heat your oven to 500 degrees.

Blend your butter, herbs, milk, and oil.  Remove the gizzards from the chicken.  Use your hands to massage the butter all over the chicken and under the skin.  Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and place in a roasting pan.

Fold your foil into a triangle shape and fit to the shape of the chicken.  This is so when you put it on later it’s a bit easier.  Take it off and put it aside.  Also, place a meat thermometer in the side of your chicken.

Put your chicken in the oven for 25 minutes.  This will give your bird a good, crispy, skin.  Drop the temperature to 375 and place the turkey triangle on the chicken.  Cook for another hour or so, or until the thermometer reads 190 degrees.

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