Already stressing over Thanksgiving meal planning? Stop chewing that pencil and take a break with some culinary Jeopardy! Category: Going Nuts. The Daily Double: For a favorite holiday dessert, look for this fruit that is brown, hard, and dry.
Luckily, I’m not the betting type, ’cause I would have lost big time. Answer: What are pecans? Yep, that iconic nut, denouement of a million holiday-diet resolutions, is technically a fruit, and a stone fruit at that. Trees all across the South are shedding them now, so time to check on your stock of brown sugar and molasses. If you’re buying your pecans already shelled, make sure they’re plump and uniform in color. Unshelled pecans should be smooth and uncracked. For ordering right from the Southern source, try nuts.com or surrattfarms.com
At New Rochelle’s Southern-cuisine-focused Alvin & Friends Restaurant (49 Lawton St, 914-654-6549; alvinand friendsrestaurant.com), Chef Maurice Major has greater ambitions for his pecans than gooey desserts. Take his sea bass, batter-coated and crusted with roasted pecans heady with allspice, nutmeg, and cayenne. Those same spiced nuts spike his arugula and radish salad. “Pecans pack a lot of flavor and aroma, especially when roasted,” he says. “And they give a great crunch.” And crunch they will, folded along with lump crabmeat into the cayenne- and hot-sauce-laced Hollandaise crowning his signature brunch dish of fried green tomatoes and a baked egg. If you need a culinary diversion from turkey and stuffing this month, that dish should do the trick.
Courtesy of Maurice Major, Alvin & Friends Restaurant
2 oz vegetable oil, for sautéing
4 catfish fillets (trout or bass can be substituted, but cooking time may vary due to size/thickness)
2 cups roasted pecans (to roast, heat oven to 350° F, toss pecans with melted butter, spread evenly on cookie sheet and bake 5 to 7 minutes, until darkened and fragrant.)
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375° F. In food processor, combine roasted pecans and breadcrumbs and blend until a coarse mixture forms. In large, ovenproof pan over medium flame, heat oil until lightly smoking. Add fish and cook 1 minute. Turn fish over and coat with pecan mixture. Place pan into oven and bake 7 to 8 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Serve immediately.