Pecans (Recipe: classic pecan pie)
When Harry met Sally, sparks did not fly.
What did fly were some of the funniest ad libs in movie history.
In one of my favorite scenes, Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Harry decides they will speak only in funny nasal voices, and ad libs the line, "I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie."
Sally tries to repeat it in just the same singsong way, but cannot, and Harry coaches her. Pee can PIIIEEEEE. She tries again. Pee can PIIIEEEEE.
Would the scene have worked as well with if Harry had said pee KAHN? Who knows?
Whether you call them pee KAHNZ or PEE cans, you'll want to keep these nuts in your pantry, ready to be turned sweets and savories, toasted pecan toffee, wild rice cranberry pecan salad, orange pecan cinnamon buns, maple pecan granola, pecan crusted tilapia with honey glaze, or pumpkin pecan chocolate chunk cookies.
The nut of a variety of deciduous hickory tree, pecan is the only tree nut indigenous to North America; the name pecan derives from the Algonquin Indian language and means "nut requiring a stone to crack." The trees can live for more than 100 years, and grow more than 100 feet tall, in a temperate climate like the southern United States, from Georgia to Texas, where most of the world's supply of pecans is cultivated.
The nuts have a sweet, almost buttery taste, thanks to a very high fat content. Don't be alarmed; almost 90 percent of the fat is unsaturated, making pecans a healthy source of protein, antioxidants and plant sterols, which help lower cholesterol. Stored in the freezer in a sealed plastic bag, pecans will keep for two years without turning rancid.
Until the nice folks at Oh! Nuts sent me some pecans to sample, I'd never cooked or baked with anything other than what I could find at my local grocery store. So I didn't realize that pecans come in different sizes (from mammoth to midget) and different varieties.
The nuts I received from Oh! Nuts were super-fresh and at least a third larger than my supermarket option, which makes them the perfect size for caramelizing to top a salad, or toasting in a hot and spicy butter for cocktail nibbles. And they were delicious in our pecan pie.
By the way, April is National Pecan Month.
I'm thinking Billy Crystal could ad lib something about that.
Classic pecan pie
I asked several friends for a pecan pie recipe, and everyone told me the same thing: use the recipe on the Karo syrup bottle. Here it is, ever so slightly adapted. Serves 8-10.
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup Karo light or dark corn syrup (I used light)
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups pecans
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust, sitting at room temperature for 5-10 minutes
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a pie plate with the pie crust.
In a medium bowl or an 8-quart glass measuring cup, beat the eggs slightly with a fork. Add sugar, Karo, margarine/butter, and vanilla; stir until well blended. Stir in pecans. Pour into the pie crust. Bake 50-55 minutes (on center rack of the oven), or until a knife inserted halfway between the center and edge comes out clean. (I used a ceramic pie plate, and the cooking time was closer to 75 minutes, until the center of the pie reached an internal temperature of 200°F on an instant-read thermometer.) Cool on a wire rack for at least two hours.