Having been born and raised (and reared, now that I think about it) in Ohio, though a grateful resident of Texas for nearly 30 years, I still feel a yearning to don a sweater when autumn arrives. Regardless of actual temperature, if it’s a month that ends in –ber, I still brrr, right on cue.
Another of my unshakeable year-end traditions is my annual roasting of the nuts. I know what you’re thinking: Here comes another ex-husband joke. But nay, I say. These nuts are no laughing matter.
Some people pull taffy. Some people bake cookies. Some people pack fudge. In my house, no year’s end would be complete sans a big batch of sugary, made-with-love confections my friends and loved ones have fondly come to refer to as Aunt Nancy’s Bitchin’ Good Holiday Spiced Nuts.
Each year, as the holidays envelop the Lone Star State—you know, around Halloween when Upper Westheimer merchants begin wrapping their palm trees with Christmas lights—I wrap myself in a mantle of holiday cheer and generosity, and whip up these sweet treats for everyone who’s been sweet to me. Some years, this endeavor takes more time than others. This year, I’ll be roasting my nuts for days; people have been very kind.
At the risk of sounding way too domestic, these nuts are sure-fire crowd pleasers because you make them with love. All the highly processed, euphoria-inducing, granulated sugar they contain only ups the ante.
An equally important element to making ANBGHSNs, beyond their few simple ingredients, is the proper creative atmosphere. Here’s what you need:
Drapes or window blinds
TV and DVD player
DVD of The Judy Garland Christmas
Show, circa 1963
Extra-large sealable plastic storage
bags that don’t leak
Extra-large disposable aluminum
cookie sheets (because who has time
for clean-up? You’re already baking,
for crying out loud)
2 cups Texas pecan halves
2 large eggs (whites)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (or to taste)
1 tsp. nutmeg (or to taste)
Salt (to taste)
And here’s what you do: preheat oven to 225 degrees. Close drapes or window blinds to block the sun; adjust thermostat to lower room temperature to effect wintry feel. Place Popsicle in your underpants if necessary.
Turn on TV and DVD player. Insert The Judy Garland Christmas Show into DVD player. Press play.
Pour a mug of egg nog, drink, repeat. If you are a true purist, toss down a couple amphetamines with your nog; Judy likely did to gear up for this vintage black-and-white holiday television special shot when she was at her Judy-est.
Kidding. Totally kidding. Don’t take drugs. Drugs are bad. Just say no. The fact is, though, at this point in our nut-making procedure, the DVD will have
revealed an increasingly medicated Garland merrily walking into—and obliviously bouncing off of—a wall of the show’s fake Mad Men-like living room set. Just like home!
Now we are ready to begin our nut-coating process. Separate egg whites from the egg yolks, saving the whites for this recipe and the yolks for your dog or your shampoo or your dog’s shampoo. Set aside.
Shake your nuts in colander to remove excess nut dust. Fight urge to rinse like hot pasta. Place dry nuts in storage bag. Add egg whites to nut bag. Avoid excess albumen, which is good advice in any situation. Seal nut bag and manipulate until your nuts are moist and evenly coated.
Refresh your nog.
By this time on the DVD, a 17-year-old Liza Minnelli has arrived on set, happily a-caroling with presumably the first of her many gay boyfriends, thus establishing her own lifelong tradition.
Into a second bag, combine sugar, sifting cinnamon and nutmeg together until the sugary mixture is a lovely beige. The tauper the mixture, the spicier the nut. Slowly introduce sugar and spice concoction to nut bag, adding more until each nut is completely and generously coated, just like your tongue feels after all that nog.
Spread nuts in single layer, touching sparsely, on an ungreased aluminum cookie sheet. Place in oven, roasting for 45 minutes or so, stirring mid-way. Your nuts are properly roasted when the sugar and spice glaze is no longer moist, but has become a delightfully pearly, opaque coating. This occurs around the time Judy almost gets knocked down by the chorus line of Dancing Santas. Salt to taste.
(Warning: blatant promotional plug ahead.) Please join me in one of my favorite traditions: Kindred Spirits Foundation’s 3rd Annual Judy Garland Christmas Show & Sing-Along on Sunday, Dec. 5, 5 p.m., at Meteor. There, you’ll enjoy all the traditional holiday trappings from days gone by, like music from friends, a family buffet, a nostalgic screening of the aforementioned Judy Garland Christmas Show, and a few more surprises from all your favorite nuts. Ho-ho-hope to see you then!