When it comes to the fall and winter seasons, pecans have a special role in Texas cuisine. They are typically incorporated into the classic American pecan pie, but let's be honest, pecans are more than just a pie ingredient.
With their astute versatility, these Southern nuts serve just as well in an array of sweet and savory appetizers, entrées and desserts. A number of Texas restaurants are utilizing pecans for their salads, side dishes, breads, pestos and a number of other delicious dishes. Read further to see some of the unique pecan creations from Austin restaurants — and how you can recreate them at home.
The green pecans Dodge uses come from Springdale Farm. The chef smashes them into a vinaigrette or makes pesto, pickles, crusts, bread pudding and sticky buns with them for Péché. At Cherry Street, he’ll make nocino, a sticky, bittersweet liqueur from Northern Italy usually made with pickled walnuts.
2 - 3 lb young green pecans
1/4 lb salt
3 1/2 pints water
1 oz black peppercorns
1 tsp allspice berries
2 1/2 pints malt or wine vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2-inch stick of cinnamon, crushed
Prick the pecans all over with a large needle (you don't want any developed hard shell within the nut itself). Place the nuts in a bowl; dissolve half the salt in half the water and pour over the pecans. Cover and leave for five days in a cool place, stirring twice a day to ensure even brining. Drain the pecans, mix the remaining salt and water, pour over the brine, and leave for another five days, stirring twice a day as before.
Drain the pecans, spread out in a single layer on a flat dish, and leave to dry. Crush the peppercorns and allspice berries and simmer the vinegar with the sugar and spices for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and strain. Pack the pecans into sterilized glass jars, filling them no more than three-quarters full, and pour in the spiced vinegar. Cover and leave in a cool place for about a month before using. Smash into a vinaigrette or make a pesto. Also a great addition to a cheese platter!
Baby arugula tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper
Fredericksburg Texas pecans, roughly chopped and lightly tossed in oil and pepper and toasted
Baby red, gold, and candy-cane-striped chioggia beets
Peach vinaigrette: emulsify pureed peaches, diced shallots, champagne vinegar, grapeseed oil, and salt and pepper
For the beets, rinse and scrub both sets of beets, leaving each color separate. Cook in separate pots of water (so they don’t bleed) with salt and a touch of white wine vinegar dispersed evenly between all. Bring to a boil and simmer until fork tender in the middle. Cool in an ice bath, peel the skin and quarter. Toss everything in the vinaigrette and top with crumbled Texas goat cheese. We like to use Pure Luck.
1 cup Texas pecan pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil (or pecan oil)
1/4 tsp granulated cane sugar
1 stick Indian cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 whole star anise pod
1 tbsp lemongrass, sliced
1/4 tsp cayenne salt, to taste
In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan, heat the pecans, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and star anise in the oil over low heat, stirring frequently. Once the pecans are golden brown, remove from heat, remove the whole spices, rinse and reserve. In a food processor, grind the pecans in the oil until smooth. Separately, grind the spices in a spice mill, then sift spices into pecans and pulse in the food processor to incorporate. Season with salt; reserve until needed.
Meyer Lemon Mustard Dressing:
1 whole meyer lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
2 tsp stone ground mustard
1 tsp Texas honey
about 1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine juice, zest, garlic, honey, mustard and salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk together, then slowly whisk in olive oil. This is not an emulsified vinaigrette, so if it breaks, it's okay. Taste for seasoning. The dressing should be equal parts savory, tart, sweet and a hint of olive oil.
3 ripe Fuyu persimmons (should be slightly firm still, with a little give)
2 large watermelon radishes
3 cups mixed baby mustard greens and arugula (or other spicy greens, like dandelion)
Wash and thinly slice the persimmons and radishes. You don't need to peel either, as long as they are very thin (you can use a mandoline to do this). Combine with the greens and drizzle with about 3 tbsp of the dressing. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
To plate, spoon a bit of the pecan butter onto a plate and swirl around to cover. Place a large handful of the dressed salad on top. Serve immediately.
Restaurant Jezebel's Pan-Seared Foie Gras with Fenugreek, Honey and Pecan Pesto (Courtesy Chef Parind Vora)
At Restaurant Jezebel, Chef Vora focuses on couture cuisine — customized four-course and seven-course dishes designed for each guest's dietary preferences and restrictions. One of Vora's favorite pecan dishes that pops up on the menu is the Pan-Seared Foie Gras with Fenugreek, Honey and Pecan Pesto.
6 local Texas pecans, lightly toasted and chopped medium-fine
1 tablespoon fresh fenugreek leaves
1/4 cup raw local honey
1/4 cup verjus
salt, crushed red pepper, black pepper, to taste
4 ounces Grade A Hudson Valley Foie Gras (can substitute for other proteins)
Mix pecans, fresh fenugreek leaves, honey and verjus. Add salt, crushed red pepper and black pepper to taste. Pan sear the foie gras in a medium-hot pan. Place the foie gras (or other protein) on a warm plate. Top with 1 teaspoon of the pesto and serve immediately.
1 cup chopped pecans
1 lb unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°. Place pecans on an ungreased baking sheet and toast them until they turn slightly darker and fragrant, about 7 minutes; set aside. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners, or generously grease with butter or cooking spray. Using an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar in a big bowl on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks and maple syrup. Add the flour, salt and vanilla and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the toasted pecans; the dough will be soft and somewhat sticky.
Divide the dough into 2 clumps. Set each on a long sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper, shape the dough into 2 even logs and wrap tightly. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight. If you're really in a hurry, freeze the dough for about 20 minutes, just until it retain its shape when sliced. When ready to bake, unwrap the log of dough and cut it into 1/8-inch thick slices; place them on the prepared cookie sheet and bake until they turn golden around the edges, 10-12 minutes.
Pecan Tart Dough:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tbsp beaten egg (about 1/2 large egg)
For the filling:
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
1 stick unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups pecan halves, 3/4 cup chopped
Make the dough: Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the shortening and pulse until it disappears, about 30 seconds. Add the butter; pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal with pea-size bits of butter. Beat the egg with 2 tablespoons ice water in a bowl, then add to the processor and pulse once or twice. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat into a disk. Roll the dough into a 12-inch round on a floured surface. Cover with plastic and chill for 30 minutes. Put a baking sheet on the rack and preheat to 350°.
Make the filling: Scrape the vanilla seeds into a skillet; add the butter and the vanilla pod. Cook over medium-high heat until the butter browns, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vinegar and salt in a bowl. Slowly scrape in the butter mixture, whisking; discard the vanilla pod. Spread the chopped pecans in the crust and pour in the corn syrup mixture. Top with the remaining 3/4 cup pecan halves. Place the pie on the hot baking sheet, reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake until the crust is golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover the entire top with foil, then continue baking until set, about 20 minutes.