Monday, January 21, 2013

Playing a shell game

One of my favorite autumn/winter foods is butternut squash soup, but as we're out of season for squashes, the internet offered up sweet potato soup as an alternative. The internet was right. Naturally this was no easily-microwaved Ramen noodle-style soup and the recipe called for creme fraiche as well as a garnish of buttered pecans. Should you ever care to make buttered pecans, drop a bunch of pecans in a pan with some butter and cook them for a bit. It's a very self-explanatory name.

Finding the bunch of pecans to drop was a bit more difficult. The grocery store had multi-kilogram bags of almonds, walnuts, and cashews and even offered more exotic options like Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts, but no pecans. I finally located a bag pecans in their shells and bought it, figuring that they couldn't be so hard to get open.


First I tried prying, which didn't even begin to work. Then I tried poking the shell with a fork and knife. Also a no-go. The internet, that bastion of all information, suggested a nutcracker but grudging noted that a pair of pliers could work just as well. You may remember from earlier posts that my landlady is something of a DIY-er, and lo and behold, I found a pair of pliers in her basket of tools.

My pecan-shelling setup
Following digital instructions, I used the pliers to crack the shells and used the fork to help me pry out the meat. I pretty much failed to get them out cleanly and ended up with a bunch of pecan fragments. This was fine for the recipe but a bit of a blow to my pride.

The end result
You'll notice from this picture that there are far more shells than pecans. Often I couldn't even get the bits of pecan out of the shell and had to leave it behind.

I'm happy to report that while scanty, the buttered pecans turned out well and were a nice addition to the soup. And it was kind of fun to turn on Star Trek and shell some pecans for a while. I might even do it again. Hopefully I'll manage to get more whole pecans the next time, just for the sake of aesthetics.

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