Nancy Silverton is my new food guru. First it was Sarah Moulton. Then the Barefoot Contessa. For a while it was Mario Batali. But now Nancy Silverton’s picked up the torch.
First some grievances. Her writing is pretty humorless and her recipes are wildly specific, almost to the point of inadvertent comedy. And some recipes–mostly the ones in her sandwich book–are just plain nasty. Like her egg sandwich with anchovy cream. Or something like that.
Anyway, negativity aside, Nancy’s the bomb. Those negative attributes, despite being negative attributes, are what make her a superstar. Her specificity, as painstaking as it may be, yields fantastic results. For proof, check out my sourdough. (<--If I only had a nickel for every time I said that). Tonight, I plucked out a recipe from the back of her sandwich book in the bar food chapter: Spicy Candied Walnuts. I chose this because, as it happens, I had a large bag of walnuts left over from another Nancy recipe experience: the walnut coffee cake that didn't cook all the way through. The other ingredients--sugar, cayenne pepper, vegetable oil--were already at hand, so I said: "What the Hell" and got to work. First I dumped my walnuts into a bowl:
Then I added 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, and 1.75 tsps of Cayenne Pepper to a saucepan:
Then I rubbed my eye:
A good tip when cooking with cayenne pepper is: don’t rub your eye. I ran to the sink shrieking: “I have pepper in my eye! Cayenne pepper in my eye!” Lauren continued doing her homework.
When I’d recovered, I continued on with my recipe.
The sugar-water-pepper mixture reached a boil, so I added the walnuts:
They cooked down for 20 minutes while I added vegetable oil to a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan and brought the temperature up to 350 degrees:
When the walnuts had cooked down:
I drained half of them (as Nancy instructs, so you don’t overcrowd the oil):
And added them to the sizzling oil:
This part was scary, but I maintained. I remember my brother’s kindergarten teacher’s husband burnt his eyebrows off making french fries. But I digress.
After three minutes, I put the fried walnuts on a cookie sheet and added salt:
I repeated with the other half:
And here’s the final result:
Honestly, they’re absolutely delicious and like Nancy says, addictive. They’re also kind of hot, so have plenty of water handy. And eye drops. For when you rub cayenne pepper in your eye. Because that can happen.