Pee-can, pee-con, pe-can, pe-con…no matter what you call them, they are one of the stars of southern cuisine and their oil is a discovery unto itself.
I first encountered pecan oil several years ago while exploring southern Louisiana, one of my favorite activities. A broke student, I couldn’t afford my first bottle that day and so I made a mental note to branch out from olive and sesame oils as soon as my budget allowed. Little did I know I would eventually fall in love.
The oil of the pecan carries with it all the essence of the nut itself: rich, sweet, and complex, neither bitter, nor overpowering. It has a natural warmth that begs to be used and used regularly.
If you aren’t sure what to do with this culinary gem, start here.
Drizzle pecan oil over fruit.
My neighbors started this. They served it to us drizzled over peaches, a natural companion to the pecan, topped with creme fraiche and toasted pecans. It was balanced and perfect in its simple, unfussy composition.
I had to go a step further by doing the same thing over grilled and caramelized stone fruit fresh off the grill.
Just do it and thank me later.
Pecan oil is a revelation in apple pie.
My husband claims he married me for my apple pie. I hadn’t made one in a while as my personal recipe calls for copious amounts of butter and our kiddos can’t have dairy (and I rarely imbibe.) So when he came home with a bushel of apples this year, a gift from friends in a more apple friendly region, I had an idea to make an apple pie the whole family could eat. And, boy, did it turn out to be a great idea!
Slice a few lbs of apples, add sugar to taste, coat very lightly in pecan oil and toss them in cinnamon, nutmeg, a touch of clove and ginger if you are adventurous. Then add them to your favorite crust and bake.
Pecan crusted fish is easier using the the oil.
I love nut crusted foods but pecans burn easily when exposed to high heat, changing the pleasant flavor in a heartbeat. My solution is to add the pecan flavor with a late addition of oil. Use a mild (sustainably caught) white fish and sear it off in a pan or bake it with the crispy coating of your choice and add lightly brush or drizzle with the oil at the end of the process, preserving the integrity of its flavor. Then serve with a contrasting sauce that has a little heat in it or the tang of onion, if you are so inclined. I have had seafood served with nutmeg, which would compliment the pecan oil in this dish but it has never grown on me.
Sweet nut cheese is amazing with pecan oil.
I’m from an area that takes cheese very seriously. Once, as a child, my aunts gave me advice that included how men should propose and never looking at the calorie count on cream cheese. I can tell you the correct way to say Gouda and I know why Wisconsin cheddar is that color. Cheese caves are sacred ground in my mind. I also own one of those whipped cream canisters that allows you to get a mouthful of raw, sweetened cream anytime you want because I considered it a food group until a few years ago. (Bravo to my Mister for that Christmas gift.) So, it was not easy for me to adjust to the no/low-dairy life.
Store bought nut cheese is generally so awful as to make trash cans spit it back out.
Homemade can be much better. I’m not teaching the finer, harder, cultured cheeses because I am still learning them but I can help you with the cream and sweet substitutes.
This recipe actually started a few years ago with a friend who milks her own cow. She makes amazing cheeses (see Home Cheese on Facebook) and, after a lovely afternoon exploring a park with the kids, she whipped out this fresh, raw, slightly lemony soft cheese with our lunch. It had a light sweetness I have spent years chasing. Enter lemon and pecan in cashew cheese.
Soak 1 cup raw cashews in water for a few hours until soft. Drain and puree until smooth with a pinch of salt, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) of pecan oil. Depending on your blender/processor and the amount of water absorbed in your cashews, you may want to add more liquid. If the lemon and pecan flavor are where you want them, a non-dairy milk is a good thinner. Drizzle with honey and serve with figs or just eat it on a spoon.
Step up your popcorn game with pecan oil.
We love to use popcorn as a medium for fun flavors. Drizzle pecan oil over a fresh batch and then dust in ceylon cinnamon (and a little sugar, if you are so inclined.) This same combination makes great toast or dipping oil for an eggy loaf of fresh bread.
Pecan pancakes rock Saturday mornings.
We love the pancake recipe in John Besh’s My Family Table and it holds up well to tweaking for dietary restrictions. We’ve subbed quality GF flour for the wheat, coconut cream and cashew milk for the dairy milk and different oils for the melted butter. The key is to keep dry and wet ingredients separate until just before they go on the griddle so your baking powder reactions happen on the heat. Do not over mix.
Sub the pecan oil in your favorite pancake recipe for melted butter. It pairs beautifully with the maple syrup and you can still use whatever fruit (or chocolate chips or nuts) you like to add to your cakes.
If you have a favorite way to use pecan oil, please share.
I’m off to get another bottle.
Happy eating, Katy