Sometimes when we throw parties we focus all our attention on the fabulous main course—and summer appetizers are a bag of chips and wheel-of-cheese afterthought. But with these delicious party-starters, you could serve day-old bologna sandwiches as the main course and your guests wouldn’t even care—they’re that good!
By Rick Rodgers
These nibbles are virtually impossible to resist; put them out for your guests to snack on while you tend the grill and you are likely to come back to an empty bowl. Dried ancho chiles have a sweet note and you can find them ground into powder in the spice rack at most supermarkets. Chili powder will work, too. Some people will find these nuts perfectly seasoned and others may want to add a bit more kick with cayenne, so the final choice is up to you.
- 4 cups (1 pound) pecan halves
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- 1 handful mesquite wood chips, soaked in cold water for at least 30 minutes, drained
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground, dried ancho chiles or chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian or Spanish
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Build a charcoal fire in an outdoor grill for indirect high grilling and let burn until the coals are almost completely covered with white ash. You will not need a drip pan.
- Mix the pecans, honey and corn syrup together in a 13x9-inch disposable aluminum pan. Toss the drained chips on the coals. Place the pan over the cooler area of the grill and cover. Grill, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the sugar, ground chiles, cumin, paprika, salt and cayenne, if using, in a large bowl and set aside.
- Scrape the syrup-coated pecans into the bowl and mix well, separating any nuts that cling to each other. Turn out onto a rimmed baking sheet and cool completely. Store the pecans in an airtight container. (The pecans can be made up to one week ahead.)