Sunday, January 27, 2008

Super Bowl Snacks: Bacon Brittle and Spiced Nuts

I'm really looking forward to the Superbowl because it's a great excuse to make really fun food. And because I'll get to see Tom Brady crush Eli Manning...yippee!

If you serve even one of these recipes to people on Superbowl Sunday (or any day), they will remember you for throwing the best Superbowl party ever. Serve both and people may not be able to handle all the tastiness--these snacks are unbelievably addictive.

I made them both over the holidays, and the bacon brittle was a surprise stocking stuffer for Mike. I had never made any kind of brittle by myself, but the process went smoothly, and it turned out perfectly. It's pretty well established that a little salt makes sweet things a million times more delicious. When that salt comes in the form of bacon, you've really hit the ultimate expression of the idea. Whatever doubts you might have about this recipe, just banish them and go for it. At the very least, you'll have fun breaking the brittle up with a hammer (in the photo above, the brittle is set, but not yet cracked into shards).

The original recipe came from Obsession with Food. [2012 update: here's a recipe similar to what I used, but I omitted peanuts; the website with the recipe I used in 2008 is no long online.] I did however use slightly more bacon, about seven slices. Needless to say, use the best bacon you can find for this recipe. Overly salty, watery stuff will reduce the deliciousness considerably. For planning purposes, note that this brittle stays hard for about 48 hours after you make it, then gets progressively softer.

The spiced nuts are another take on sweet and salty, this time with some fresh rosemary thrown in. I've been making these for years, since I saw the recipe in Nigella Bites. Nigella adapted it from the Union Square Cafe, a great restaurant in New York. When I was there on business a few years ago, that's where I went for dinner the first night because I remembered Sara Moulton talking about it on her old cooking show, and I loved Sara. I think they had bar nuts when I went, but they weren't quite like these.

I love these nuts. Anytime you're having people over, you won't go wrong if you put these out. They are incredible warm, and not really any less incredible after they've cooled. You can make them a day ahead if you want. I tweak the recipe a bit every time I make them, and I always start with different quantities of nuts. You can't really go wrong here if you use fresh rosemary, good salt and a chile seasoning you like. I use standard cayenne pepper, but you can use any ground chile.

If the Superbowl isn't your thing, wouldn't your Valentine love one of these treats? If he's a man who likes meat, you cannot fail with the Bacon Brittle.

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Nuts
Adapted from Nigella Bites
The nuts must be raw because you’re going to do the roasting and salting. My grocery store sells mixed bags of Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews and hazelnuts in the produce section. Another good idea is to hit the bulk bins at a natural foods store and make your own mix. If you want more nuts to feed a crowd, scale the quantities up as needed.

Approximately 1 1/2 cups raw mixed nuts
1 tbs. finely chopped fresh rosemary (do not substitute dried)
pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tbs. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tbs. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and roast until lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Give the tray a shake and turn the larger nuts once or twice during roasting, watching closely so they don’t burn.

Meanwhile, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and butter in a bowl. Add the hot roasted nuts and toss well to coat. Serve warm or cool and store in an airtight container.

Need more snack ideas? Here are a few picks from my archives:

1) Oktoberfest Crostini - great party bites with bratwurst and sauerkraut
2) Catalan Flatbread with Piquillo Peppers, Caramelized Onions and Anchovies - the title is a mouthful, but these appetizer pizzas are really easy to make!
3) Mini Corn Cakes with Guacamole - a great munchie if you're serving chili too.
4) Phyllo Triangles with Lamb, Onions and Pine Nuts - perfect if you want to go a little bit exotic.


Peabody said...

I really must make that bacon brittle!

Brilynn said...

It's been too long since I last made bacon brittle, so good!

Stef said...

This has just got to be good! Sounds awesome.

Lynn said...

I tried to view the recipe via the link "this simple recipe" and it took me to some random site, no recipe. :( Any suggestions? :)

Julie said...

Hi Lynn, It looks like the website I linked to back in 2008 is no longer available. Here's a similar recipe; I omitted the peanuts: