Putting Up-Pecans

We received a lovely surprise the other day.

PecansA huge box of fresh pecans in the shell from our wonderful friends in Texas.

Trying to figure out how we could use them up before they went bad, we discovered that pecans freeze very well in the shell – up to four years!

Ready for the freezer.These are ready for the freezer – now, what to make with the half-pound we’re not freezing?  We don’t eat a lot of sweets (certainly not pecan pie), so…

Pecan Crusted Chickenhow about using the pecans to bread some chicken?

Soak the whole pecans.First, we have to shell them.  We soaked the whole pecans to soften the shell.

Crack the shell like a hard boiled egg.Take a nut cracker and start at one end.  Crack lightly, rotate the pecan a quarter turn and crack it in the middle.  Rotate it again and crack the other end.  The shell will break into pieces much like a hard boiled egg, making it easier to pull off the shell pieces.

Shelled Pecans.We started with a little over 1/2 pound of pecans and ended up with 1-1/4 cups of shelled pieces.  You can tell our shelling technique improved – towards the end of the process, we were getting whole halves instead of a bunch of little pieces.  Toast them in the oven until they are dry and golden brown.  Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.

Save the shells!By the way, save the shells.  They work great in the smoker for pecan flavored smoke (nope, we don’t waste anything).

A scant cup of chopped pecans.Now, we’re ready to cook.  Smush a scant 1 cup of pecans into small pieces.  We used the handle end of a hammer to crush them.  I suppose you could use a food processor or some other chopping device, but we were afraid they would come out too fine a texture – we wanted a coarser crumb crust.

Breading MixMix the pecans with a scant 1/2 cup of plain panko crumbs.  You can use bread crumbs, but the panko crumbs make the coating crunchier and they are about the same size as the pecan pieces.  Add about a teaspoon (or to taste) dried rosemary, finely minced.  Basil might be nice, too.

Breading the chicken.Dip a boneless chicken breast in beaten egg, then into the coating mix.  Pat it on firmly.

Let stand until dry.Once the chicken breasts are breaded, let them stand until the coating dries.  This will help it stick during the cooking process.

Saute the chicken.Saute the chicken (we used canola oil) until lightly browned, being careful not to burn the coating.  Burnt pecans are very bitter.

Finish them in the oven.Once the chicken is lightly browned on both sides, place on a rack and finish cooking them in a 350° oven until done (about 20-25 minutes).  We drizzled them with an orange-honey mustard sauce and some orange zest.  Next time, we’ll add the orange zest to the coating mix, but we were afraid it might burn and get bitter like the pecans.

The sauce was very simple – about 1/4 cup of honey mustard, a small spoon of Honeycup mustard (for some spice – optional, but good), the juice of an orange, and chicken broth to thin to whatever consistency you want.

Tender and juicy.The chicken came out very tender and juicy.  With a side of basmati/wild rice and green beans, this was an excellent restaurant-quality meal and cost about $1.00 a plate!

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5 Responses to “Putting Up-Pecans”

  1. Paula Says:

    Thanks for the tip to soak the pecans before shelling! I gave up this fall and just sold all the pecans my kids collected rather than picking the 40lbs of them.

    I use pecan meal in place of bread crumbs all the time. It works especially well with pan fried pork loins.

  2. Gramma Greenjeans Says:

    Soaking worked well for us. When we first got them (and spending five minutes per pecan picking out all those little bits), I was ready to toss the whole box outside for squirrel food!

    The breading on pork sounds wonderful – that’ll be the next recipe we’ll try. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. liss Says:

    Oh wow! you lucky thing, to have that many pecans *drool* when we go up north I always pick up a few kilos from the farms… and I try to be sparing with them.. but if I had access to all of those I’d go crazy!! :P

    Love your blog xxx

  4. Gramma Greenjeans Says:

    Hi, Liss,
    How are things Down Under?

    Yes, we are lucky – wonderful friends (who just happen to have pecan trees in their yard) and an unexpected “for-no-reason-at-all” gift box! I think those are the best kind!

    Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Cortney Says:

    I am so jealous! Do you think you could introduce me to your friends in TX? I sure could use some pecans!