After a very long time of what seemed to be near constant traveling for work, Kris, the husband of my friend, Chelsea, and fellow meal-cooker-upper has slowed down enough for the four of us (plus kids) to resume our theme dinners.
It was their turn to host, which means Kris got to choose the cuisine of the night. The idea is to pick a cuisine that is different or fun but ALSO to try to challenge yourself and make things you haven't before. He chose Cajun and served gumbo (please forward me the recipe Kris--it was delicious!), a Parmesan/Beer Drop Biscuit and baked sweet potatoes that had more kick than sweetness and were utterly fabulous.
I brought these Cheesy Potato Puff Thing-a-ma-jigs for an appetizer, the makings for Cajun coffee (truly an acquired taste that I did not acquire) and Pralines.
I've decided that Pralines exist only to make pecans palatable--tasty even!--for those of us who normally don't care for them. The recipe is very simple and here it is:
In a heavy sauce pot, combine 3/4 cup milk, 1 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 cup of granulated sugar and 2 cups of brown sugar. Set the vanilla aside until later.
Roughly chop up 1 cup of pecans and leave 1 cup whole. Do resist popping pecans in your mouth because they are kinda gross. Exceptin' if you are one of those people who like them.
Turn heat to medium and start stirring. You have to stir constantly but if, like myself, you find it completely reasonable to stand and stir risotto for 30 minutes as you add tiny amounts of liquid a little at a time until it's cooked, you'll find stirring candy mixture a breeze. It only takes about 25 minutes and there's no adding tiny bits of liquid!
Oh and clip a candy thermometer to the pot. You could do one of those fancy candy 'water tests' but honestly, do you want your candy to burn while you are fooling around with drips of molten candy in a glass of water?
You are aiming for 238 degrees. Fahrenheit.
Immediately remove from heat and use electric beaters (if you want a stiff arm go ahead and use a whisk) for about 5 minutes until the mixture loses its glossiness and becomes creamy colored. Kitchen Aid doesn't do this sort of work--I would never subject him to something as menial as candy--so I just use a plain old hand mixer.
Remember that vanilla? Stir in a teaspoon of it. Or save yourself from digging for measuring spoons and dirtying one and eyeball it. Go ahead. It's easy. And really a little extra isn't going to hurt anything at all. Stir in those pecans.
Drop the mixture in blob sizes of your choosing onto wax paper. They might spread out a little depending on how hot your mixture is. Mine didn't because I spent a few minutes rummaging for a spoon so I could taste the mixture directly out of the pot and not burn myself. It always tastes better that way.
Let cool. They will firm up and you will be able to pick them up like a cookie. They are very sweet so you probably don't want to eat more than one or two or else you'll chance a stomachache.
P.S. I think cashews would taste better.