Season Everything I'm a big fan of Gordon Ramsay and he always says you can't add a seasoned component to an unseasoned component and have the combination be magically seasoned. For example, if you are making chili, cook and season the ground beef and cook and season the vegetables, then combine.
I love salted cashews. I can eat a whole can in front of the television if I don't pay attention. But sometimes I like a change as I'm sure all of you do. With a few simple ingredients and an hour of your time, you can transform these humble cashews into a mouth watering, sweet and spicy snack food to which your family will become addicted.
I've been experimenting with smoking nuts over the last year and came across this recipe from Rick Bayless during my research. I have purchased quite a few books authored by Rick so I trusted his recipe and made it right away (see picture above). It was an instant hit in our family! However, I wanted to change three things. First, I wanted more smoky flavor than the chipotle powder offered so I decided to smoke them in my Mini Chief Smoker. Secondly, I wanted to get better distribution of the spices since they tended to clump. Last but not least, I wanted to get a drier product even though finger lickin' good has a certain appeal.
I started by mixing the salt, pepper, chipotle pepper powder and the allspice in a couple tablespoons of water. This allowed the spices to mix more homogeneously than simply adding them to the honey and oil. Once mixed, I added the oil and honey and mixed again. I reduced the amount of oil from Rick's recipe in half since that seemed to be making the cashews too messy as a finger food.
Rather than complicate the recipe with the process of roasting raw cashews, I chose to use already roasted but unsalted cashews. Not only is it easier to cook them but it's easier to find at your local store.
It's a messy job so choose a large bowl to mix all the ingredients together. Spend a few minutes doing this so the nuts are well coated.
Transfer the nuts to a tray suitable for your smoker, scraping any of the coating that has stuck to the bowl over the nuts. Distribute the nuts evenly across the entire tray so they can absorb as much smoke as possible. If you don't have a smoker, feel free to cook them the entire time in the oven. The smoky flavor of the chipotle powder will make the nuts taste like they've been smoked.
I have two smokers. I use my Weber Smoky Mountain (WSM) for big jobs like ribs or brisket. When I just need smoke and not much cooking, I use my Mini Chief Smoker.
I used Alder wood for this recipe but just about any light to medium flavored smoke will do. Just pick the wood you like and I'm sure it will combine well with the honey and chipotle! Fill the wood tray full and smoke the nuts for 45 minutes.
Once the smoker has infused the nuts with smoky goodness, transfer them to a jelly roll pan and cook them in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for another 30 minutes to further dry out the nuts, stirring them once or twice during the process to prevent them from sticking together. If you didn't smoke them then just cook them for an hour in the oven but never at a temperature above 300 degrees or you will burn the honey. If you have a true smoker like a Weber Smokey Mountain, you can also cook them the entire time in the smoker for a total of one hour.
After removing the nuts from the oven, stir them once again and let them sit for 30 minutes to continue drying. The finished product should be a nice golden brown from the spice mixture and dry to the touch. If the nuts aren't dry, pop them back in the oven for fifteen more minutes. These nuts also tend to moisten up once they've been sitting for a day or so. Again, just pop them in the oven and dry them out again. But, I don't think you'll need to re-dry them as they won't last that long.
Mix the spices in 2 tablespoons of water. Then add oil and honey and mix again.
Combine the mixture of spices and honey with the nuts.
This is an optional step but adds another level of smokiness to the nuts. Any wood with a light to medium flavor will do but I recommend Alder or Apple. Smoke the nuts for 45 minutes.
If you are using a Mini Chief Smoker, move the nuts to a jelly roll pan and cook them at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. If you are using a traditional smoker like a Weber Smokey Mountain, leave the nuts in the smoker for an additional 15 minutes or until they are mostly dried. If you are cooking the nuts in an oven, cook at 250 degrees for 1 hour.
Cool the nuts for 30 minutes or until they are mostly dry to the touch.
Those nuts look mouth watering. Joshua, a cashew lover as well, would eat the entire batch in a heartbeat.