Martin Luther King Week - MARTINS FAV'S!
Today we have adaptations of two recipes that were deemed to be his favorites!
Historians say that one of MLK all type favorite foods was pecan pie, as well as anything Southern, including fried chicken, greens and sweet potatoes. Well, today I am showcasing two recipe spins on Classic Southern fare - Both recipes use pecans and provide some semblance of their original roots.
Instead of pecan pie - we are making chocolate pecan bars that incorporate all the traditional recipe ingredients in a modern way.
Instead of fried chicken, we are making pecan0-crusted chicken strips, which are baked instead of fried for a healthier rendition, but still provide that wonderful savory crunch of fried chicken!
Pecans have a long history in American cuisine. Native Americans named called them "pacane," meaning "a nut to be cracked with a rock." Even though the French supposedly invented the pecan pie after settling in New Orleans, the earliest pecan pie recipe has reportedly not been found in books until 1925 and it did really become mainstream in printed materials until 1940.
Pecans - Excellent source of oleic acid (also found in olive oil and monounsaturated fats), as well as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Protect the blood, lower blood cholesterol and help preserve the good HDL's that help combat heart disease.
May also be helpful in fighting some cancers, color and stomach cancer in particular.
This recipe for Chocolate Pecan Bars is a decadent adaptation of Pecan Pie. One of Martin Luther King's favorites!
Pecan Pie is typically more of a holiday feature, but surely pecans and chocolate are a year-round favorite for everyone and making this recipe into bars keeps it fun and festive and easy to serve! Using all the key elements of pecan pie - which are some type of crust - pecans, brown sugar, butter, eggs, corn syrup or molasses and lots of pecans of course. This recipe is similar to pecan pie, but uses pretzels as a crust instead of a typical pie shell and incorporates two kinds of chocolate for a really rich full-flavored indulgent treat! Make sure you allow enough time for the bars to chill for easy removal from the pan and cutting!
CHOCOLATE PECAN BARS - Makes 32 - 2 inch bars
Recipe adapted from Frontera Grill - this recipe is not for the calorie counter. This uses a whole pound of butter, so make the pieces really small to compensate!
9 ounces (about 2 cups) pecan halves
9-ounce bag pretzel rods
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for ?buttering the pan - divided in 2 stages of the recipe
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces not larger than 1/4 inch
3/4 cup (about 4 1/2 ounces) finely chopped Mexican chocolate (such as the widely available Ibarra brand) or use Milk Chocolate if Mexican chocolate is not available
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
¾ cups corn syrup, preferably dark
¾ cup molasses
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for garnish
1. For Crust: Toast the pecans by placing on a rimmed baking sheet and placing in a 325' preheated oven until toasty smelling and just beginning to darken. Cool, then chop by hand into ¼ to ½- inch pieces. Place in a large bowl. Keep oven on at 325'.
2. Chop pretzels into fine crumbs (a food processor works great for this, or place in a plastic bag and pound into find crumbs with a rolling pin).
In a small pan over medium heat (or microwave at 50% power), melt 2 sticks of butter. Mix butter, pretzels, cinnamon and sugar together until well blended in food processor or large bowl.
3. Butter the bottom of a 9 x 13-iinch pan, then place a piece of parchment paper into the bottom of the pan that has been cut to size to fit in the bottom only. Alternately, you may also use a piece of foil. Butter the parchment paper or foil. Place the crumb mixture on the bottom pressing down with our hands to cover in an even layer.
4. Filling: Into the bowl of pecans, add the semisweet and Mexican or milk chocolate and stir to combine. Place in pan over crumb crust.
In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 sticks of butter (or use microwave at 50% power). In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses and vanilla. Beat at medium-low speed or use the flat beater if your mixer has one. Slowly add melted butter, mixing until matter is smooth. Slowly pour into pan over chocolate.
Bake for 45 - 55 minutes until center is almost firm. Cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight for easier removal and cutting. Loosen sides with a knife, then flip bars out of pan by turning over. Cut into 2-inch or smaller squares. Store in refrigerator. Dust with powdered sugar just prior to serving.
SESAME PECAN CHICKEN FINGERS
WITH APRICOT DIPPING SAUCE- Serves 4
1 1/2 to 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch
2 large egg whites
1 cup panko (Japanese style) breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 375'. Line a baking tray with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy; set aside.
In a separate medium bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, pecans, sesame seeds, paprika, cayenne and curry powder and salt.
Dip the chicken strips in the egg whites and then roll in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to help it adhere. Bake for 7 - 10 minutes, then turn chicken strips over and continue baking for another 8 to 10 minutes until cooked through and golden brown. Serve with dipping sauce.
Apricot Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Whisk the mustard, preserves, thyme and 1 tablespoon water together in a small bowl. (It helps to place the preserves in a small bowl and melt in the microwave first). Store refrigerated until ready to serve.
Chef Kathleen Schiefler