A variation on a Hunanese sweetmeat that was a favorite recipe in my first cookbook, this has become an equally popular predinner treat at China Moon. The combination of rich pecans, fresh orange zest, and sugar zapped with a bit of salt is wonderful.
Soaking and drying the nuts alters them intriguingly. The soaking purges the bitter oils and brings out a striking richness. The drying leaves the nuts chewy. This step may be done as much as a week ahead of time. You can also caramelize the nuts in advance, but I like to do it just as the guests arrive. The warm pecans mate perfectly with a glass of cool Champagne or white wine.
If you are not a fan of spicy foods but have made it this far into the introduction anyway, simply use corn or peanut oil in place of the seasoned chili oil. The pecans will be delicious!
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