Pecan Pralines

Pralines 1 I often find myself a source of contradictions. A good example of this is the lovely pralines you see in the picture above -- sugary, buttery, nutty clusters of heaven. Let me explain. After six days of gluttony (fish tacos, lobsters, fried green tomatoes, barbecue, and, of course THE turkey dinner) in Alabama this past Thanksgiving, I decided a "post holiday detox" was in order. Not the crazy Hollywood cookie diet, or the "lemonade" diet, but just good ol' healthy eating -- fruits, veggies, lean protein, and lots of water. 

So what do I go and do in the middle of my health kick? You're looking at it. And let me tell you, these little sexy's don't fit into any diet approved by the FDA. Well except for the fact that they are so deliciously sweet you might actually practice, god forbid, portion control. By a small miracle, I managed to pass most of them out before I ruined my teeth, but I can't say the same for Walt. 

These pralines make the perfect holiday hostess gift, tucked snugly into individual cellophane wrappers tied with rustic twine, or piled high in a cute vintage tin. Just be prepared for praise, worship, and total adoration upon receipt. Not that that's such a bad thing...

MARY COOPER'S PRALINES

Source: Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties by Julia Reed

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 1 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup evaporated milk 1 cup pecan halves or pieces 2 tablespoons butter 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a deep, heavy 2-quart saucepan, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and milk, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugars melt. Cook, stirring frequently to keep the mixture from bubbling over, until a candy thermometer reads 228 degrees. Add the pecans and butter and stir until the butter melts. Continue cooking until the thermometer reaches 232 degrees. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally, until the mixture loses some of its gloss (about 10 minutes).

Using a tablespoon, spoon the praline mixture onto parchment paper, forming thin patties. Let cool at least a half hour before serving or packaging. YIELDS: approximately 18 - 20 pralines.

Pralines 2