We celebrated Christmas a week early. Now that we have gotten in the holiday spirit thanks to our fun trip strolling through the Marché de Noël, it seems my husband and I are all about Christmas this year. I love the idea of embracing new traditions for ourselves, and so this weekend to accommodate our schedules a bit better, we had our full on Christmas feast. A veritable 3 course dinner just for the two of us – because what better Christmas present could I give my husband than a great meal made with love, and the two of us just enjoying each other’s company on these unseasonably cold and blustery Winter days?
Over this week of Christmas I thought I’d share with you, one course at a time, our Christmas dinner for each other. First up is the snack/appetizer, or entrée as we call it here en Suisse en français. Roasted pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc. are a regular feature of the Christmas markets here, and are a delicious candy often coated with caramel and sugar – however savory versions seem to be a bit tougher to find. My first encounter with savory glazed almonds was actually in an airport this year while traveling for Thanksgiving (I know, random), when I had the opportunity to try the famed Marcona almonds. Now I know what the hype is about. Sweeter, softer, and more flavorful than your typical almonds, they give this “melt in the mouth” quality that makes them completely irresistible. For me, they are compared to regular almonds as truffles are compared to mushrooms.
Ever since my airport acquaintance with these wondrous little pieces of heaven, I have been wanting to recreate that simple roasted snack. I went to 7 stores looking for amandes de Marcona. One store directed me to their butcher, who was Spanish. Even he didn’t know where to find them en Suisse (note – looking for a hard to find ingredient in a foreign country is a great way to practice your language skills). Eventually, I gave up on my search, and settled for regular old almonds from nowhere in particular. While I think I’ll always be searching for the elusive Marcona almonds, it turns out the regular ones work just fine – especially when you pan-roast them and add truffle oil to them
I’ve never really roasted almonds in a pan before, so I kinda made this up as I went along (hence the somewhat vague ingredient amounts). If there are more conventional methods of doing this type of thing, by all means I’m open to hearing about it. I roasted them in a frying pan over some heat with a little olive oil and fresh thyme, stirring often. Ok so technically it’s not roasting and is more of a light frying. But they taste like they’ve been roasted, so that’s what I’m calling it As they browned, I sprinkled in a little salt and sugar which caramelized into the most gorgeous aromas wafting through our home – I love the smell of sugar cooking, but when combined with the almonds and thyme? An unlikely mixture of flavors, but the combination is a lovely blend. The sugar added a hint of sweetness, but not overly so, allowing the herbs and truffle flavor to really shine. Once cooled, a little drizzle of white truffle oil and I had in my kitchen one of the most addictingly awesome versions of roasted almonds I’d ever tasted. I bet they’d be even better with Marcona almonds.
I have to hide them from my husband or there won’t be any left for Christmas.
I have to hide them from me or there won’t be any left for Christmas!
2 tbs. olive oil
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 cups almonds, blanched and peeled
a few tablespoons of sugar
sprinkle of salt (about 1/2 tsp?)
2 tbs. white truffle-infused oil
1. Heat up a medium sized skillet to a medium-high heat and add the olive oil and thyme sprigs. When the oil is hot, the thyme will start sizzling. At this point add in the almonds, stirring rather frequently until they start to brown.
2. Once browning, sprinkle in sugar and salt and keep stirring until the sugar starts to caramelize a bit.
3. Transfer to a baking sheet (I lined mine with aluminum foil for easy clean up) spreading the almonds out, and let cool.
4. Drizzle truffle oil on top, and serve.