Try and eat just one...impossible!
Whenever there is a menu item at a Chinese restaurant with a garnish of "Honey Walnuts," I order it without fail. I can't get enough of these heavenly nuts! I used to hoard my portion with my helping of Grand Marnier Shrimp at New York's Shun Lee as a little girl, saving my share for my last, best bites. My grandmother even made them as a nibble for special occasions, an impressive and coveted treat for all. Traditionally the walnuts are boiled first to remove the bitterness and before being coated in a sugar syrup (hence the erroneous but classic "honey" reference) and then fried to give that rich taste and lacquered sheen. I've swapped the fry for a bake, which is less cumbersome to execute and just as delicious. In fact, I might like this less-is-more version even better than the original! I certainly make them more often than my Nana did ... thanks to technique, not torture!
Equipment: small saucepan; colander or strainer; dry measuring cup; measuring spoons; mixing bowl; rubber spatula or wooden spoon; rimmed sheet pan; tongs
2 cups walnuts
¼ cup granulated sugar 2 tablespoons vegetable oil ½ teaspoon kosher salt 2 teaspoons sesame seeds (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a small saucepan of boiling water, add the walnuts and boil for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. The walnuts will shed their skins and lighten in color.
3. Drain the walnuts, shaking off any excess water. Place them in a mixing bowl and immediately add the sugar. Stir well to coat until the sugar is fully melted, about 1 minute. Add the oil and salt, and stir well to combine.
4. Place the walnuts on a parchment-lined sheet pan in a single layer. Place on the middle rack in the 375°F oven and bake for 10 miniutes.
5. Remove from the oven and carefully turn each walnut, keeping them in a single layer. Sprinkle with the optional sesame seeds and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
ILOC tip: if after 20 minutes of baking the walnuts do not appear to be caramelized/browned enough to your liking, return them to the oven in 2-minute intervals until they are to your liking, turning the walnut pieces each time.
6. Remove the walnuts from the oven and let cool on the sheet pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a bowl. Wait an hour before storing in an airtight container.
Makes 2 cups.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to four weeks (if they even last that long!).
"Serve these walnuts in my Chinese Chicken Salad...even with all those ingredients in the composed salad they will still be the star of the show!"