Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New York Nuts for New Years (the candied kind) from Cleo Coyle

We were hit with a little snow
here in New York City...

No, this is not my car. 
If it were, I would opt for
public transportation until April.

Shovel, shovel, shovel....

Even the NYPD got stuck. Our street is one way.
This police van is going the other.

By the way, this photo was taken
12 hours
after the storm ended.
City services? Hello! We do love the NYPD,
but snow removal experts they're not.
Send a snow plow, a salt truck, something!

Cleo Coyle, New York nut,
and author of the
Coffeehouse Mysteries

So while we're waiting for the plow to come, let's consider New York nuts. It's a fact. People do crazy things in New York—like stand outside for hours on December 31st to watch a big ball drop at midnight. I’ve done it. My husband’s done it. Almost everyone who lives in NYC has done it, and most of us have done it only once. Why? Because it’s nuts!

Photo courtesy Times Square NYC.org
and Countdown Entertainment, LLC 

It’s nuts because you have to get to the location eight to ten hours early and wait in freezing cold temperatures until the clock strikes midnight. It's nuts because, post 9/11, you aren't allowed to bring a backpack, a bag, or even a bottle of champagne. It's nuts because a bathroom break is nearly impossible. If you leave Times Square to hit a public facility, you won't be allowed back in. (More tips for seeing the Times Square ball drop here.)

In case you were wondering (because I was), the Times Square tradition actually began back in 1904 as a Don Draper-style marketing ploy to showcase the newly erected New York Times Building. Before then, people traditionally gathered at Trinity Church at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway to sing songs and wait for the church bells to ring at midnight. That first Times Square celebration drew 200,000 people. The organizers provided fireworks but no ball. Finally, in 1907 the ball was added and, with the exception of some years during World War II, has continued to drop annually to this day when it draws a physical audience of one million and a global televised audience of one billion. (More here.)


There is a foodie analogy here but not a happy one...

For some time now, my husband and I have heard raves about the "famous" bar nuts served at New York's Union Square Cafe. Okay, Nathan's hot dogs we've heard of. Egg creams, check. Black and White cookies, yes. Junior's Cheesecake, of course. But we never heard of these "famous" bar nuts before they were featured on the Food Network's My Favorite Things.

That Don Draper power of sell worked well on me. "Let's try the recipe and link to it!" I told my husband, Marc. (Click here to see the recipe but keep reading because I don't recommend it.) Marc and I read the recipe and trekked to the green grocer to buy the ingredients. We followed the directions exactly. Finally, we tasted them. Oh, nuts! Not good. Not good at all! Rosemary is a lovely spice. I use it often in my kitchen (see my recipe for Rack of Lamb with Rosemary and Lemon here). But in this recipe, the piney rosemary completely overwhelmed the flavor of our beautiful, fresh nuts. We also thought tossing the nuts in butter after they were toasted took away some of the crunch that we really think is essential to enjoying a nutty snack.

What to do?

Because I really wanted to blog a nutty snack recipe in honor of our New Year's nuts, I turned to another famous New York nut -- the candied variety. Here in the city, you'll find hot, freshly sugared nuts cooked right on local vendors' carts. David Lebovitz does a version here that will work with whole, round, raw nuts like peanuts or almonds. Today, I'm going to share my own quick and dirty version that works better for walnuts, pecans, cashews, and chopped hazelnuts (the kind of nuts that have nooks and crannies).

Finally, if you have a favorite nut recipe to share for New Year's Eve snack bowls, by all means tell me about it in the comments section or leave a link. (I just hope it doesn't include rosemary!)

Cleo Coyle's
New York Nuts


Any combination of...

Walnuts, pecans, cashews, and/or chopped hazelnuts (see my note)*

Butter (see below for amount)

Light brown sugar (ditto)

*Nuts not to use in this recipe: almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts. The almonds are too bitter, the Brazil nuts too big, and the peanuts not a mild and sweet enough flavor to work well here.

Ratio: For ever 1 cup (in volume)* of nuts, use 1-1/2 Tablespoons of butter, and 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed. *(By weight: 4 ounces or about 100 grams)

Directions: Place nuts in warm skillet and toss over medium-high until nice and hot. Add butter and continue tossing to coat the nuts. Before butter is completely melted, add the light brown sugar. Continually stir the nuts and sugar in the skillet until the sugar melts. Pour the hot, candied nuts onto a baking sheet that's been covered in parchment paper. Scrape any remaining syrup over the nuts and spread evenly into one layer.  When the nuts have completely cooled and dried, break apart any large clumps and eat with joy!

An important question: Why not just melt the butter and sugar together in the skillet and then add the nuts? While this method will work, I find that working the undissolved sugar into the nooks and crannies of the walnuts, pecans, cashews, and/or chopped hazelnuts gives a much more delightful result. Also, warming the nuts in the hot pan will partially toast them, bringing out their flavor, as well.

New Year,


~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.


  1. Another must-try recipe! And your snow pictures are, well, nuts!

  2. Nuts to that!! Even for a city north of the border with plows at the ready (where snowfall such as that is the norm), that is a LOT of snow!! Hope the dig out goes smoothly. Loved the history of the Times Square tradition and now know that I am not nutty enough to try it!

  3. We scored 15" here, and Boston is claiming that we've made the Top Ten All-Time Snowfalls.

    When I was young (in another century) I walked through Times Square on December 31st--about 12 hours before all the fun started. That's as close as I've come.

    One note on the pfefferneusse (sp?): they improve with age. Oops, that means admitting I haven't eaten them all yet. But I'm working on it!

  4. Replies to...

    @Wendy - LoL on the nutty snow (and even nuttier lack of plowing.) Always great to see you in the Kitchen. Thanks for dropping by!

    @Lo-mo - I take my wool cap off to you guys up North. I know the white stuff is no biggie for you. Perhaps you can send down a few Canadian snow experts or lend us a plow or two. (We *used* to know how to keep the streets clear in the city. You know, for little things like ambulances and fire trucks. Don't know what happened! :))

    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. Didn't they put snow plows on garbage trucks??? I seem to remember seeing that awhile back, but maybe that was Chicago.

    And is it just me, or does that little guy with the bottle look... well...

    Nah, can't be. must just be me

  6. Wow - look at that snow! I don't remember having that much here for a long, long time. Yowza. Great pictures.

    Love your nutsy stories. I agree with you about rosemary, but I'll go a step further. No matter where I add it, I taste it overmuch. If a recipe calls for rosemary I tend to halve it or dispense with it entirely. A hint is good but I can't take much more than that.

    Also - I agree with Sheila - the pfeffernusse do get better with age. I think next time I may use black instead of white pepper (did I already say that in another post?) because I think mine needed just a bit more zip. But everyone here loved them. Thanks for a great recipe that I'll turn to again for sure!

  7. Wow! That's a lot of snow. I'm still digging out here in Virginia, but we didn't get nearly as much snow as you did!

    The nuts sound great!

    ~ Krista

  8. Replies to...

    @Julie – We’re wimps down here in NYC! When I think of Chicago in January, I can’t help but remember a 60 degree below wind chill night when my sister was doing her residency at Cook County Hospital. Now that’s winter!

    @Sheila - Helloooo, Boston! Winter is here for sure. I also feel for the folks in the Southern states who are dealing with their own snow problems, including Florida orange and strawberry farmers faced with crop-killing freezing temps. Eesh.

    @Dave "A Year on the Grill" - YES! You are correct, sir. I've been in NYC over twenty years and snow plows on garbage trucks is how plowing was always done. When the city was smart about it, the officials sent those trucks out to plow all night long as the snow came down. We'd see plows coming through every few hours to keep the streets clear for things like fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, and those folks who have to get to their jobs (nurses, doctors, the all-important man who bakes my Italian bread, etc...). This time out. Nada. Not one garbage truck with a plow. Not one salt truck. Something definitely went awry here, but the local news is covering the fallout. My guess is, whatever went wrong will be fixed by the next blizzard! In the meantime, stay safe down there in Kansas! Winter is here for sure. :)

    @Krista - TY for dropping by. :) I hope everyone can dig out fast and stay safe and warm for their New Year’s celebrations!

    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. Cleo, what great suggestions re: getting the sugar into the crevices! Love the pix of the snow! Hang in there. Hope the shovels have cleared the way.

    Killer Characters

  10. When I worked at Universal Studios, there were vendor carts selling hot nuts in the "New York Streets" area. They were my downfall. (Although the vendor would give a few as a free sample). I did spicy pecans 2 ways myself this year.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  11. What a great subject--New York Nuts! Oh, the stories...! Comfortably far back in the last century, when I was 20, a small-town Oregon girl, newly married and newly transplanted to the NY area, I was on the edge of Times Square one New Year's Eve with my husband. Somehow he got separated from me; I stood there, afraid to move, and cried. A young mounted policeman came by, talked to me, and advised me to stay where I was and my husband would no doubt return to me. Just then, the crowd started calling out the countdown. When it hit midnight, that cop leaned down from his horse, kissed me, yelled "Happy New Year!" and rode away. I hung on tight to my lamppost, and sure enough, my husband showed up before long.

    I love rosemary! I'd have fallen for that recipe too - glad you fell first, so you could warn us! I like the looks of your version much better - makes a lot more sense, actually, and I can't wait to make some of these nuts.

    But don't be surprised if I sneak a little habanero powder into them!

  12. Love the snow pictures we got snow on Christmas 5 inches but hey down here in the south that is good for us. I was hoping for 2 feet :). There is still some on the ground to make it pretty.
    The recipe looks good and will be on must make list.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. And I was feeling sorry for myself that we had a lot of snow! :) Wow. That's a LOT of snow! What do they do with all the stuff they plow? Where does it go?

    Your nutty recipe sounds so much better than theirs! Looking forward to making it. :)

  14. Hi Cleo. Your recipe sounds wonderful. You asked for recipes so . . .
    Here's a Microwave Recipe: Spiced Sweet Nuts
    1/2 cup brown sugar, packed; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1 1/2 Tablespoons water; 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/4 teaspoon allspice (we sub the clove mixture); 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg; 1 1/2 cups almonds, cashews, pecans, or walnut halves (or any combination of these)

    In 2 quart casserole, combine sugar, water, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Microwave on high 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until sugar is melted; stir in nuts. Cook on high 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 minutes, until syrup begins to harden. Immediately pour mixture onto buttered cookie sheet, spread thinly, cool, then break into small pieces.
    And about nuts: My family tree is full of nuts.
    Catherine Lane

  15. I saw a picture (AP, I think) of a snow plow thoroughly stuck in Queens. I remember another snow storm here in Indiana about 26-27 years ago where we had over 2 feet of snow and a LOT of wind, to the point where some underpasses on the interstate were actually closed due to the humongous snow drifts. We had to take turns digging a "tunnel" through the snow to reach the barn.
    I will definitely have to try this recipe but I notice that you say that you shouldn't include almonds, but your picture has almonds in the mix! That's okay, I'll stick to pecans and cashews, my two favorites!

  16. Quickie reply now and I'll be back later to reply to more of these wonderful comments...

    @NurseJudyMac55 - The snow removal situation here in Queens is what I would call critical. No joke, no kidding. This is getting dangerous. Our street still has not been plowed (36 hours post snowstorm). On a major avenue near us, two busses hit each other because of the snow and are just sitting there, waiting for a tow. Two cars are now blocking our own road completely, both so stuck that the drivers are outside of their vehicles digging with hand shovels at the snow under their tires. I have been watching them do this for two hours. Now night is falling and it's getting very cold out there.

    Is our City Hall filled with nuts? Possibly. And speaking of nuts, the reason you see almonds in my pic is because I wanted to try as many nuts as I could to advise what tasted good in this recipe. (I usually just make it with walnuts and pecans.)

    I'm also on a writing deadline this week, and I didn't have time to take more than a few photos. Of course, you can try any nut your heart desires and report back. You might even love the Union Square bar nuts. To each his own. Especially when it comes to nuts. Give them a try and let me know. :)

    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  17. Your nuts recipe looks good.

  18. Here is a really good spiced nut recipe I got from a co-worker years ago:
    2 lbs unsalted nuts (I use 1 pound almonds and 1 pound cashews but the combination doesn't matter)
    1 large egg white
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    2 tsp ground cumin
    2 tblsp sugar
    3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    1 9-10 oz. package pretzel sticks or minis
    In a large bowl with a wire whisk, beat the egg white, sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and cumin until well blended. Add nuts; toss to coat. Spread mixture on a jelly roll pan covered in foil (you'll want to do this, trust me). Bake nuts for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Let cool on pan until completely cool. When cool, toss with pretzels. Enjoy!

  19. Thanks for saving us from bad nuts! I don't think rosemary should go on them, either. Ick.

    LOVE the snow pictures. I heard they are expecting it to snow in Phoenix tomorrow. So,
    hell really is freezing over! LOL.

    Stay warm! And Happy New Year, everyone!

  20. This will be a great recipe to fix for our New Year's Eve get-together. Hope your snow melts soon. We got snow on Christmas Day, but it was only about 4 inches and most of it has already melted. Wishing you a joyous and Happy New Year.

    Thoughts in Progress