While the curried cashews were undergoing their second tanning session of the day, I prepared a brown sugar, rosemary and bourbon brine to soak the almonds in.
I know. It’s like the almonds are getting the Thanksgiving turkey prep treatment. But trust me. This brining method? Best way to infuse a lot of flavor into almonds while keeping things clean (i.e., without covering them in a candied curry mixture whose yellow tinge rudely stains snackers’ fingers; curried cashew eaters beware!).
Start prepping the brine by throwing some brown sugar into a pot.
Sometimes it’s the devil, but I keep it around anyway like a trouble-making friend from the good ol’ sorority days. Perhaps it’s because bourbon makes me nostalgic for late evenings spent deep in conversation with Uncle Bill. Or because nothing else warms me up quite as quickly on a bone-chilling winter night, especially one spent visiting Jay’s Grams in Boston.
Or because bourbon has an uncanny ability to dissolve my worries just as easily as it will dissolve this brown sugar. Or because its inclusion in any recipe always seems to make the end result tastier.
Whatever the reason, there always seems to be a bottle in my liquor cabinet, which is good because I totally forgot to take inventory when I went shopping for the other ingredients in this recipe.
Back to the brining! You can’t have a true brine without a heap of salt. So go ahead. Toss it in there.
Then throw the whole thing onto the stove. Pretty easy so far, right?
Now wait until it boils, and then wait some more while the salt and sugar crystals dissolve completely.
Time to take everything off the heat and add some rosemary. This super long guy totally counts as two sprigs.
Get the sprigs all bundled up in your hand. This picture should help give you an idea of what the heck a “medium sprig” of rosemary is.
And toss all the rosemary into the pot to steep.
Note that if the bourbon gets nixed, the sugar decreased, and the water increased, this wouldn’t make a half-bad pot of tea.
Have raw, unsalted almonds at the ready. It’s finally time for them to get to work.
Complete the last bit of hands-on work for awhile by tossing the almonds into the brine …
… and making sure they’re equally submerged, as best they can be.
15 minutes later, it’s time to toss the rosemary and drain the almonds. Pour them onto that pretty, parchment-lined pan.
Spread them into a single layer. And pop them in the oven.
Now’s a good time to crack open a beer while you wait for them to dry out and toast up.
15 minutes later, you have snacks – surprisingly flavor-packed snacks, considering they look like regular old ho-hum toasted almonds. But they’ll knock your flavor buds’ socks off.
Brown Sugar, Rosemary and Bourbon-Brined Almonds (adapted from a Serious Eats recipe for pecans)
Makes 4 cups
5 Tbsp. bourbon
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
3 Tbsp. salt
1 1/3 c. water
4 medium sprigs rosemary
4 c. raw, unsalted almonds
In a medium pot, bring bourbon, brown sugar, salt and water to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves completely. Add rosemary sprigs, and remove from heat. Let cool just 5 minutes or so, until liquid is no longer boiling hot.
Remove and discard rosemary. Add almonds, stir to coat, and soak for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 325F, and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Drain completely, and spread almonds in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. Bake until toasted, dry and fragrant, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Let cool completely. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to a few weeks, or in the freezer for a couple months.