Executive chef, Regan Browell’s fresh take on a timeless ingredient
You don’t have to spend much time in the South to understand that pecans are to comfort food as apple is to pie. Generally harvested from October to December, it’s little wonder they are an autumn culinary staple. From pralines to pie to sweet potato casserole, butter to ice cream to raw treats of earthy goodness in their simplest form, pecans not only add complexity to a dish but carry health benefits as well. Rich in antioxidants, protein, and vitamins and minerals, they are in great demand when the holiday baking season rolls around and in greater abundance the farther south you drive.
Native to the United States, particularly the South and Southwestern regions, pecans have long been a part of America’s culinary history. Prior to 1800, Native Americans gathered, cultivated and subsisted on the nuts (not truly nuts at all, but drupes—fruits with a single stone or pit containing the seed). Later, they were considered a delicacy among colonial Americans. As farmers established seedling orchards, pecan abundance grew. And while our sister state, Georgia, has historically led in pecan production, South Carolina’s climate remains ideal for growing as well, making them a constant in regional culinary tradition and a long-time ingredient at Southern dinner tables.
So, when we asked Regan Browell, award-winning executive chef of The Willcox in Aiken, South Carolina, to provide a special pecan recipe or two, she was all too happy to cook up grandma’s pantry staples like you’ve never tasted them before.