There are few things I enjoy more than a party; the planning, the prepping, the primping. Except for maybe wrestling with invite lists and cleaning up, it’s all good. Which it should be no surprise to anyone that I was to be found bright and early on New Year’s Day out in idyllic Hillcrest, helping good friends prepare for a feast. A Southern, vegetarian New Year’s feast.
Sigh. So, yeah, Southern food… not my forte, particularly when the (delicious, delicious) crutch of pork is verboten. That said, it was a relief that the mains–black eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread–had already been chosen by the host. I just had to help make sure that they came out right and take care of the things on the edges. So, to that list of Southern staples for good luck in the new year, I added cheese straws and deviled eggs up front, a bright grapefruit and fennel salad on the side, and red velvet cake and pecan squares to finish up.
With that menu, 14 packets of fresh peas, 8 enormous bunches of collards, 4 dozen eggs, 2 dozen grapefruit, and $25 worth of white chocolate… among other things… we managed to successfully sate 25 people who were all impressed that we’d manage to do so a la veggie. We even managed to kill each other in the kitchen, despite a variety of heated Mason-Dixon arguments on what cornbread should be, the… uh… “merits” of vegetarian bacon, and how spicy the greens should be. Hooah.
Per the voting that we did on facebook last week, you’re getting the pecan bars today. They landed in second behind a kale salad and in front of the red velvet cake. If y’all (*hem*) are interested in how a Yankee and a vegetarian from Richmond make black eyed peas and collards, just let me know. I can write those up too.
This recipe makes a TON of pecan squares, which, I think, is the correct amount. I’ve grown to like pecan bars over pie because the nut-crust-filling ratio is better. Lots of crunchy, flavorful nuts; enough buttery crust to hold on to; and just enough sweet-salty, caramelly glue to hold it all together. Too often with pecan pie there’s too much gungy, syrupy sweet filling and everything else gets drowned out. Not so here. More nuts, more bourbon, more salt, and a touch of espresso powder makes the bars stand up and stand out, in an addictive, grown up kind of way. Bliss.