When brown sugar and pecans hit a hot pan, I am immediately taken back to my days as a young, ambitious college student. The second half of my freshmen year at Grand Valley State was spent interning at the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World. I worked in the outdoor dining side of Disney-MGM Studios (now called Disney Hollywood Studios) serving up quickie snacks to guests running to the next attraction.
If you’ve ever been to any of the Disney parks, you’ll notice people selling food in carts throughout the park. Yep, I was one of those folks.
Throughout the four-month experience, I rotated among various carts stationed near the more popular rides and shows. Each day was different. One day, I could be serving up ice cream pops in the shape of Mickey’s head with Lumiere beckoning us to “be our guest” on stage. The next day, I would be elbows deep in popcorn with people screaming from the Tower of Terror behind me.
The days when I was serving up fresh candied nuts were the best. The cart was in the furthest, quietest part of the park. Often the first to close down for the night, I would quickly pack up and hop on a ride or two before the park closed its gates. The cart was designed to cook candy the nuts on the spot. A large, steel bowl perched to the side with a motorized stir that coated the nuts with sugar while preventing them from sticking to the bowl. To the left of the bowl, an enclosed chamber kept the nuts warm. Within minutes of starting a batch, the scent of cinnamon and sugar would draw guests toward my cart and a line would suddenly form, lasting until it was time to close.
It’s been 15 years since I worked for the mouse. It was a crazy time and I would change my experience for the world… not even Disney World.
Stove-Top Candied Pecans
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbl. water
1 cup whole pecans
Add the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and water to a medium non-stick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to bubble, approximately 1 – 3 minutes. Stir by swirling the pan.
Add the pecans to the sugar mixture. Stir until completely coated. Allow the pecans to cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 – 5 minutes.
Pour the cooked pecans on parchment paper and allow to cool completely before serving.