Have you tried those blistered peanuts from Trader Joe's? They are crunchy and salty and perfect in every way. They taste fantastic on top of ice cream, or curried chicken, or all by themselves, but today I decided to use them in some brittle. (Because we don't have enough Easter candy in the house or something...) I've made it only once before and so I needed to do some quick research to find a good recipe, and an easy one too.
I just hate to fuss over a boiling pot of molten sugar. For one thing, it scares me to death. You see, I'm very prone to kitchen accidents-the fresh blister on my tummy is evidence of that. Now I'm sure you're wondering how on earth I got a blister there. Unfortunately, I splashed myself with some of the boiling broth I was cooking the whole chicken in the other night. And that , of course, begs the question, how did I manage to splash myself with the scalding water? Well, the chicken was still partially frozen, even though I bought it supposedly fresh, so I couldn't open the cavity enough to remove the gizzards. For some reason, still unbeknownst to me, I thought that I could extract the gizzards with tongs after I had put the chicken on to boil. As you can imagine, I sloshed the boiling water right over the edge of the pot and onto myself. Yes, I was wearing a shirt....a thick one.
Things like that happen all the time to me, and I think I am a fairly smart person. But I have scars all over my hands and arms from kitchen mishaps...hot ovens and sharp knives are often the culprits-or my own stupidity is. But whatever the cause, after a recent accident I am always a bit more careful, for awhile at least, and today I did not want to burn myself on sputtering sugar lava. So after settling on a recipe that was easy enough and did not require blacklisted corn syrup, I got to work.
The only slightly problematic moment, was when I put my face close to the pot so that I could smell the caramelizing sugar. With my nose still stuffy, I have to sniff extra hard to smell things. But I heard a hissing sound and quickly moved my face away, and not a moment too soon. Just then, the top of my thermometer burst off and shot straight up into the air (but thankfully not into my eye). I guess I need a new candy thermometer. No harm done. The sugar was about the right color and temperature and it was time to stir in the peanuts. I quickly poured out the amber liquid onto a silicone baking sheet liner and spread it with a spatula. It became stiff moments later and produced a satisfying snap when I broke it into smaller bits for storage.
It is crunchy and salty and spicy all at once and looks like a platter of peanut-studded broken glass. Matt bemoaned the fact that it's too spicy for the children to eat (which, of course, means that he will have to suffer through most of the pile), but I will bring the majority of it to my writing group tonight. We need fuel for the brain, and none is better than pure, caramelized sugar-don't you agree?
Adapted from Alton Brown
Brush the inside of a medium sized, heavy bottomed sauce pan with vegetable oil. Add 3 C sugar and 1 1/2 C water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over high heat. When boiling, cover and continue to boil for 3 minutes. Uncover pot, reduce heat to medium and insert a candy thermometer by clipping it to the side of the pot. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the sugar is a medium amber color and 340 degrees. It will take approximately 15-20 minutes. While sugar is simmering away, toss 1 1/2 C of roasted and salted peanuts with 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/2 t cayenne pepper. When sugar is medium amber colored and up to temperature, quickly stir in peanut mixture. Carefully pour out onto a greased cookie sheet (or silicone lined one) and spread out with a spatula so that the peanuts are in one layer. Let cool, then break apart into bite sized shards.