These addictive cocktail pecans are a must for happy hours and cocktail parties. Deceptively simple to make, they're just perfect with wine and cheeses, with beer and cocktails, or, simply, as a luxurious snack.
Place the pecans in a large bowl. In a second, small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Drizzle over the pecans, then use a spatula to gently mix the nuts to coat them with the flavorings.
Spread the coated pecans on the prepared baking sheet. Scrape every last bit of the syrup mixture out of the mixing bowl and drizzle it over the nuts. Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt and generously season with black pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Important note: If your oven is running hot, or if you have a convection oven, start checking on the nuts at the 10-minute mark. The nuts are ready when they release their aroma, appear to be sizzling, and seem browned in bits. Remove the pecans from the oven as soon as they appear to be ready to avoid burning them.
Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cocktail pecans cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour. The syrup mixture will harden around the nuts as they cool, creating that irresistible crunchiness. Once the nuts are cool and dry, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
NOTE: Spanish paprika gives a delightful smokiness to the nuts. If you can't find it, do not substitute regular (Hungarian) paprika, and it will not contribute the same flavor. You can simply omit the ingredient, or replace both the Spanish paprika and cayenne pepper by 1/2 tsp (2 ml) ancho chili powder.
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