Don’t forget the dessert! These desserts are the perfect ending to a holiday meal. The lightly smoky pecans combined with bourbon makes for a delicious pairing. And if the thought of making pie crusts makes you nervous or you are serving people who cannot eat gluten, these grilled pecan “pies” will please everyone at your holiday table. Yum!
Individual pecan "pies" feature lightly smoked nuts and a luscious filling.
- 1 cup wood chips for smoking
- 2 cups pecan halves (plus more for decorating if desired)
- 5 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- ½ cup Steen’s Golden Syrup or dark corn syrup
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons bourbon (for gluten free use 2 tablespoons potato vodka plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar), or more maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or pure extract
- lightly sweetened whipped cream or ice cream, for serving (optional)
- mint sprigs (optional)
- Remove the warming rack from the grill. Submerge wood chips in a bowl of water and let soak for 15 minutes while you preheat a burner on one end of the grill on high.
- Strain the wood chips and place in a smoker box or aluminum foil folded into a small square with low sides. Discard soaking water.
- Place the pecans on a quarter baking sheet with sides.
- Place the container with damp wood chips over the heat. Close the lid and let the wood start to smoke, about 10 minutes. Open the lid and quickly slide the pecans on the baking sheet onto the cool slide of the grill, opposite the wood chips. Close the lid and smoke the pecans for 15-30 minutes or until you taste one and they are lightly smoky. Remove from the grill.
- Transfer pecans to a bowl; set aside to cool. Pecans can be smoked a day or two in advance. Store them in a sealed container. Roughly chop about half the pecans.
- Turn the burner you used for smoking the pecans to high. You need the grill at 375 degrees. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain that temperature. For my TRU-Infrared 3-burner grill I had the left burner on high and the middle burner on low to reach 375 degrees and hold it there.
- Butter 6 to 8 ramekins. Use whatever size you have; the smaller their capacity, the more you will need. It is helpful to set out a separate small baking dish, such as an au gratin, in case you have extra filling left over. This recipe makes about 4 cups of filling. 6 ramekins fit perfectly on a quarter sheet pan.
- Stack one quarter sheet into a second one for insulation and set the ramekins onto the top sheet.
- Place the butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds until melted. Set aside to cool slightly while you make the rest of the filling.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Then add the sugar, salt, corn syrup, maple syrup, bourbon (or vodka/brown sugar), and vanilla. Whisk until thoroughly blended and the eggs are incorporated. Pour in the melted butter and whisk vigorously until smooth and emulsified. Add smoked pecans to the egg/sugar mixture, stirring until they are evenly distributed and coated.
- Use a small ladle and scoop the pecan mixture into the prepared ramekins, filling no more than 2/3 full (they will expand as they bake). If you have any left over, butter the extra dish and fill that. If you have room on the baking sheet, add the extra dish; if not, bake it in a second round on the grill or in the oven. If you want to get fancy you can set some extra pecans on top of the filling in a decorative pattern. Not necessary, but very pretty for serving.
- Open the grill lid and slide the ramekins on their baking sheets onto the cooler side of the grill, opposite the heat. Close the lid and bake for 20 minutes. Spin the tray so the opposite line of ramekins is now toward the heat. Continue baking for about 20 minutes longer, a total of 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the centers barely jiggle when lightly tapped. If the nuts on top are browning before the filling is set, place a sheet of foil loosely over the tops. Note that each grill functions differently and yours may take more or less time than mine did.
- When done, carefully transfer the hot baking sheets with ramekins to a heatproof surface. Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack to cool.
- Place a ramekin on a small dessert plate. Add a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on top if desired and tuck a mint sprig in the cream.
- To store, cover each cooled ramekin or baking dish with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. They will hold for 1 to 2 days.