It’s the nightly gathering of all the kids in the living room. National news, followed by Jeopardy, was always on the television. We kids were sequestered to the rug and the adults on the couch and chairs— but everyone had a job to do. We were shelling Georgia pecans. Bags and bags and bags of’em.
For as long as I can remember, this had been the normal routine for visits to my grandmother’s home in Milledgeville, Georgia, a little less than two hours southeast of Atlanta.
Kentucky was home for me, but my family made the trek back to Georgia several times throughout the year. I vividly remember the miserable 12-hour drive, complete with license plate games and a roll of quarters that my mom would slowly whittle down in an attempt to bribe my sister and me to get along until we could escape the car.
Once we turned onto the long driveway of tall pine trees, we knew we were finally there. There were two things that were certain about the visits: a big batch of cornflake cookies in the kitchen and being assigned the task of shelling pecans at night. (Don’t feel too badly for me. I managed to sneak plenty for myself that never made it to the bag.)
Several years and who knows how many bags full of pecans later, I still can’t help but think about those moments every single time I find a way to incorporate them into my recipes. That same warmness of memory I find in many ingredients holds true with the cast-iron pans I use every day.
“HERE. SHELL THESE PECANS—IT’LL BE FUN,” THEY SAID
The cornstick pan, my Dutch oven for sourdough, all the way to the heavy skillet I swear by when I make my homemade Nashville Hot Chicken—all are pieces that have been passed down from friends and family. I can’t help but feel that those elements play a part in creating the priceless experience of sharing a meal with others.
Dutch babies, which are actually German pancakes, are gloriously puffed pancakes cooked in a hot skillet, much like a Yorkshire pudding or popover.
The wow factor of the mile-high sides is always something fun to bring to the table. What’s better than a pancake you can fill with anything you’d like? Like many of my recipes, I worked my way backward to decide on the fillings. Pecans, to me, are the star, with Bourbon Caramel and bananas (because my mom always said to eat my fruit) as the backup singers.
This recipe is my way of sharing a piece of my pecan-filled childhood along with the experience of creating something new that I take so much joy in. Nostalgia, after all, is by far the best ingredient you have in your kitchen.
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Bourbon Caramel (recipe follows), sliced bananas, and toasted pecans
- Garnish: Confectioners sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in cold oven, and preheat oven to 450°.
- In the container of a blender, place flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt; blend until well combined, about 30 seconds, stopping to scrape sides of container as needed.
- Place milk in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until warmed, about 30 seconds. Add warm milk to flour mixture, and blend for 30 seconds.
- Remove skillet from oven, and carefully place butter in hot skillet. When melted, carefully swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet Immediately pour batter into hot pan.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400°, and bake until dark golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Serve immediately with Bourbon Caramel, bananas, and pecans. Garnish with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.
- In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup, and salt. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add bourbon, and stir until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat; let cool. Bourbon Caramel can be made several days ahead and stored in refrigerator.
Recipe development, food styling, and photography by Phillip Fryman.