It was a January night in 2004. Snow quietly blanketed the streets of Munich, but we drove on with determination. We were going to a New Year’s party, and nothing was going to stop us. We picked up our friends the Kukkonens and crammed into the car. We were giddy. It was a new year, we were living in a beautiful city, and new but dear friends were welcoming us into their home. So much to be thankful for. We arrived and there it all was — an amazing spread of food, elegantly served, and all made by the hands of our friends Mary Beth and Johan (all the way down to the chicken pâté, people!). The party was lovely, the company was eclectic and conversation stimulating. A night I won’t forget. Also, it was the night I met these almonds.
I hope to share more of Mary Beth’s favorite recipes in this coming new year, because as you will learn, anything she passes along to me ALWAYS becomes a favorite of mine. Through the years, these almonds have become the favorite of many of my family and friends. And — of course, I get lots and lots of requests for the recipe. So, though I hate to share this “secret” with you (because, now the cat’s out of the bag — it’s actually quite easy to make), think of it as my Christmas gift to you. It’s perfect for parties, or packaged up in little jars for gifts.
Thyme Roasted Almonds
recipe inspired by Mary Beth Hedberg
Note: It is important not to over-roast your almonds, so pay careful attention to the aroma and to the color inside of the almond. Don’t roast them until they are “crunchy” or they will have a bitter flavor. The “crunch” will come after they cool off — trust me!
- 4 c whole, raw almonds
- 2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. thyme leaves (picked), chopped
- 1 heaping Tbsp. good quality sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Start by picking your thyme leaves from the stems (this can be a bit tedious, so you will be glad to have it over with and it is vital they they are picked and chopped by the time the almonds come out of the oven). Chop them to release the oils (and thus THE flavor).
- Combine the olive oil, thyme leaves and salt in a medium bowl with a whisk.
- Spread the almonds onto a “jelly-roll” sheet (baking sheets with slight lip along the edge, so your almonds don’t plunge into the oven). Roast for 4 minutes and then toss/stir with a long spatula.
- Roast for another 3 minutes. Toss/stir. At this point, you will begin to smell the aroma of roasted almonds. As every oven is different, it is always good to do a taste test — bite an almond through in the center. If it is finished, the color will be just beginning to turn from a creamy ivory color to more of a toasted ivory color.
- If needed, roast almonds for another 2-3 minutes.
- Immediately and carefully slide hot almonds from the baking sheet into the olive oil and thyme mixture and toss to combine. You will hear a sizzling sound as the olive oil is instantly heated by the almonds. (If you let the almonds sit on the baking sheet, they will continue to cook and therefore, over-cook. Also, you want the almonds to be super-hot so they can heat the oil). This heat will release the thyme oil and give amazing flavor the almonds.
- Add more salt to taste, if needed. Serve hot to very happy guests, or let cool and package for gifts.