My grandmother always, and I mean always had three things in her kitchen: Butter Brickle ice cream, Junior Mints, and a box of pecan sandies. The ice cream was Brickle, not brittle. The Junior Mints were always kept in the refrigerator, and the cookie supply never, ever dwindled.
It wasn’t until years after she passed that I learned that my grandfather would wake her every morning with a hot cup of coffee and two pecan sandies on a plate. When he passed, she kept that ritual going even though she had to do it herself.
These were not the only constants with Grandma. Her laughs were always punctuated with a snort, her hugs were as tight as she was tiny (4’11”), and she stayed pissed off at the Oakland Raiders for moving to LA, even after they moved back to their rightful home. Until the day she died, she called them the “The Traders”.
In my house, to make these cookies is to summon her closer. The hugs are gone forever, but I can almost hear a quick peal of laughter followed by a snort and a sigh.
1/2 cup browned butter, cold (instructions can be found here)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350F. Take a 1/2 cup of the pecans and chop as finely as you can without turning them into butter. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and paddle on medium speed until the mixture become light, white and somewhat fluffy, about 10 minutes.
Add the vanilla and salt and combine well. Add the flour and stir on the lowest speed. When the mixture is almost completely combined, add the entire cup of pecans and stir in.
Scoop the dough into 18 or so ping pong ball-sized pieces, dip each in the remaining brown sugar, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Using a glass or a small mug, gently press down on each cookie to flatten (about 1/2″ thick).
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are light golden brown but still very soft in the center. Eat with reckless abandon.
*This is a variation of the Martha Stewart recipe found here. It is wonderful if you don’t have time to make browned butter.