Saturday, February 18, 2012

Laissez les bons pralines rouler

Mardi Gras is almost here. I can tell because purple, green, and gold masks and beads have come out of hiding to brighten cloudy February days. So it's a good time to tackle a New Orleans-style controversy—how to pronounce "praline."

I say "praw-leen." Always have; always will. I was in college before I heard the other pronunciation—"pray-leen." Now I rarely hear anything else. It's disturbing. My handy computer dictionary does not even list a second pronunciation, smugly assuring me that "pray-leen" is correct.

On the other hand, my trusty OED and Merriam-Webster at least offer the option of the traditional Southern pronunciation. The folks at say that outside the South, "pray-leen" rules, but "a praline is what we are providing here at and the pronunciation is PRAW-leen."

That's the spirit.

Here is a recipe for traditional pralines. They're so rich, you may want to stash a few in a safe-deposit box. You're on your own if you want to make pray-leens.

1-1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1-1/3 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups pecans

Dissolve all ingredients except pecans over low heat; bring to a boil. Cover and cook about 3 minutes. Uncover and cook to 234 degrees (soft-ball stage). Remove pan from heat and cool to 110 degrees. Beat until candy thickens and loses its gloss.

Drop large spoonfuls onto to wax paper. Work quickly as it gets too thick very quickly.

[This recipe is from the yellowed pages of the copy of Joy of Cooking I received as a wedding present. And, yes, in my thinner youth, I made these wonderful pralines. Those were the days.]

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