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Food & Drink

Pecans can liven up your prime rib, your stuffing and your holiday season

Have you planned your Christmas dinner menu yet? Family traditions usually win over being adventurous at the holidays, but this Pecan Crusted Prime Rib recipe just might have a tradition keeper throwing caution to the wind.

I had the pleasure of speaking to a pecan farmer by the name of Mike Spralding from the Tulsa area last week about his pecan operation, the formation of the American Pecan Council and this fun promotion called the Pecan-a-Thon. The American Pecan Council just formed a few years ago to promote perhaps the only nut original to our land. Did you know the rest of the nuts weren’t native to North America? It’s thought that the black walnut might be, but others were brought over.

Other nuts have long had specific marketing efforts, like the almond and the pistachio. Pecan farmers banned together and decided that their nut deserved some attention, too.

When you think of pecans, do you first think of pecan pie? You’re not the only one. The American Pecan Council is urging us to use pecans in another way this holiday season. The promotion called the Pecan-a-Thon asks us to make a pledge online and plan which great pecan recipe we’ll prepare this year. You can do so by going to I chose the Pecan Roasted Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream Sauce. Never will you see me turn down Prime Rib.

This recipe encrusts the Prime Rib with pecans and herbs, which make an irresistible crunchy crust. On Christmas Day, my cousin Cyndi and I eat the fatty crust off while we sip our cocktails, but we do it before anyone else arrives. Guess we won’t pull that prank off this year. My husband just carves away and laughs at us.

Fresh horseradish sauce is so worth the little bit of effort it takes. The root looks dried out and like it’s gone bad when you see it at the grocery store, but it just takes a quick peeling and grating to bring the best slightly spicy, fresh flavor. I recommend making the horseradish sauce at least a few hours before serving so the horseradish has time to open up.

The second recipe in today’s column is the Acorn Squash with Pecan Stuffing. It’s made in an Instant Pot, which has its fan followers. I don’t happen to be one of them, but people tend to be die-hard fans. With the holidays coming, perhaps you can add an Instant Pot to your Santa list or your Amazon cart.

Rice dressing is a fabulous alternative to bread dressing since it’s gluten-free. The recipe came with a list of all the popular food buzz words: vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, naturally sweet, and refined sugar-free.

After visiting with Mike the pecan farmer I learned so much about pecans. He told me that once a pecan tree is planted, it takes eight to 10 years for it to produce. That’s some serious patience, and it gives me a whole new appreciation for that little nut. The trees will produce for about 100 years, so many generations can enjoy the fruits of the original planter’s labor. I’m not sure what it is about actually hearing a farmer’s story, but it made me want to hop in the car and go meet Mike. Farmers just have a genuine down-to-earthness about them that you don’t run into everyday.

Happy holiday meal planning, friends.

Adriene Rathbun is an enthusiastic Wichita cook who offers cooking classes through her business, Social. Reach her at or

Pecan Crusted Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream Sauce

Serves 25

1 8- to 10-pound boneless prime rib roast

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste

2 teaspoons fresh black pepper, or to taste

1 cup raw pecan pieces

3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons stone ground or Dijon mustard

Horseradish Cream Sauce (Optional)

1 cup lowfat sour cream

1/4 cup fresh or prepared horseradish, grated

1 tablespoon stone ground or Dijon mustard

Juice & zest from 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely sliced

Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

Season the prime rib with a generous amount of salt and pepper all over and allow to sit at room temperature for 1 hour. It’s important not to put a cold prime rib into a hot oven, otherwise it will cook unevenly.

Meanwhile, make the horseradish cream sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl along with 1/4 teaspoon salt and few cracks of pepper. Check for seasoning and adjust. Sauce can be made one day ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees and prepare the pecan topping: Add pecans to a food processor along with the rosemary, thyme, panko breadcrumbs, butter, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, a few cracks of pepper, and process until combined. Set aside.

Cut small slits in the fatty top side of the prime rib, just big enough to stuff the remaining six cloves of garlic all around. Rub the remaining two tablespoons of mustard all over the top of the prime rib and apply the pecan topping, making sure to press it firm so it does not fall off. Transfer the prime rib roast to a roasting pan and make sure the oven rack is set in the low third portion of the oven. Place the rib roast in the oven, insert a digital probe thermometer in the middle, and loosely cover the top of the prime rib with tin foil so the pecans don’t burn. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, remove the tin foil, and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees for medium-rare, about 1 hour more. If you are not using a digital thermometer, check the internal temperature after 2 hours, but using a digital one is best, as you can leave it in the roast while it is cooking.

Allow the prime rib roast to rest covered with tin foil for 30 minutes so the juices can re-distribute. Slice and serve with some horseradish cream sauce if desired.

Recipe courtesy of Bobby Parrish, FlavCity

Instant Pot Acorn Squash with Pecan Stuffing

Serves 4

1 cup white basmati rice

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for sprinkling

2 small acorn squash

1 small yellow onion

2 cloves garlic

2 stalks celery

1 tablespoon olive oil or pecan oil, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Fresh ground black pepper

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup raw pecan pieces

Feta or goat cheese crumbles, optional

Cook the rice: In an Instant Pot or digital pressure cooker, stir the rice, sage, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 cup of water. Pressure cook on high for 3 minutes. (Note: It takes about 5 minutes for the pot to “preheat” before it starts cooking. During cooking, avoid touching the metal part of the lid.) After the pot beeps, use the Natural Release method and wait 10 minutes to let the pot cool down naturally (set a timer so you don’t forget). Then vent any remaining steam by moving the pressure release handle to “venting,” covering your hand with a towel or hot pad. (Never put your hands or face near the steam release valve when releasing steam.)

Meanwhile, prep the veggies: While the rice cooks, cut the squash in half and remove seeds, then cut it in half again (into quarters). Set aside until ready for Step 5. Dice the onion and celery. Mince the garlic.

Toast the pecans: In a dry skillet over low heat, toast the pecans for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.

Make the stuffing: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery 5 to 7 minutes until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, thyme and oregano and sauté for an additional 2 minutes until fragrant. When the rice is cooked, stir it into the skillet. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, the fresh ground black pepper, butter, and pecans.

Cook the squash: Rinse the Instant Pot and place the steamer basket in the bottom with 1 cup of water. Rub the squash quarters with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a few pinches of dried oregano. Place the squash quarters in the pot, stacking as necessary. Pressure cook on high for 6 minutes. (Note: It takes about 5 minutes for the pot to “preheat” before it starts cooking.) After the pot beeps, immediately do a Quick Release: vent any remaining steam by moving the pressure release handle to “venting,” covering your hand with a towel or hot pad.

Serve: Carefully remove the squash from the Instant Pot and sprinkle it with kosher salt. (Do not omit this step: it brings in the necessary flavor.) Spoon the stuffing over the squash quarters and serve immediately.

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