Crisp, aromatic smoked almonds give you a snack that lends itself all too well to continuous nibbling. They're usually sold in small packages, at large prices, but they're relatively easy to make at home. If you don't have a smoker to do them the traditional way, you can use a liquid smoke flavoring and make them in the oven. Alternatively, you can prepare them Spanish fashion -- frying the almonds in olive oil and then flavoring them with smoked paprika.
Cover your smoker's grill with a mesh grill mat, to prevent the nuts from falling through to the coals below. For smaller batches, a mesh grill basket is suitable. Spray the mat or basket lightly with oil, to prevent sticking.
Bring your smoker to a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit, with the coals and your hardwood smoke chips all on one side of the kettle. If you're using an electric smoker, prepare it according to the manufacturer's instructions, and set the thermostat for 225 F.
Soak the almonds in cold water for 10 minutes, and then drain them thoroughly. Sprinkle the damp nuts with salt -- ideally, fine sea salt -- and toss them so they're evenly coated.
Arrange the nuts in an even layer on the grill mat or in the basket, so the smoky air can circulate around them freely. Close the lid, and smoke the nuts for 30 minutes. Stir them with a heatproof spoon or spatula midway through the cooking time.
Remove the nuts from your smoker after 30 minutes, and spread them on a parchment-lined sheet pan for at least two hours to cool and become crisp. Serve them fresh, or wrap them in airtight packaging for gift-giving.
Smoke Flavoring Method
Dilute 1 part smoke flavoring with 2 parts water, and then toss your almonds with the flavoring until they're well coated. Refrigerate the almonds overnight, providing time for the smoke flavoring to permeate the nuts.
Preheat your oven to 300 F. Scatter the almonds evenly across a parchment-lined baking sheet, and slide them into the preheated oven.
Pull the almonds from your oven after 10 minutes, when their surface moisture has evaporated, and toss them with just enough melted butter to coat them lightly. Return the pan to your oven, and roast them for another 30 to 35 minutes.
Sprinkle the finished nuts lightly with salt, and let them cool completely before eating them or packaging them for later consumption.
Spanish-Style Tapas Almonds
Heat a heavy skillet over a medium burner. Pour in enough olive oil to fill it halfway. Choose a mild-flavored oil to let the almonds' flavor remain front and center.
While the oil is heating, open a brown paper lunch bag and carefully spoon some salt and a few tablespoons of Spanish smoked paprika, "pimenton de la vera," into the bottom of the bag.
Pour a small quantity of almonds, no more than 1 to 1 1/2 cups, into the preheated oil. If you need a large quantity of almonds, make several small batches.
Fry the almonds gently for approximately 10 minutes, until they're golden and fragrant. Lift them from the oil with a slotted spoon, letting them drain for several seconds. Transfer them to the paper bag.
Twist the top of the bag to close it, sealing in the nuts and spices, and then shake it vigorously for a few seconds. Serve the nuts slightly warm, or let them cool completely until crisp.
Fine sea salt is ideal for use with smoked almonds, because it distributes more evenly and clings more readily to the nuts' skin.
Use whole, unblanched skin-on almonds for smoking -- the fresher the better.