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Quick: what's the first foodie item that comes to mind during the holiday season?
Eggnog, right? To those who thought "fruitcake," clearly you haven't imbibed enough eggnog. Read on.
Yes, a slew of ready-made eggnog products sit available in supermarkets, including soy-based concoctions (shiver) and other dairy-free abominations. You could just grab a carton of Hood 'nog and call it done, but to make homemade eggnog is an accomplishment for which the home chef will be admired. It requires careful culinary chemistry and more than a dash of creativity come garnish time. It's a great food project - and really, gingerbread houses are overrated, messy and typically inedible - and when all's said and done, eggnog can function as dessert - dessert with bourbon or rum in it!
Eggnog recipes vary as much as the premade iterations. Some are alcohol free, some call for rum, brandy, whisky or even vodka, or a combination thereof.
Perhaps the most hot-button issue is whether to heat your egg mixture to kill any sneaky Salmonella (see sidebar). While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests using a cooked egg base, many, many chefs do not heat the eggs and have lived to share the recipe. Both styles are equally delicious. To heat or not to heat is the chef's choice.
The three recipes printed here offer distinct experiences: spicy-sweet; traditional; and low-fat and flavorful. Consider your crowd and mix away accordingly; then sit back and wait for the accolades worthy of any holiday hero.
EGG NOG À LA FOODIE FATALE
This recipe comes from Connecticut food blogger extraordinnaire Jocelyn Ruggiero, known to many as Foodie Fatale.
Ruggiero notes, "Each year, I look forward to celebrating the holiday season with eggnog.
"In mine, a dusting of chili adds an unexpected heat that is well balanced by the milk and cream. And dark rum gives it a wonderfully rich caramel flavor.
"Sit by a fireplace, pour a glass and enjoy!"
12 ounces evaporated milk
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 pinch cinnamon
Dark rum to taste
Ground chili* to taste
*Not to be confused with the "chile powder" sold in many supermarkets, which is actually a combination of several different spices.
An easy way to create your own ground chili: Pulverize red chili flakes in a spice grinder, food processor or blender.
Beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat a minute more. Set egg mixture aside.
Combine evaporated milk, condensed milk, heavy cream, milk, nutmeg, vanilla, salt and cinnamon in a medium saucepan and heat over medium high heat until the mixture just begins to reach a boil, using a wooden spoon to stir.
Remove saucepan from the heat and very gradually add into the egg mixture. Do this slowly to ensure egg does not cook through.
Return all to the saucepan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes (when the mixture will thicken slightly), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
Remove from the heat, and set in the refrigerator to chill.
Serve straight up or on the rocks, adding dark rum to taste.
Garnish with a small amount of ground chili.
HOLIDAY EGG NOG
Recipe courtesy of Linnea Rufo, who is a chef by trade and currently innkeeper at Old Lyme's Bee & Thistle Inn. Rufo says this recipe is one she has cultivated over the years, using other recipes as inspiration.
5 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1¼ cups good quality bourbon or whiskey
¼ cup spiced rum
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon nutmeg plus more for garnish
Whisk yolks with sugar until creamy and sugar begins to dissolve.
Add cream, milk, bourbon and rum and stir to combine.
Stir in nutmeg and vanilla and chill well.
Serve chilled on the rocks with a sprinkle of nutmeg if desired.
By Sara Moulton of the Associated Press
Start to finish: 2 hours 35 minutes. Serves 4.
2 cups 2 percent milk, divided
3 1/2-inch stick cinnamon, smashed using the side of a knife
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
10 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cardamom pods, crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
Brandy or rum, for flavoring (optional)
Grated nutmeg, to garnish
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 1/2 cups of the milk with the cinnamon, vanilla bean, cloves, peppercorns, ginger, cardamom pods and a hefty pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn off the heat and let it stand for 15 minutes.
Strain the mixture through a sieve, discarding all of the solids except for the vanilla bean. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk; discard the vanilla pod.
Wipe out the saucepan and return the milk to the pan over medium heat.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl beat the eggs with the sugar for 2 minutes, or until they are light and lemon colored. Add the heated milk in a stream, whisking gently. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 4 to 6 minutes. Do not let the mixture come to a simmer or the eggs will scramble.
Quickly add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk to the pan to stop the cooking. Transfer the mixture to a pitcher and chill for at least 2 hours or until very cold.
To serve, divide the eggnog among 4 chilled glasses, stir in a dash of brandy or rum, if desired, and top with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers the following tips for safe eggnog preparation.
Cook the egg base
The FDA advises consumers to start with a cooked egg base for eggnog. This is especially important if the eggnog is being served to people at high risk for food-borne infections: young children and pregnant women (non-alcoholic eggnog), older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.
To make a cooked egg base, combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.)
Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy salmonella, if present. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon. (But don’t lick the spoon if the custard is not fully cooked!)
After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.
Don’t count on alcohol to kill bacteria
Some people think that adding rum, whiskey or other alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. But if contaminated unpasteurized eggs are used in eggnog, you can’t count on the alcohol in the drink to kill all of the bacteria.
Other options for safe eggnog:
Consider using egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs in your eggnog, or find a recipe without eggs.
With the egg substitutes, you might have to experiment a bit with the recipe to figure out the right amount to add for the best flavor.
Pasteurized eggs also can be used in place of raw eggs. Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys Salmonella that might be present, without having a noticeable effect on flavor or nutritional content. Pasteurized eggs are available at some supermarkets for a slightly higher cost per dozen.
Source: Nancy Bufano, food technologist, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA