Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cup of Cheer

Eggnog—alcohol-free, of course—was one of my favorite after-school treats when I was a youngster. Ok, so I was a little weird. I’d whip it up in the blender, using just raw eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Looking back, yes, that was kind of gross, but I was blissfully unaware of the dangers of salmonella, and enjoyed every nourishing sip. Today I make a safer, richer and much more spirited version of this classic holiday beverage. I cook milk, eggs and sugar together as a custard, then enrich it with some real cream and fortify it with some good bourbon. I do love Kentucky bourbon and, after all, it’s been a REALLY tough year, so we could all use a cup of good, strong eggnog. Happy holidays, everyone, and let’s hope next year’s a great one for all of us.

Holiday Eggnog

Makes 6 cups

4 cups whole milk, divided
5 large egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 to 1 cup bourbon or dark rum (I favor 1 cup of Maker’s Mark Bourbon or Mount Gay Rum)
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Sweetened whipped cream
Freshly grated nutmeg

1. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 cups of the milk until scalding. Remove from heat.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar and pale and thick. Slowly whisk about 1 cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Return this to the milk in the pan, whisking to blend. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until the custard is thickened and reaches 175°F on a instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in the cream.
3. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and place the custard in an ice bath until slightly chilled. Stir in the remaining 2 cups milk, the bourbon or rum, salt, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour the eggnog into a large bowl or pitcher, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until well chilled. Serve with whipped cream and a sprinkling of grated nutmeg.