holiday-eggnog
AP PHOTO

Eggnog is a funny thing. We crave it for one month a year, then never think about it again.

And when we do crave it, we love to pretend this sinfully rich drinkable dessert (basically, it's melted ice cream in a glass) is a perfectly reasonable and festive little pre-dinner aperitif. The more honest among us glug it down without pretense. After all, life is short; we should eat dessert first.

Technically, eggnog is cooked custard cream. The French — in a nod to the English passion for it — call it creme anglaise. The English themselves call it custard. By any name, it is the base of most ice creams.

In fact, if you felt lazy, you could just pull that pint of premium vanilla ice cream out of the freezer, let it defrost in the refrigerator, add some booze and a sprinkle of nutmeg, and pass it off as your very own custom-made eggnog. Even easier, you can buy eggnog by the carton at the supermarket. But I promise the version you make from scratch at home will be the best you've ever had.


Eggnog 

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup bourbon, brandy or rum
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk and vanilla bean. Bring just to a boil, then let stand off heat for 10 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into milk; discard pod.

In large bowl, use electric mixer to beat egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until light and lemon colored, about 2 minutes. With mixer on, slowly add about half the milk in a stream. Add egg mixture to remaining milk in saucepan. Set pan over moderately low heat. Stirring constantly with wooden spoon, heat until mixture coats a spoon and trail stays clear when you run your finger through it, registering 160 F, 15 to 20 minutes.

Quickly strain custard through mesh strainer into clean bowl. Stir in cream and bourbon; cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled. To serve, ladle into cups; top each portion with freshly grated nutmeg. Serves 10. 

White-Chocolate-Peppermint Variation: Add 8 ounces of finely chopped white chocolate to hot strained custard. Let eggnog stand for 5 minutes; whisk until smooth. Add cream and bourbon, then chill as directed.

In saucepan, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water and cook over low heat, stirring, until sugar is melted. Transfer to small shallow bowl; let cool. In food processor, pulse 12 candy canes until finely crushed. Transfer heaping tablespoon of crushed candy canes to small plate.

Working with 1 serving glass at a time, dip rim of each glass in sugar syrup, letting excess drip off, then into crushed candy canes, making sure rim is coated well. Discard peppermint on plate each time and add a fresh tablespoon (candy gets wet and will not stick properly to the next glass). Let crushed candy canes dry for 5 minutes before adding eggnog.

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