By Taylor Bell
In How To
As the holiday season approached, we began to turn our attention to thoughts of seasonal dishes…
Soon, however, we found ourselves indulging in the comforts of reminiscence, and set against the drear of a rainy Friday afternoon, it was clear that we weren’t getting anything in the way of work done. By the end of our little diversion, however, we had discovered a strange thing: three of us have an uncle who was known for making the best eggnog. Attempting to salvage the afternoon, we decided that our avuncular coincidence should be taken as a sign, and that we should make our own eggnog. We wanted our recipes to represent the control afforded by current understanding and techniques, and the charm and excellence of tradition. In this way, we developed a new eggnog that pays homage to tradition without the impertinence of the customary culinary ‘twist’. To accomplish this, we took two traditions (well, three, but the American is an extension of the British) the French and British, and coddled them (the eggs, literally) lovingly into a luxurious and inviting holiday beverage.
Traditional eggnog comprises eggs, milk and/or cream, sugar, alcoholic spirits, and spices. Crème anglaise is a French sauce used to pour into the spoon-broken tops of soufflés and as a base for ice creams; made with cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla beans. So similar, but separated by a treatment of heat, eggnog and crème anglaise are a natural amalgam, and we could not resist the internally-referential nature of using crème anglaise (literally “English cream”) as the foundation for a British/American drink—and so our Eggnog Anglaise was born.
The drink is made by first preparing the crème anglaise. The making of a crème anglaise is instructionally simple, but typically difficult for the first-time preparer. If you are familiar with making mayonnaise at home, crème anglaise is hardly different (and in fact, easier), but if you are not, it generally requires some practice to master. But when you have an device to tightly control temperature, it requires little more than mixing and heating. To prepare the sauce/eggnog base, we separated our egg yolks and combined them with half & half, sugar, grapefruit zest, nutmeg, split vanilla beans, and salt. We zested a grapefruit and then split our vanilla beans lengthwise just before sealing and shaking the contents in a vac-snap bag. A traditional crème anglaise is achieved by heating and whisking the mixture until it reaches about 185ºF, or until it can coat the back of a spoon thickly. As such, we set our SmartHub to 185ºF and dropped our bag in. After about 40 minutes, we removed the bag and refrigerated it overnight. By morning, it had set quite pleasantly—its consistency somewhere between cream and pudding.
Typically, an eggnog is enlivened with either brandy or bourbon (or both). We were heavier-handed with the brandy but still added some bourbon to give the ‘nog some edge (and a secret splash of rum, as well, shh!). After straining, the eggnog is ready to drink! It is, of course, better when aged, and can be done so for weeks and even years. Simply place your eggnog is a glass vessel and refrigerate for next year’s celebrations!