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Dec. 31, 2005 - 10:36 a.m.

Nog, and Nothing But the Nog


Warning: food related entry of interest to no one but me probably.

When I was a kid, both Christmas and the New Year were rung in with two traditional foods: Toll House Cookies and Eggnog. I don't know why or how that combo came to be our staple celebratory fare, but I can't now envision either holiday passing without those flavors pervading my senses, even all these years later. Atkins be damnded (for a week) - pass the flour/sugar/chocolate/eggy/buttery goodness.

When we were growing up my 4 sisters and I were weaned on that hyper-pasteurized eggnog that comes in cartons and has the consitancy of warm phlegm. My mom, trying to coordinate the efforts of 10 little hands covered in flour, never had time (or counter space) to seperate eggs, whip whites, beat yolks seperately, and so forth. So when the variously mis-shapen, under- or over-cooked cookies were finally placed on our chipped white festive stoneware platter and plopped down onto the slate-topped faux nautical coffee table (yay, 70's!), there was also a gallon jug of canary yellow, factory extruded, "nog" as the centerpiece.

I actually liked that goopy homogonized concoction, and to my everlasting shame still do. Maybe there are just so many happy, song filled memories surrounding the stuff that it over-rides my taste buds to this day. Or maybe I'm actually - despite all protestations to the contrary - just that low class after all.

Still, I bite and claw and scratch and kick against those impulses. At least in public. So every few years, just to prove that dammit, I am better than the goop swilling herds, I make a batch of homemade eggnog.

And when I do...NewWifey(tm) won't touch the stuff.

"BLECCCHHHH!! What are you, CRAZY? Drink RAW EGGS??" is her standard demure response to any suggestion I make regarding her trying just the smallest of tastes.

She is a very happy member of that aforementioned herd, thankyouverrymuch, and glares at me over her cardboard carton o' goo on those occasions when I have the temerity to actually try broadening her culinary horzons with homemade nog.

This was one of those occasions.

Last night I got out the mixing bowls, the mixers, the eggs, the other nog-gredients, and set to work. Making eggnog isn't hard, but it isn't haphazard either.

The whole time NewWifey(tm) just sat across the kitchen island downing her pre-made swill and sneered at me. But I soldiered on.

Now then, if you have never had the pleasure of trying eggnog not squeezed out by a machine somewhere in Pittsburgh, there are a few things you should know.

First of all, there are two types of homemade eggnog: cooked, and uncooked.

The cooked version is for cowards who fear death by raw egg poisoning. Philistines! The slight edge in security your innards gain is not worth the massive reduction in flavor quality that heat imparts. Scoff derisively at anyone who suggests otherwise.

The RAW version is where it's at, eggnog-wise. The texture, although decidedly lighter than its rather dense, snot-smooth ultra-pasteurized bastard brother, is silken smooth. The French term "mousse" really describes the texture best. Although it looks and pours about as thick as store bought, because an airy sweetened merengue is folded in at the end there are zillions of microscopic trapped bubbles in the drink that give the sensation of airiness on the tongue. Admittedly, some people I've given this to who have never had anything BUT ultra-pasteurized haven't liked that unexpectedly light texture. They want the tongue-coating layer left after even a tablespoon of the store stuff, and will accept nothing less.

I can't say I blame them. Like I said, I grew up on that gluey tipple also, and despite my disparagement I still eagerly grab for it on those years when I don't make my own.

But still, you really SHOULD make your own at least once, to see what our Injun forefathers thought was so great about it. Or something.

Anyway, here's the recipe I used last night. I made a variation I saw on a recipe site, which added saffron. Frankly, even though I used a fair ammount of good quality Spanish Coupe Grade saffron, I couldn't tell any difference. All the other flavors - particulary the booze - overwhelmed the delicate (and expensive) floral saffron notes. I recommend leaving it out, personally, but I'll include it here should anyone want to try it regardless.



Saffron Eggnog


6 ounces booze (I used 3/4 amaretto cut with 1/4 good Scotch)
1 pinch saffron
4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup runny honey
1/4 cup confectioners (or castor) sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk


Heat the brandy in the microwave for 30 seconds on high, then add the saffron and soak for at least 20 minutes. (Or use the stove, like I did.)

Whisk the egg yolks and honey until thick and pale yellow in color with an electric beater for 5 minutes, then set aside.

Clean the beater, then separately whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until they form stiff peaks. (I actually used a hand mixer for the yolks, and my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the whites. That way there is no danger of getting yolk mixed in with the whites, which would stop them from rising.)

Rain the sugar into the whites, beating constantly and continue beating for 5 more minutes.

Pour the cream and milk into the brandy, then pour cream mix over the yolks stirring constantly until combined.

Fold in the whites with a metal spoon until incorporated, then pour into serving glasses and serve.


A few important notes:

1. Do not skimp on the ammount of time that you beat eather the yolks or the whites of eggs. It is crucial that you go AT LEAST 5 minutes during those steps.

2. When you fold the mixtures together, keep folding until you get a homogonized whole. Some people may like lumps of merengue floating around their drink, but it tends to put more people off. I know this sounds odd, but you need to be both gentle and aggressive when you do this. Slice the spoon down, under, and up fairly swiftly, spinning the bowl a bit between each slice. Every once in a while swirl in a circular motion. You'll find this makes a nice blend in less time than you'd think - maybe about 2 minutes, tops.

3. I like to let the whole thing chill in the fridge for some time before service. If you do that, be aware that it can seperate. If so, just gently re-mix, stirring up from the bottom.

4. If you want *just* eggnog flavor, omit the booze altogether. I often do this myself, since I like the unadulturated taste so much. Just put a small selection of brandies and liquors on the side of the service tureen.

Whatever you make, I hope you all have a very Happy New Year, and a wonderful cookie and nog filled '06!




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