Cooked Eggnog

My first thought on Christmas morning was of the children who, like me, had just woken up to the shards of light coming through the blinds. They were throwing off the sheets, wishing they could have woken earlier. They were bolting downstairs to check that the Oreos they'd left out as Santa bait were eaten and to discover the treasures that were waiting for them under the tree.
In truth, by the time I was waking up, the children were probably tiring themselves out on their new toys while the adults, in matching pajamas and slipper-socks, were drinking gingerbread-flavored coffee, heaps of wrapping paper drifting by like tumbleweeds. Pulling the earplugs out of my ears, pushing the eyemask off my face, and regretting the last night's champagne, I had to scold myself for fantasizing about someone else's fantasy. Even in Palm Springs, where the landscape of swimming pools and Saguaro cacti should vaporize those visions of dancing sugarplums, a momentary longing for "Christmas" managed to sneak in. It seems ridiculous to spend so much time pondering what an experience is like in another person's skin, but I guess I'm curious why I can't feel like I love gingerbread men and candy canes without feeling like I'm faking something. Partaking in the spiced and snow-flocked--and posting here--feels kind of like being in drag to me.
Eggnog is also something I really love, though after I got sick on one unfortunate Thanksgiving circa 1996, I don't risk it. These days the closest I get is Kahlua & Soymilk (doesn't quite have the same ring, does it?), but my brother, armed with a steelier stomach, waits all year for eggnog. Apparently, he is not plagued by the same mixed feelings about Christmas treats. Turned off by all the junk in the supermarket kind of eggnog, I decided to do it homemade for him this year ( if you're going to do it, might as well do it right!). Not that eggnog is ever healthy for you, but at least this way, the boozy custard is additive-free. Most recipes out there are use raw eggs, but I went safe and did a cooked version I adapted from Alton Brown.

Cooked Eggnog

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 2C milk
  • 1/4 C bourbon, spiced rum, brandy, whatever (or leave it out, if you don't drink. You could add a little rum flavoring, if you like)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

With an electric mixer, beat yolks until they lighten. Slowly add in the sugar and beat until dissolved. Set aside.

Combine the milk and cream in a heavy pot and bring barely to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Slowly add a small amount of the hot liquid to the egg mixture, stirring briskly. Continue adding the hot liquid to the eggs in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Return it all to the pot and heat until the mixture reaches 160 °F. Remove from heat, stir in the nutmeg, vanilla and bourbon. Chill completely in the fridge. Top with whipped cream or meringue, if desired.

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