"Eggnog is the culinary equivalent of Bad Santa: As far as Christmas fare, you either love it or hate it. But unlike anything concerning Billy Bob Thornton, for its lovers, when eggnog is good, it’s very, very good.
Instructor Matthew Mejia of The Chef’s Academy in Indianapolis provides some context for the libation. “It has quite a lot of history and a lot of variations,” he says. “Looks like it comes from England, but it’s popular in Australia and the U.S.
“Personally, I like it with rum and nutmeg. I like mine warm. I keep it at a low temperature on the stove, then put the rum in the glass and then the eggnog — that way I don’t put the alcohol in the mixture while it’s on the heat, because it’ll evaporate out.”
Eggnog applications are as fluid as the liquid itself: Popular recipes include brandy, rum or whiskey; the International Bartenders Association has an official drink made with eggnog and brandy, milk, a gum syrup and sugar.
Other recipes include pastries and desserts, but few savories. Mejia suggests an herbed soufflé sans sugar for anyone who wants to try. He doesn’t have a recipe; it’s just an idea for anyone who wants to play in the kitchen.
For everyone else, here is what your more experienced counterparts will be cooking up around the city. These creations should be available now through the holidays.
Peterson’s: eggnog chocolates and gelato
Many local chefs incorporate ’nog from Traders Point Creamery in their holiday creations to support the local venture. “They’ve got all their own organic product,” Chef Carl Benko says. “If we can make it a lot better than anyone else, we will; but if it’s a great product like Traders Point, we support our local businesses.”
Benko highlights eggnog’s creaminess in his recipes. He toyed with the idea of an eggnog float before deciding on creamy eggnog centers for the restaurant’s signature after dinner chocolates, and a very festive eggnog gelato, with “beautiful” undertones of cinnamon and rich vanilla.
L’explorateur: Saturne eggnog
Chef Neal Brown’s heavenly eggnog concoction defies the ol’ standbys and opts for Sauterne, the pricey French dessert wine instead. You can also use ice wine. See recipe.
The Oceanaire: eggnog crème brulee
Tables are filled quickly at The Oceanaire and it takes a tight, busy kitchen to keep pace. Still, Chef Ryan Nelson and crew wouldn’t let the season slip by without incorporating the staple in patrons diets.
Elements: eggnog panna cotta
It’s actually eggnog panna cotta with rum whipped cream and ginger snap butter cookies. There’s a little bit of Christmas in every bite of this dessert. “It’s gonna be nutmeg flavored,” Chef Greg Hardesty says. “We tried to get in all the textures: panna cotta, smooth and creamy; the airiness from the whipped cream; the crunch from the cookie.”
Shopping in Broad Ripple? Monon Coffee Company in Broad Ripple offers eggnog lattes in traditional, vegan, low fat and pumpkin varieties. Coming back from downtown? Goose The Market’s selection of fresh ice cream includes, of course, a rich ode to eggnog.
There are probably other eggnog offerings around the city, but these are some of the most ambitious. Wherever you find it, happy slurping.
Chefs share a bit of intellectual property for the holidays.
L’explorateur Sauterne eggnog
12 eggs, separated
6 cups milk
2 cups heavy/whipped cream
2 cups Sauterne or ice wine
1.5 cups sugar
1. In a large bowl and using a mixer, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar for approx 10 minutes (you want the mixture to be firm and the color of butter).
2. Very slowly, add in the Sauterne — just a little at a time. Allow the mixture to cool in the fridge.
3. Thirty minutes before your guests arrive, stir the milk into the chilled yolk mixture.
4. Stir in 1.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the cream with a mixer on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks.
6. In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
7. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
8. Gently fold the cream into the egg mixture.