[Photograph: Vicky Wasik] 2017 was a banner year for new expressions in all liquor (and liqueur) categories. Distillers and blenders have been experimenting with oak finishes, herbal infusions, unusual spirit bases, flavor profiles, and even with color. And each new expression changes how you approach…
Month: December 2017
[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] This week we’ve got a special holiday episode of Ask Special Sauce. With Kenji and Stella serving as my co-pilots from the comforts of their own homes, we endeavored to answer some of the questions Serious Eaters and Special Sauce devotees have…
I’m not a festive person, but I love the holidays for the simple fact that I can shamelessly drink mugfuls of what’s essentially the equivalent of melted ice cream. I’m talking, of course, about eggnog. The best eggnog is creamy and frothy, and should give you a swift kick in the pants from a generous splash of booze.
Around the holidays, the dairy aisle in your local supermarket is probably locked and loaded with a whole array of premixed eggnogs, from dairy-free almond-milk-based concoctions to pumpkin-spiced potions. But most store-bought versions can’t hold a candle to the stuff you can make at home. Luckily, homemade eggnog is only five ingredients away, and the simple base can be customized any way you choose.
Here are two methods for making your own delicious version of this holiday classic.
Rich and Frothy Eggnog
If you want to make a large batch of eggnog that has a foamy head and lighter mouthfeel, then reach for your
I start by separating the eggs and placing the whites in the bowl of my mixer. (You can also do this by hand with a whisk, a bowl, and some elbow grease—it will take longer, but there will be eggnog to quench your thirst after you’ve worked up a sweat.) I whisk the whites until they’re frothy before slowly adding sugar, continuing to whip them until they’re thick enough to form soft peaks. Then, I transfer the meringue to another bowl and set aside.
Next, I place the egg yolks in the original bowl, along with additional sugar, and beat the yolks until they’re thick and pale before pouring in the milk, cream, and alcohol. Rum or brandy is a traditional addition to eggnog, but whiskey also works, and a splash of allspice dram adds some spicy bite. A few dashes of Angostura bitters can help balance the sweetness of the sugar and heat of the alcohol.
Once everything is whisked together, I gently fold in the whipped egg whites to lighten up the mix. You can serve the eggnog right away, or age it in the refrigerator for months; as it ages, new and complex flavors will develop, which some people find especially delicious. (Kenji taste-tested eggnog that had been aged for one year to see if it was all it was cracked up to be—you can read all about his findings here.) If you don’t serve the eggnog right away, much of the lighter egg white foam will rise to the top over time—just be sure to give it a good shake or stir to redistribute the froth. I like to garnish each glass with freshly grated nutmeg just before serving.
If you’re worried about consuming raw eggs, research has shown that as long as the eggnog contains at least 20% alcohol, the mix will become sterile after 24 hours. But if you’d rather avoid any risk, or if you prefer to leave your eggnog un-spiked, you can also either use pasteurized eggs or cook the egg and sugar mixture over a water bath.
To do this, combine the whole eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and warm them over gently simmering water, stirring constantly with a flexible rubber spatula. Once the mixture reaches 155°F (68°C), return the bowl to the stand mixer, and whip until it’s thick and fluffy before adding the milk, cream, and alcohol. Cooking the eggs denatures their proteins, allowing them to whip readily without being separated, so this method is just as quick and easy as making a raw eggnog. The texture will be every bit as light, but the nog will have more of the deep flavors of a custard.
Smooth and Creamy Eggnog
If you don’t care much for fluff, or need a drink for one (don’t worry, we’ve all been there), this cocktail-shaker method is an easy way to make single-serving batches of velvety eggnog.
In a cocktail shaker, I combine two eggs with milk, cream, sugar, and alcohol before giving it all a dry shake. A dry shake is the process of shaking a drink without ice; most cocktails containing egg or cream get a dry shake before they’re shaken with ice (or sometimes after, depending on the bartender) to ensure that all the ingredients are thoroughly emulsified. After giving it a good shake, you can strain and serve right away, or shake it again with ice if you prefer your eggnog extra chilled.
If you want to break from tradition, we’ve got enough variations on the drink—including coconut eggnog, Nutella eggnog, and maple bourbon eggnog—to keep you tipsy through all 12 days of Christmas. All that cream and sugar might put some winter weight on you, but don’t worry—that’s what ugly holiday sweaters are for.
[Photographs: Vicky Wasik, J. Kenji López-Alt] If your extended family only gets together for dinner a couple times a year, you should make each meal count with a show-stopping centerpiece. This holiday season cooks across the country are going to be making elegant roasts, and…
We all know some particularly meat-crazy folks for whom there is no greater gift in the world than a well-cooked steak or rack of barbecued ribs. Our collection of gifts for meat lovers includes a few edible items—jamón ibérico and real slow-smoked brisket from Louie Mueller in Texas, for two. But if you’re shopping for someone who loves both meat and puttering around in the kitchen, why not invest in their omnivorous future by giving them the tools with which to make their own tasty morsels? We’ve got equipment in a whole range of price points and needs, from a simple carving knife to a fancy electric smoker. Here are just a few select options—no, choice finds—no, prime present ideas! They’re all gifts of the finest grade—you’ll see.
An Immersion Circulator
So you’ve got a friend who does a lot of messing around with meat, but doesn’t yet own an immersion circulator? Pick them up an Anova. It may seem kind of fussy or just plain unnecessary, but the results speak for themselves: Though there are other reliable ways to cook a two-inch-thick steak perfectly, there certainly is no easier way.
But that’s not all a circulator can do. From the most tender brisket and superlative carnitas to excellent sausages, sous vide cooking offers up a whole lot of potential to improve your meat-eating life, with just a little know-how and guidance required. It’s useful for cooking seafood and even vegetables, too.
An Electric Smoker
An electric smoker is a piece of equipment that’s perfect for anyone who loves the heady smoke of barbecue, yet lacks the outdoor space to do it the old-fashioned way. Our friends over at AmazingRibs.com recommend Char-Broil’s WiFi-enabled digital electric smoker for a couple reasons, mainly because they find it delivers about as well as an electric smoker can on the performance end, at a relatively low price. One of the great advantages of this specific smoker is its ease of use, which makes it ideal for someone who’s just getting into smoking things like jerky and bacon.
A Meat Grinder
Grinding your meat yourself is the surest path to cooking great burgers at home, but it also opens up a wonderful world of homemade sausages, kebabs, meatloaf and meatballs and meatloaf-steaks. (Listen to me when I tell you to make that last recipe. It is insanely good. Like, I literally lost my mind when I ate it.) This grinder does a fine job of grinding meat, sure, but if you’ve ever used an old-school meat grinder, then you’ll know that its true defining feature is the suction-cup base (solid as a rock!). For those lucky people out there with a KitchenAid stand mixer, we recommend getting them the food grinder attachment, though, really, the manual one is considered a tad better ’round these parts.
A Carving Knife
A nice knife is a welcome gift for any cook, and that’s as true of a carving knife as it is of a paring knife, a chef’s knife, or a Japanese boning knife. After assessing all the carving knives on the market, we found our favorite to be this Wüsthof. If we’d been around back in the day, this West Wing bit with Charlie and President Bartlet would’ve been a whole lot shorter.
An Attractive Carving Board
You can’t carve a roast without a knife, but you also can’t carve a roast without a carving board—practically speaking, anyway. At the very least, a pretty board adds to the celebratory ambience of serving up a big ol’ hunk of meat to your guests. A key feature of this board, aside from its ample size, is that it’s made out of relatively lightweight teak, which means it’s perfect for displaying your prime rib or crown roast to the adoring and hungry hordes before slicing.
Books, Books, Books
Just ’cause they love meat doesn’t make them a meathead. Or does it? The answer has been greatly complicated by the existence of Meathead Goldwyn’s eponymous book, Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, which is, for lack of a better description, the only book you’ll ever need to gain a firm grasp on the whys and wherefores of cooking meat over fire. It’s kind of like The Food Lab for live-fire cooking. Speaking of, any meat aficionado who doesn’t already own The Food Lab could use it, too, since Kenji’s book goes into plenty of depth on techniques for cooking steaks, chicken, chops, and more.
For the more adventuresome meat-eater looking for a change of cooking pace, might I suggest Fergus Henderson’s The Complete Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking? The recipes are as good as they are (sometimes) outré, but keep in mind that we all used to eat a lot more of the off parts of animals—the tails, the ears, and the snouts—and that, while there’s more than one way to cook a liver and several ways to cook kidneys, there really is only one way to eat a duck heart, and that’s fried in butter with a little vinegar and set on a nice bit of toast.
Finally, for the true meat fanatic who wants to know everything about how to get the best of their favorite food and feel good about it, we recommend Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat. There’s very little about meat of any kind that is not contained within its covers.
But Wait, There’s More!
We’re not done. You can find plenty more gift ideas for the meat lover right this way »
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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik] The standard nine- by 13-inch baking pan is essential for every kitchen. This is the perfect vessel for bubbling casseroles, cheesy lasagnas, even for roasting meat and vegetables. Unlike many roasting dishes or sheet trays, a deep baking dish can go directly…