A nod to the nog

I have always had a time-sensitive relationship with eggnog. Beginning the week after Thanksgiving, I can gulp it down like water. Around December 15th, I begin diluting it with skim milk, the percentage of milk increasing the closer I get to Christmas. By January, I can’t look the carton in the eye.

Yesterday morning, I had one gallon of eggnog in my fridge.

First, I tried to make eggnog creme caramels. I’d purchased what today’s New York Times calls a “greenwashed” product, meaning its packaging indicated a healthier, more planet-friendly item. I read the ingredient list and, satisfied with my pronunciation of all the contents and happy to see “eggs” near the top of the list, I decided to start experimenting.

First, I coated ramekins in caramel, which is the typical first step for creme caramels. When you invert the ramekins to let the excess caramel drain out, it sometimes looks pretty:

Caramel Designs

Then, in a fit of boldness, I wondered whether simply pouring the eggnog directly into the ramekins, then baking them, covered with foil and immersed in a water bath as for creme caramel, would yeild delicious results. The eggs, sugar, and vanilla are already there, right? Wrong. One hour later, I had eight very hot ramekins with very hot but still very liquid eggnog inside.

So, either the egg content in storebought eggnog isn’t high enough to firm up when cooked, or the same additives which prevent eggnog from getting clumpy in the carton prevent it from gelling in the oven. Or maybe it was the carrageenan (wikipedia: a family of linear sulphated polysaccarides extracted from seaweed, often used to increase viscosity in desserts and milk products).

In any case, the only reason I’d make eggnog creme caramels in the future would be because all you had to do was pour in the eggnog; this isn’t the case, so I’m done with them. Good riddance.

I still had a lot of eggnog left, and at 190 calories per 1/2 cup, I didn’t want to get back into drinking it by the pint.

So I made panna cotta, which is Italian for jell-o. Okay, so it’s not that simple–panna cotta is Italian for cooked cream, and it’s technically an eggless custard, usually an ethereally light number that tricks one into believing a cream-based dessert isn’t really all that bad for you.

My eggnog panna cotta really IS simple–as long as you don’t panic about the gelatin. You stir the gelatin with cold water, heat it up until it liquefies, and mix it with warmed eggnog straight from the carton. Pour it into ramekins, and you have an elegant, sikly dessert that will slow your eggnog intake. It’s delicious.

Eggnog Panna Cotta

Recipe for Eggnog Panna Cotta

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