zondag 15 februari 2009

Culinary Adventure: Eggnog and its cousins

Time Out Amsterdam, december 2008

Suspicious looking yellow-toned drinks are everywhere this time of year. Our culinary adventurer, Klary Koopmans, sorts out one nog from the next

Eggs and booze would seem an unlikely combination, but throughout history people have been brave enough to combine the two, though the results often look dubious. Egg-thickened alcoholic drinks can be found all over the world - from Puerto Rican coquito, Mexican rompope and German Eierpunsch to Dutch advocaat, American eggnog and British posset... all these thick, creamy and sweet (but quite potent) concontions seem to cross the line between dessert and cocktail.

One story tells us how Dutch and Portuguese colonists in Latin America encountered a drink made with avocado in the 17th century. They added sugar and alcohol to it. But when they got back to Europe and tried to replicate the recipe, they had to substitute eggs for the avocado - hence the Dutch name for egg liqueur: advocaat. This drink then travelled back to the US and became one of the great American Christmas traditions: eggnog.

For this month´s culinary adventure we tried various versions of these eggy, boozy drinks. We wondered: is home made better than shop bought? And how different is American eggnog from Dutch advocaat?

My eggnog recipe came from an American friend, who has been making this same nog by the gallon for decades. The advocaat recipe was provided by Time Out Amsterdam´s Food & Drink editor, Karin Engelbrecht, and I was excited to try it as it was different from my family recipe (more eggs, less alcohol). Finally, the kandeel (a spiced version of advocaat made with wine instead of brandy, traditionally served to postpartum women and the guests who come to see the newborn baby) recipe was an amalgamation of various Internet instructions. I got all my supplies at liquor store Ton Overmars (Hoofddoprplein 11) where the staff helped me to choose the right bourbon, rum, advocaat and brandewijn (Dutch brandy) for my adventure.

My American friend told me to whip up the nog right before tasting, but the advocaat and kandeel had to be prepared in advance. Thanks to my busy schedule, this meant that I was stirring up (and tasting!) a batch of boozy custard before breakfast.

The biggest difference between eggnog and its Dutch cousins is that the advocaat and kandeel are cooked, whereas the eggnog gets its creaminess from whipped egg whites, milk, and cream. Another difference is the ratio of eggs to spirits: the almost unpourable advocaat had 10 yolks to 1,5 cup of brandy, the nog had 6 eggs to over a pint of bourbon, and the kandeel had a bottle of whine thickened with only 5 yolks. Consequently, eggnog and kandeel are thin enough to drink, while advocaat is really only suitable for eating with a spoon.

The half-dozen lucky testers at the Time Out Amsterdam offices (an excuse for a pre-holiday party for the staff) had different home made and shop-bought versions to try: from pale yellow, foamy eggnog to the thick, almost fluorescently yellow factory-made advocaat.

As a European I grew up with advocaat, which was considered the ´women´s drink´(served in small glasses and topped with whipped cream) at family gatherings at my grandparents´ house, while the men sipped their jenever. The little spoonfuls my grandmother gave me to try may have looked just like vanilla custard, but the effect was very different - it made me feel all warm and tingly inside.

I had never made or tasted a true eggnog. Fortunately, the Americans present pronounced it to be a ´pretty good one´. I loved this frothy sweet drink, with spicy nutmeg sprinkled liberally on top. But my favorite of this tasting was the home made advocaat. A beautiful golden yellow and with a nice kick from the alcohol, it´s the drink to try this Christmas: maybe alongside your bowl of eggnog, or for dessert with ice cream. But however you plan to serve it, don´t make it first thing in the morning - unless you like brandied eggs for breakfast.

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