Eggnog nostalgia and a holiday recipe to remember
December marks my 14th anniversary with Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. Before jumping into Asian cuisine with Chinese food pioneer Bruce Cost, I spent five years as executive chef of foodlife in Chicago's Water Tower. It was - and still is - a monster of a restaurant to run with 13 kitchens, a market (now foodease), and an espresso bar. No visit to Michigan Avenue would be complete without a stroll through foodlife. Its fun, a great value, and serves just about every cravable food (even a few signature Big Bowl dishes).
The first chef I worked with at LEYE was Michael Cech. Michael was wildly creative, had a great spirit, and deeply cared for the people who worked with him. Unfortunately, Michael died young several years ago very suddenly. One of his favorite traditions during the holidays was making his famous eggnog -incredibly rich and delicious (with or without bourbon).
As a toast to an old friend, I'd like to share with you this holiday season a version of his eggnog made with Rustic Road Farm eggs.*
Michael Cech's Eggnog
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar, divided use
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 eggs, separated
1 cup bourbon or rum
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
Nutmeg, freshly grated
Put milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar and salt into a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan, then add pod. Heat over medium heat stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Whisk egg yolks in a mixing bowl until pale yellow. Slowly whisk 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into yolks. Gradually add egg–milk mixture back into milk mixture in saucepan and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Strain into a large bowl and set aside to let cool. Add bourbon or rum, cover, and refrigerate eggnog until cold.
Whisk egg whites in a mixing bowl with remaining remaining sugar over simmering water (or double boiler) until hot. Remove and whip until stiff but not dry peaks form. In another bowl, whisk cream until stiff but not dry peaks form. Fold whites and cream into eggnog. Pour into cups and sprinkle with nutmeg or refrigerate but serve within a few days.
*Anyone interested in farm eggs from Rustic Road farm, please email info@RusticRoadFarm.com. Eggs can be picked up at designated Chicago area Big Bowl locations.