Back during my days at Gourmet magazine, my many duties included teaching cooking classes. I used to tell my students — especially the cooking-impaired ones — that if they made sure to greet dinner-party guests with a special homemade drink, they would always win, no matter what else happened that evening.
The holiday season boasts any number of festive libations. My favorite is eggnog. After all, if you’re trying to crystallize holiday excess in liquid form, how better to do it than to combine sweet cream with strong rum or brandy?
But what if — just this once — you don’t want to overdo it? How do you cut down the fat and calories in eggnog without losing the drink’s signature richness? My daughter Ruthie suggested losing the nonfat milk in favor of 2 percent milk, which is still much lighter than cream. That did the trick. Then I added Chai spices, which contributed their own luxurious and exotic notes that work very nicely with the more traditional nutmeg.
Start to finish: 2 hours 35 minutes (20 minutes active)
2 cups 2 percent milk, divided
3½-inch stick cinnamon, smashed using the side of a knife
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
10 whole cloves
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
½ teaspoon ground ginger
4 cardamom pods, crushed (or ½ teaspoon ground cardamom)
2 large eggs