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Joni Woolf: Looking back, looking ahead

In October, this column featured a recipe for Smothered Rabbit that is featured in one of the more recent cookbooks we’ve found.  Written by Jennifer Hill Booker, the cookbook is “Field Peas to Foie Gras,” and we promised that, closer to New Year’s, we would give readers her eggnog recipe. Well, the old year is quickly going the way of all years, and the new one is on the horizon. So, in the spirit of the holidays, and with or without the “spirits,” here is one of the more decadent recipes for eggnog that I have come across.

PAPA’S HOLIDAY EGGNOG
12 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup bourbon
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup dark rum
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 cups milk
2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is firm and the color of butter. Slowly beat in the bourbon, brandy and rum, 1/2 cup at a time. Once all the alcohol has been added, refrigerate the mixture for at least 4 hours. Thirty minutes before serving the eggnog, beat the cream in a bowl until it forms stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir the milk into the chilled egg yolk and alcohol mixture. Stir in the ground nutmeg and gently fold in the egg white mixture. Lastly, gently fold in the cream.
Ladle the holiday eggnog into cups and garnish each cup with a sprinkle of cinnamon. The cookbook author notes that this recipe is “delicious with or without the alcohol, but adding it does make for a festive atmosphere.” Made with or without the spirits, eggnog is one of those food items we enjoy only once or twice a year. So make a batch, and enjoy.
Often we are so busy during the holidays that we rush through without pausing to appreciate small things. Yesterday I decided I wanted to do a “small thing” — I wanted to offer my family a salad similar to the one my daughter-in-law had prepared Thanksgiving, and that was quickly gobbled up by the hungry crowd. It featured candied nuts atop artisan mixed greens and pears, so I went searching for the ingredients. I found lovely mixed greens, and pears perfectly ripened. But no candied nuts. So, I decided I would make some, a feat I had never tried. I went through many cookbooks and could not find a recipe. Then I went to the Internet, and found dozens, but it took a lot of searching to find one to my liking (and one for which I had all the ingredients on hand). It is easy and delicious, but I’m glad I had had experience with browning pecans in the oven before. Had I followed the recipe’s directions (bake 30 minutes), they would have burned to a crisp. I watched carefully and in about 17 minutes they were ready. Here’s the simple recipe: the nuts are a great topping for a salad, but they are also delightful to just snack on while you’re cooking that special meal.

SPICED PECANS
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
3 cups pecan halves
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a small bowl beat the egg white with the water. Stir in the pecans, mixing until well moistened. In another small bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (I added 1/2  teaspoon chili powder to give it a boost). Sprinkle over the moistened nuts and mix to be sure all nuts are coated. Spread nuts on prepared pan. Bake, stirring once or twice during baking time. Watch carefully; oven temperatures vary. But over the years I have learned that pecans cook very quickly, and 15 to 20 minutes should be quite long enough.
By the way, the salad was a hit, and we snacked on the spiced pecans before, during and after the meal. And I got a request to make a batch for a relative. So back to the store …

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net