Oeufs à la Neige
This light and fluffy dessert is called "eggs on snow," a French concoction wherein poached egg-shaped meringues float serenely upon a pool of classic crème anglaise. Here, we use a cooked or Swiss meringue, which differs from Italian meringue in two significant ways: 1. The sugar is mixed with the egg whites before whipping. 2. The mixture is gently cooked to 140°F, allowing it to take advantage of two scientific facts. One, hot water can hold more sugar in solution than cold, and two, egg whites containing dissolved sugar can be whipped into firmer, more finely texture foams. This recipe first appeared in Season 14 of Good Eats.
ACTIVE TIME: 1 hour 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
For the Meringue
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature (reserve the yolks)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 4 ounces egg yolks (about 8 large)
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1/3 cup chopped pistachios, for serving (optional)
Make the meringue: Heat 1 inch of water in a 4-quart saucepan, covered, over high heat until it simmers, about 8 minutes. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer.
Combine the sugar and whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and set over the simmering water. Whisk continually until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture lightens in color, doubles in volume, and reaches 140°F, 3 to 4 minutes.
Place the bowl on the stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whisk on high until stiff peaks form and the meringue has cooled slightly, about 7 minutes. Set aside.
Make the crème anglaise: Place the milk, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the vanilla bean pod and seeds in a 2-quart saucier, cover, and set over high heat. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, about 5 minutes. Uncover, decrease the heat to low, and maintain a temperature of 180 to 190°F.
Use a 1 1/2-ounce disher to scoop the egg mixture, 4 rounds at a time, into the milk, and poach for 3 minutes. Gently flip with a slotted spoon and cook until firm to the touch, another 3 minutes. Remove to a tea towel-lined half sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture, maintaining the temperature of the milk to make sure it does not boil. Hold the meringues at room temperature until ready to serve, or store in an airtight container overnight. Decrease the heat to low and keep the milk warm in the pan.
Whisk together the egg yolks, salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium mixing bowl until well combined and slightly lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Slowly add half of the milk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan over low heat, and stir frequently with a spatula or wooden spoon until the sauce has thickened slightly and coats the back of the spatula or spoon, 8 to 9 minutes. You should be able to draw a line on the back of the utensil with your finger.
Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl set over an ice water bath and stir until chilled. (The sauce can be made a day ahead and stored, covered in the refrigerator.)
To serve: Spoon a small amount of sauce into the center of a shallow bowl and top with 2 oeufs. Sprinkle on pistachios, if desired.