Known throughout French bistros as oeufs à la neige because they look like eggs of snow resting on a lake of golden custard. The cleverness, however, is in the kitchen, as the egg yolks that are not used in the mousse are used in the custard, in one of those great, lasting examples of good housewifery.
Bring the milk to the boil in a shallow pan, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Beat egg whites and salt until firm and peaky, then beat in sugar and vanilla extract until mixture is glossy and firm.
Use a large spoon to shape a ‘football’ of meringue and slip it onto the milk. Poach four meringues at a time for two minutes, then turn to poach the other side for another one or two minutes. Remove meringues with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Cook remaining meringues, then strain the milk into a saucepan.
Whisk or beat egg yolks and sugar together for a few minutes until the mixture forms ribbons that fall from the whisk. Pour milk gradually into the egg mixture, whisking slowly until combined. Return to saucepan and cook very gently, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 10 to 15 minutes, until custard thickens. Strain into a bowl and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Divide custard among four shallow pasta bowls and top each with a meringue.
Melt sugar for caramel in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover, stirring until it bubbles. Stop stirring, and watch carefully as water evaporates and caramel turns golden. Use the prongs of a fork to drizzle the caramel carefully over each meringue.
© 1998 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.