Oeufs à La Verbenia
3 1/4 cups milk
Zest of 1 lemon, cut in long strips; Yellow part only, no pith
4 extra-large eggs, separated
1 cup Sugar - Divided
1 TB cornstarch
8 Lemon Verbena Leaves
Caramel (if desired) or
Spices (If desired)
In a deep skillet, or sauté pan, set over medium-low heat, bring 3 cups of the milk to a simmer with lemon Zest and Verbena leaves.
Remove from the heat, once simmer is achieved, cover and let steep for 5 minutes.
While Milk is steeping, whip the egg whites to soft peaks with Cream of Tarter till soft peaks.
Slowly add 1/2 cup of the sugar in a thin stream while continuing to whip till stiff pearlescent peaks are formed.
Strain the milk through a sieve or cheese cloth and return to the skillet.
Begin reheating the milk over low heat until steam begins to rise from the surface.
Drop meringue in by rounded tablespoons. (This is a French technique of using two spoons and rolling the contents between the two over and over until the desired smooth ovoid shape is created, somewhat resembling an egg.
After each meringue is dropped into the milk, dip the spoons in warm water… (This keeps the meringues from sticking while you are rolling them between the spoons and creates a smoother surface)
Poach each meringue about 2 minutes, then turn and poach for 2 minutes more.
Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a plate that has been moistened with water. (This will keep them from sticking to the plate)
When all meringues have been poached, strain the milk into a medium heavy saucepan and mix with ¼ cup of the remaining sugar.
Create a slurry with the remaining 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch, blend into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar until pale.
Whisk in a little of the hot milk to condition the yolks, then stir yolks back into pan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat 2 to 3 minutes or until the crème anglaise coats the back of a spoon.
Ladle the hot custard sauce into individual shallow bowls to cool for 10 minutes, and then float the 2 meringues on top.
Serve warm or well chilled
Sprinkle with spices, or drizzle with caramel right before serving
Pairs Well With
This dessert of poached meringue in crème anglaise has many names such as Snow Eggs ( oeufs à la neige ) or Floating Islands ( île flottante ) and every country has it's own take on this delectable dessert.
Now I have to admit that my recipe for the crème anglaise is not in the classic model, being milk/cream, sugar and egg yolk. I have found that 4 extra large egg yolks is not enough to thicken 3 1/4 cups milk sufficiently, and adding more yolk would mean more left over whites which means extra meringues and the extra couple of yolks do not increase the volume of crème anglaise significantly, leaving me with not enough anglaise for the amount of meringues I have poached… Ergo... As much as I hate cornstarch, just adding 1TB gives the proper consistency. I usually gripe and complain about cornstarch since I am sensitive to its flavor, thus I habitually use arrowroot instead, however, arrowroot tends to become slimy when exposed to dairy products so there is just no way around it, unless you have Clearjel© or Tapioca Flour…
(There’s a great idea for a Halloween Party though… Use 3 TB arrowroot powder and green food coloring to create a plate of slime and paint the meringues with food color to resemble eye balls)
But I digress.
You may dust the meringues with any of the following:
Ground coriander, Cinnamon, Mace, Cardamom, Nutmeg, powdered Rose Hips, or more fine lemon zest.
You may also make a quick caramel (1/2 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water; cook until amber) and drizzle over the meringues – This is my preferred method as I love lemon and caramel together. Just don;t over do it with the caramel or spices, you will over power the perfume of the verbena leaves.