“He that but looketh on a plate of ham and eggs to lust after it hath already committed breakfast with it in his heart.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Snow (Eggs) in Spring

It's still snowing where I am. (No, Mr. and Mrs. Claus are not my neighbors.) I'm just here in front of my computer, looking at pictures of Oeufs a la Neige. That literally translates to Eggs in Snow. It is a French dessert that consists of a meringue (whipped egg whites) floating in a little pool of vanilla custard - hence its other name, "Floating Island." Between you and me, unless you add a little palm tree when you plate it, I think it actually looks more like a floating iceberg than a tropical paradise. Here, have a look:

And if you're the type who likes doing things in a BIG way, there's this:

How to make the dish? I can tell you, but only through vicarious experience (read: I've never tried making it, but I've read a whole lotta recipes, that's for sure.) None of these recipes, however, are alike.  They don't even agree on what to do with the egg whites - which is what the snow (or the island) is made of. 

There are step-by-step instructions here (in French, I might add; but no problem. Google translates. Besides, every step is documented in pictures.) This recipe says I should microwave the egg whites.

Another recipe I read says I should bake the egg whites in a bain marie.

Then there are the poached versions where the egg white is poached in water or in milk.

The simplest of all the recipes calls for uncooked whites. The "raw" meringue is dropped by the spoonful onto the custard where it will float, but then there is also a disclaimer in this recipe which says "This recipe contains raw eggs. We recommend that pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and the infirm do not consume raw eggs." 

Oh well. At least there are options! 

Now the other part of the dish is called by various names: cream, custard, sauce, custard sauce. You want to call it a custard cream sauce? That works too. It's really just a light cream made of milk and egg yolks. Go back to any of those recipes I mentioned earlier, and you'll find something you can work with. Or, you can try the no-cook method in which you simply combine cream, cardamom and honey in a screw top lidded jar and shake. Unlike James Bond's martini, you can stir this too, rather than shake it. 

It's up to you what you want as a finishing touch for those Islands in the Stream, er, Cream. Fruits are always a good idea. Or nuts. Some caramel, maybe. It's your island, lord over it!  

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