Oeufs a la Neige
For the Simple Meringue: With a balloon whisk, beat the egg whites until soft peak. Add the sugar. Continue beating until the egg whites are glossy. The meringue should form long peaks when the whisk is lifted. Fold in the vanilla With two tablespoons, shape ovals of meringue and drop them into a large pan of simmering water. Poach them until firm, 2 to 3 minutes, turning them once. Drain them on paper towels.
For the Creme Anglaise: Whisk egg yolks and sugar until ribboned. The mixture should be thick, smooth and homogenous.
Pour the milk into a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and place it over medium-high heat. Use a sharp knife to slice the vanilla bean in half lengthtwise. Separate the seeds from the skin by scraping the blade of the knife along the inside of the bean. Add the seeds and the skin to the mixture and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk mixture by carefully pouring about one third of the milk into the egg mixture. Whisk immediate to keep the eggs from scrambling. Pour the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan, place over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula. The liquid will begin to thicken. When it reaches 182 degrees and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it is finished and should be removed from the heat.
If you do not have a thermometer, you can tell that the creme anglaise is ready by using the following method: In one quick motion, dip the spatula into the creme anglaise and hold it horizontally in front of you. With the tip of your finger, wipe a clean line down the center of the spatula. If the trail keeps its shape, the creme anglaise is ready. If the trail fills with liquid, cook it for another minute and repeat the test. The objective is to remove the creme anglaise from the heat just before it boils.
If the creme anglaise boils, the egg yolks will scramble. If this happens, you can still use the mixture as an ice cream base if you strain it. You will not be able to use it as a sauce, because once the eggs are scrambled, they lose their ability to hold a sauce together.
Strain the creme anglaise through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve into the bowl placed in the ice bath, to remove the vanilla bean and any cooked egg. Stir occasionally to allow the creme anglaise to cool evenly. Once it has cooled completely, pour it into a clean container. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the creme anglaise to prevent a skin from forming and store in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Pour the custard into a shallow bowl and pile the meringue "eggs" in the center.
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