This old-school dinner party classic is much easier to put together than it looks, especially as much of it can be made ahead of time.
This recipe is courtesy of David Lebovitz.
Combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
Make an ice bath by nesting a medium bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water. Set a mesh strainer over the top of the medium bowl.
Heat the milk and sugar until it is steaming. Whisk some of the warmed milk mixture into the egg yolks, then scrape the warmed yolks back into the pan of milk. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom, sides, and corners of the pan, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula. Don’t let the mixture boil.
When it’s thick enough, immediately strain the custard through the mesh strainer into the chilled bowl. Stir the crème anglaise to help it cool down. Once cool, refrigerate it.
Line a baking sheet with a clean tea towel. Half fill a wide saucepan with water, and heat until it comes to a simmer.
With a stand mixer, or by hand, whisk the egg whites with the salt until they are foamy. Increase the whisking speed, and beat until the egg whites begin to hold their shape. One tablespoon at a time, add in the sugar, until the whites hold their shape when you lift up the whisk. Do not over whip the meringues.
With one large soup spoon, scoop up a generous amount of meringue — it should be heaped so high that it looks like it will fall off. With a second soup spoon, scrape the meringue off the first spoon, so that it drops into the simmering water. Drop six balls of meringue at a time into the water — don’t let the water get too crowded. Poach the meringues for 3-4 minutes. Flip each meringue, and poach for a further 3-4 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the meringues from the water, and put them on the lined baking sheet. Poach the remaining meringues.
Pour the crème anglaise into a large, wide, chilled bowl, and nestle the meringues together on top.
In a skillet, heat the sugar and water together, until it turns a medium amber color. Turn off the heat and drizzle the caramel over the meringues.