As I watched Rocco's Dinner Party's Season One finale episode celebrating Lizza Minelli's birthday, one of my favorite desserts came to play again. Frank Piccone served his signature dessert, Ile Flottante to the table... and he scores... and he wins! Sorry, I had to. Anyone who brings back my childhood memories has to get the special greeting.
The last time I had ordered Ile Flottante was at La Cachette Bistro where Jean-Francois Meteigner serves a gigantic portion of cloudy meringue bathed in a pool of vanilla sauce and crowned with spun caramel and pistachios. I could not taste Frank's version of it, but decided to make my own at home.
This recipe is a fabulous one to have in your secret arsenal for entertaining. Not only are all the ingredients made ahead of time, but they are easy to assemble and serve with minimum time in the kitchen away from your guests. I was thinking what a grand finale it would make to a New Year's Eve party. Well, obviously I could not wait this long, so here it is.
Yield Servings: 12-16
- 18 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup + plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups half-and-half
- 12 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup + 1/3 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit with rack in center. Fill a large roasting pan halfway with water and transfer to oven.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, slowly whisk whites and salt until slightly foamy. Add cream of tartar, and gradually increase the speed to high. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until meringue is stiff; lower speed and add vanilla, whisking until combined.
3. Spray a nonstick angel-food cake pan without a removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray. Using a rubber spatula transfer meringue to the pan, firmly press down on meringue to remove any air pockets, and to smooth the surface.
4. Gently place the pan into preheated water bath. Bake until lightly golden and puffed, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool until meringue deflates back to the height of the pan. Invert into a shallow serving bowl wide enough to hold the sauce, and chill until ready to serve.
1. In a medium saucepan, heat cream over medium heat until just beginning to steam, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together yolks and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. While whisking constantly, slowly add 1/4 of the heated cream to yolk mixture, being careful not to cook the yolks.
2. When thoroughly combined, slowly add remaining cream. Transfer yolk mixture back into same saucepan, and set over low heat, stirring and scraping down the sides of the pan with a small heatproof spatula until thickened. Strain crème anglaise through a fine sieve into a bowl and stir in vanilla. Chill until ready to serve.
1. Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Do not stir or allow to boil until sugar is completely dissolved; gently swirl or tilt saucepan to help dissolve. Bring syrup to a boil by increasing to high heat; cook, covered, for 2 minutes. Uncover, and continue to boil untouched until caramel begins to darken; swirl until syrup becomes a dark amber color. Remove from heat, and immediately add 1/3 cup water, being careful to stand back. Swirl until smooth and let cool; chill until ready to serve.
2. When ready to serve, pour enough crème anglaise to the serving bowl to surround the meringue. Drizzle meringue with caramel syrup; serve immediately.