Makes 4-5 servings. Difficulty
2 oranges 1 vanilla bean 1 cup milk 1 cup heavy cream 3/4 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon 2 eggs 2 egg yolks pinch of kosher salt
With a zester, scrape the zest off the outside of the oranges. Reserve the flesh for another use. Finely chop the zest. Combine the zest with 1 tablespoon sugar.
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine the milk, cream, vanilla bean halves, and orange zest mixture. Place the saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture reaches a boil remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1/2 cup sugar in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Let the sugar melt and caramelize, (stirring occasionally so it melts evenly). Once the sugar is a dark, golden brown, remove it from the heat and pour it into the bottom of 4-6 oz. ramekins (one at a time). Immediately turn the ramekin so that the caramel coats the base and the sides of the ramekin dish. Set the ramekins aside. (You may have enough to make 5 ramekins.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Strain the cream mixture through a sieve. Remove the vanilla bean halves and scrape the center of the beans of the flavorful seeds. Place the vanilla seeds into the cream mixture. Mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, pinch of salt and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Add the egg mixture to the cream mixture and whisk until completely mixed. Pour this custard mixture into the ramekins.
Place the ramekins in a baking pan large enough to hold them snuggly. Carefully pour the boiling water in the baking pan until it reaches 1/2 way up the sides of the ramekins. Place the baking pan in the center of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the custard is just set. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
To serve, run a knife around the edge of each ramekin, invert the ramekin onto a dessert plate and tap the bottom to release the custard. The custard will come out and the caramel will have become a wonderful sauce for your custard. Garnish with orange slices.