I have been carrying on a passionate love affair with caramel for years now. It is so amazing. On everything. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t improve the flavor of whatever you poured it over. Why is it that it is often the most simple desserts that wind up being the best? Whether in chewy candy form, or a decadent sauce, caramel just makes the world a little sweeter. At Halloween I always make a big batch of caramel dipped apples (which I then dip in white chocolate, and roll in cinnamon sugar, which ends up tasting sort of like apple pie), and sometimes just for fun I will melt in some caramels into my favorite brownie recipe. And really, at the end of the day, good vanilla bean ice cream with a simple caramel sauce is all it takes to put me ten steps closer to heaven. Here I made a deliciously thick, luxurious, salted vanilla caramel sauce and poured it over fresh oranges. Elegant in its simplicity. I think this makes a really lovely dinner party dessert. You can make everything two days in advance, and assemble it right at the table. It couldn’t be any easier (or more inexpensive). I start by stirring together three cups of sugar and two thirds cup of water in the bottom of a heavy bottomed sauce pan. (This makes a lot but it keeps well for weeks in the refrigerator.) I then cook that mixture over low heat for about ten minutes, or until the sugar has all dissolved. (If there are remaining sugar crystals around the side of your sauce pan as your syrup is cooking, remove them by dipping a pastry brush in water and running it along the side of the pan to dissolve the crystals. This will prevent your syrup from re-crystallizing and becoming gritty. If you find that grittiness is a recurring problem for you, you can also add a third of a cup of corn syrup to the sugar syrup, which will also prevent crystallization.) I then turn up the heat to medium, and cook until the syrup is a nice caramely brown color (about another eight minutes or so, but depending on the heat of your stove and your elevation it may take more or less time, so watch it carefully), being cautious not to let it burn (the sugar will likely start caramelizing around the edges of the pan first, when this happens just give the pan a gentle swirl to ensure that it caramelizes evenly). Off the heat, I then carefully pour in two and a half cups of heavy cream (which will cause the sugar syrup to bubble up wildly – don’t be scared) and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until it is all combined. Meanwhile I dissolve half a teaspoon or so of salt (or to taste) in two tablespoons or so of vanilla extract, and add that to the caramel (table or kosher salt is fine but this recipe is made even more special with the addition of good sea salt, gray salt, or fleur de sel… but whatever you have on hand is just fine). Give it a stir, and let it cool. The sweet, tart oranges, with the rich, sweet, salty caramel is a really fantastic combination. Serve it up with or without a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream, and you have an easy dessert, simple enough for every day but special enough for company. Store the extra sauce in a microwave safe container in your refrigerator, and just before serving pop it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds to get it flowing again. Enjoy!