Sunday Supper

I’ve written about Easter a couple of times now – this year Easter was simple. It was just the three of us, so we didn’t need much. Gotta have the ham. Gotta have the Au Gratin Potatoes. Gotta have the asparagus. Just for fun, we did deviled eggs. And those super easy warm and serve dinner rolls. No multi-layers of appetizers, no multi-course supper and surprisingly enough, no dessert. Instead, we started the day with an assortment of pastries. It was enough to give us that sugar fix early on.

blood orangeThis year, I tried a new ham recipe I picked up while visiting therebalchick.com. Well, sort of tried a new recipe. The original recipe called for Blood Oranges. After scouring three different grocery stores to no avail, it was a matter of falling back on an old recipe or simply going with what I had, navel oranges. Oranges are a winter crop. Blood Oranges can be had from December through March. With Easter late this year, the beautiful Blood Orange wasn’t an option. I will definitely make this ham again at Christmas time. Another detour from the original recipe was that she uses a bone-in smoked ham. The bone-in smoked hams were HUGE – much more than the three of us could polish off in several days, so I went with a small spiral cut boneless fully cooked ham. Even then, the three-pound ham is going to feed us for several more days.

The asparagus was different this year as well. A few nights ago I tried a new way of cooking asparagus in a skillet with a little butter, roasted garlic and a splash of lemon juice. I let the asparagus get nice and browned, almost blackened in spots. It gave a wonder added layer to the vegetable, with a nice smokey flavor. Typically when serving asparagus with a hollandaise sauce, I steam asparagus. The pan-seared method of cooking the asparagus was a big hit with the family – even my why-do-you-always-make-me-taste-the-asparagus eater liked the pan-seared veggies. So I decided to give seared asparagus with hollandaise sauce a try. The hollandaise sauce is recipe from everydayfrenchchef.com. The sauce was super easy to make, especially after adding a few short cuts. (The recipe called for 2 teaspoons of boiling water. I couldn’t see boiling a pot of water to get two teaspoons, so I put some water in a small cup and “boiled” it in the microwave. I don’t think the sauce knew the difference, and it was one less pan to wash. The same goes for the fresh lemon juice. The instructions said to warm it in a pan to lukewarm. Stick a cup in the microwave for about 10 seconds and there ya go.) I really like Meg Bortin, author of The Everyday French Chef. Her goal is to create authentic French dishes that are also simple and easy to create. Her hollandaise sauce was the easiest I’ve ever made without skimping on flavor.

As for the Au Gratin Potatoes, it’s a recipe I picked up years ago from my very first Betty Crocker cookbook. Over the years, it has evolved into a much milder, rich, onion infused potato casserole. I especially like the nice crunchy topping.

Now for the small kitchen dilemma. The ham warms at a very low temperature. The potatoes are cooked in a moderately-hot oven. If you don’t have dual ovens, this seemingly difficult problem can be solved one of two ways.  Option one would be to heat the ham in a roasting oven while you cook the potatoes in your regular oven. If you don’t have a roasting oven, cook the potatoes first, then turn down the heat and cook the ham. While the ham is “resting”, turn up the heat and rewarm the potatoes.  If you do the one-dish at a time method, plan to start the asparagus and hollandaise sauce when the potatoes are warming.  The timing should be right to have everything come together in the end.

This meal is delicious and you don’t have to wait until Easter.  Any Sunday is perfect.  I like Sunday dinners to be special in honor of Sunday. It’s a nice way to end the week or start the week, depending upon how you want to look at it. Whatever the occasion, I hope you enjoy!

Blood Orange Glazed Ham
6-8 Lb Ham Virginia Ham
4 blood oranges (or naval in a pinch)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup water

Zest 1 entire blood orange into a small sauce pot.  Then juice that orange and two additional ones (juice from 3 total oranges) into the pot.  Over medium heat, whisk in the brown sugar.  Lower the temperature to a simmer and let it reduce until you have a slightly thickened sauce that can be poured over the ham.

When it is ready, preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Pour and then rub the glaze over the entire ham, then add the ½ cup of water to the bottom of the roasting dish.  Cover pan tightly with foil to allow ham to steam warm.  This will keep the ham from drying out.  Place in the oven and warm slowly.  About mid-way through the heating, uncover ham, spoon juices over the meat then cover again and continue to cook.  (Bone-in ham will take about 20 minutes per pound, boneless will take about 15 minutes per pound.  Take care, as the boneless ham may dry out if not allowed to “steam” warm).

You’ll want to cook the ham to an ideal temperature of 150 degrees. When the ham is done, let rest for about 20 minutes to help hold in the juices.

Slice the final blood orange into rounds and add to the ham and serving platter.

Mema’s Au Gratin Potatoes
6 Medium Russet Potatoes (about 2 lbs) peeled and thinly sliced
¼ Cup Butter
1 Medium White onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Cups Milk
2 1/2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (½ cup reserved)
½ Cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
½ Cup Fine Dry Bread Crumbs
Paprika

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Peel potatoes and slice into thin disks using a food processor or vegetable slicer. Cut enough potatoes to measure 4 cups. Place sliced potatoes into cold water until ready to use, then drain.

Heat butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions in hot butter until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly; remove from heat.

Stir in milk and 2 cups of the Cheddar cheese and all of the Monterrey Jack Cheese. Return to heat and cook until boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Drain potatoes in a colander and shake to remove excess water. Spread potatoes in an ungreased 1 ½-quart casserole dish. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes. Bake, uncovered, 1 hour.

Mix remaining cheese, breadcrumbs and paprika (just enough for a nice color). Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over top of potatoes and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until top is brown and bubbly.

Asperges à la sauce Hollandaise
3 egg yolks
1 Stick unsalted butter
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons boiling water
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs green asparagus, thick stalks
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced

First, make the hollandaise. This recipe makes about a cup of sauce.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until well-blended, about 20 seconds. Add the salt.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. In a small cup or bowl heat the juice of 1/2 a lemon to lukewarm in the microwave, about 5-10 seconds. In another cup or microwave bowl heat a small quantity of water to boiling, about 2 minutes.

Begin adding the melted butter to the yolks, teaspoonful by teaspoonful, whisking constantly. When the sauce begins to thicken, add a few drops of the lemon juice. Continue in this way until all the butter and juice have been incorporated. Stir in the boiling water.

Grind in some pepper and check the flavorings, adding more salt if necessary.

If serving within the hour, place the bowl in a warm place, for example beside the stove. If serving later, place the sauce in the fridge. Before serving, heat an inch of water to lukewarm in a large pot. Turn off the heat. Place the bowl of sauce in the pot, taking care not to get any water into the bowl, and stir the sauce occasionally until it has softened. Be careful: if the water is too hot, the sauce will curdle.

Wash and trim the asparagus. Asparagus will “snap” just above the woody end. You want the asparagus to be about 6-8 inches long.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to sizzling. Turn down the heat to medium and add the asparagus. Gently squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon half over the asparagus.

Using a broad spatula, turn the spears over from time to time until they are browned more or less evenly, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. The spears will remain mainly green, with patches of crispy deep brown. Check for doneness by tasting a spear. It should be tender but slightly al dente.

Just before serving, place the asparagus on a serving platter. Spoon hollandaise sauce over tips for a nice presentation, with the remaining sauce served table-side.

Easter Sunday Dinner

A few weeks ago, I shared with you an Elegant Easter Supper.  While I love that menu dearly, it’s “elegant” . . . sometimes we don’t feel like elegant, elaborate productions.  This menu is more down to earth, with the little ones in mind.  There’s plenty of goodies to choose from, but the presentation is more whimsical and fun.  There are appetizers, a full Easter dinner and two choices for dessert – one for the kids (and the kids at heart) and one for the grownups.  Some of the work can be done a day ahead of time, so that ‘s a big help.  Another idea would be to ask friends and family to fix a dish or two.  After all, who said you need to do everything?

In our family, I’m usually in charge of the appetizers (simply because I love making little bites of pretty or cute foods) and the desserts (another of my “specialities”).  For Easter, I always make the potatoes, too.  Whether people come to our house or we go to theirs, my Au Gratin Potatoes are always requested as part of the feast.  The main course is usually my youngest sister’s department. Jacquie and Marty always make an awesome ham.

Needless to say, nothing is ever carved in stone – from this menu do as much or as little as you like.  Add to this your own Easter favorites and family traditions.  Or ignore everything all together. If all I manage to do today is to inspire you, to get the creative juices flowing, then that’s enough.

Pax vobiscum et cum spiritu tuo.

  • Starters
    • Easter “Chick” Deviled Eggs
    • Ladybug Crackers
    • Sunny Spinach Pie
    • Calla Lily Tea Sandwiches
  • The Easter Table
    • Lamb of God Rosemary Bread
    • Easter Ham
    • Au Gratin Potatoes
    • Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
  • Sweet Ending
    • Easter Egg Flan
    • Easter Basket Cupcakes

The Starters:

03-31-2013 Easter (1)Easter “Chick” Deviled Eggs
16 Hard Boiled Eggs
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon-Style Mustard
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
Carrot Sticks for Beaks
Chopped Olives for Eyes

To Boil Eggs: Place eggs in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a full boil. Remove from heat, cover and let rest for 12-14 minutes. Drain, then plunge eggs into ice-cold water to cease the cooking process. The results will be a perfectly cooked egg with a sunny yellow yolk.

To Peel Eggs: Gently roll eggs on counter. Plunge into hot water for about 1 minutes, then return to cold water to cool. CAREFULLY peel eggs. If not easy to peel, repeat. Set aside peeled eggs until ready to use.

Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, red wine vinegar and seasonings. Taste mixture, adjust seasonings as needed. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Cut top (larger) ends of peeled eggs to expose yolks, reserve tops. With the tip of knife, carefully lift out yolks; place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade. Place egg whites into deviled egg tray, trim “bottom” if necessary to allow eggs to sit flat.

In food processor, pulse yolks until smooth. Add mayonnaise mixture, blend well.
Spoon or pipe yolk mixture into egg white shells. Use chopped olives for eyes, carrot slivers for beaks. Top with reserved whites, angled back to expose “faces”

Note: Filling can be made up to 24 hours in advance, store in refrigerator. Pipe or spoon into egg shells up to a few hours before serving. Keep Deviled Eggs refrigerated until ready to serve.

ladybugsLadybug Crackers (A Taste Of Home)
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sour cream
Black paste food coloring
1/2 teaspoon minced chives
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
36 butter-flavored crackers
18 cherry tomatoes, quartered
18 large pitted ripe olives
72 fresh chive pieces (about 1-1/2 inches long)

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Remove 1 tablespoon to a small bowl and tint black. Place tinted cream cheese mixture in a small plastic bag; set aside.

Add the chives, garlic salt and parsley to the remaining cream cheese mixture. Spread over crackers. Arrange two tomato quarters on each for the ladybug wings.

For heads, half the olives width-wise; place one half on each cracker. Insert two chives into olives for antennae. Use tinted cream cheese mixture to pipe spots onto wings.

sunnyspinachpieSunny Spinach Pie (bestyummyrecipes.com)
Dough:
17 oz of flour
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt

Place all dough ingredients in a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, knead until the dough is smooth and combined. Wrap in plastic while you make the filling.

Filling:
12 oz  of boiled spinach
12 oz ricotta
1 egg
3 oz  of grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Bread crumbs

To create the filling, mix the spinach with the ricotta.
Next, add your egg, Parmesan, and salt and pepper. Mix well. Set aside briefly.
Unwrap your dough from the plastic and divide it into two equal parts.

To Create the Sunny Spinach Pie: Using a rolling-pin, roll out each dough ball to create two circles 12 inches in diameter each.

On your first circle, sprinkle breadcrumbs over-top to help absorb the moisture of the filling and to keep the dough dry.

Next, on the breadcrumb dough, make two circles with the filling – an outer circle and an inner circle “mound”. Leave room between the circles and along the edge to seal the dough. Sprinkle the filling with grated Parmesan Cheese.

Place the second dough circle over the top of the filling. Seal the edges with our hands, then press with a fork. Place a small bowl in the middle of the pie over the center mound, and press lightly to make an indentation in the dough. Use your fork to press LIGHTLY around the bowl.

With the bowl still in place, cut the dough into pieces approximately just under an inch. Twist each slice and continue until each outer slice is twisted. Remove bowl and place on a cooking pan such as a clay pizza pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the spinach pie into the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven, transfer to a round serving platter and garnish the center with roasted sunflower seeds before serving.

Calla Lily SandwichesCalla Lily Tea Sandwiches: (from Lilbitbrit.blogspot.com)
1 (5.2-ounce) package garlic and herbs cheese, softened
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
48 slices white bread
Paprika
2 carrots, peeled
Green Onions for Garnish

In a small bowl, combine cheese, cream cheese, walnuts, red pepper, and black pepper. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Using a 2 1/2-inch cutter, cut 48 rounds from bread. With a rolling-pin, roll each bread round to 1/8-inch thickness.

Spread about 1 teaspoon cream cheese mixture on each bread round. Sprinkle center with paprika, and fold bottom of prepared bread round over, pinching end to seal. Cut small pieces of carrot, and place in center of each sandwich for flower stamen. Garnish with green onion tops to form stems, if desired.

The Easter Table:

03-31-2013 Easter (5)Lamb of God Rosemary Bread
1 package of frozen Bread Dough
Flour for kneading
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
Olive oil for pan
Wilton’s Lamb Pan

Place frozen bread dough in a pan, cover with plastic wrap and let thaw according to package directions, about 16 hours in the refrigerator.

Lightly flour a flat work surface, add savory flavors such as rosemary and oregano onto the floured board to incorporate the herbs into the whole loaf.  Kneed dough lightly.

Use olive oil to grease a bowl, place the dough in the bowl and flip the dough over so it is coated on top and bottom with oil.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk, about 1-2 hours.

Punch dough down, form into desired shape or place in a pan of desired shape such as Wilton’s Lamb pan.  Let dough rise for about fifteen minutes. While bread is rising, preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Place bread in the center of the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden grown, with an internal temperature of 190-degrees. Check the bread about mid-way through if using a mold pan – the bread may rise up out of the pan.  Should that happen, don’t panic.  Simply remove bread from oven, press top mold down and place a weight (such as a small cast-iron pan) on top, then continue baking.  For those wondering – that little tip came from experience.

Allow bread to cool, then wrap baked bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.  The bread can be made the day before, and warmed just before serving if desired.

Place bread on a serving platter.  If desired, garnish with fresh Rosemary and tomato rosettes or egg-shaped pats of butter.

easterhamEaster Ham:
1 Turkey Size Oven Bag
1 Tablespoon Flour
12-16 lb Fully Cooked Smoked Ham
1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke

Preheat oven to 325-degrees
Shake flour in roasting bag, place bag in roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Trim skin and fat from ham, leaving a thin layer of fat. Lightly score surface of ham in a diamond pattern; insert cloves.
Place ham in oven bag. Close oven bag with nylon tie; cut six 1/2-inch slits in top of bag to vent. Insert meat thermometer through slit in bag into thickest part of ham, not touching bone. Tuck ends of bag in pan. Place in oven to bake.
After 1 hour, check juices in the bottom of the bag. Using baster, remove some of the juices. Mix with liquid smoke and return juices to bag using baster.
Bake additional 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours or until meat thermometer reads 140-degrees.
Let stand in oven bag 15 minutes.

augratinpotatoAu Gratin Potatoes
6 Medium Russet Potatoes (about 2 lbs) peeled and thinly sliced
¼ Cup Butter
1 Medium White onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Cups Milk
2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (½ cup reserved)
½ Cup Fine Dry Bread Crumbs
1-2 Pinches of Paprika for color

Peel potatoes and slice into thin disks using a food processor or vegetable slicer. Cut enough potatoes to measure 4 cups. Place sliced potatoes into cold water until ready to use, then drain.
Peel and finely chop onions. Grate cheese.
Heat butter in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions in hot butter until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly; remove from heat.
Stir in milk and 1 ½ cups of shredded cheese. Return to heat and cook until boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.
Drain potatoes in a colander and shake to remove excess water. Spread potatoes in an ungreased 1 ½-quart casserole dish. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes. Bake, uncovered, 1 hour.
Mix remaining cheese, bread crumbs and paprika (just enough for a nice color). Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over top of potatoes and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until top is brown and bubbly.

Asparagus-with-HollandaiseAsparagus with Hollandaise Sauce:
1 bunch of asparagus (about 1 lb)
10 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 Tbsp)
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 Pinch of cayenne

Prep the asparagus. Break off the tough ends with your fingers. Bend the asparagus spears near the end and they will break naturally where the spear is no longer tough. For an elegant presentation of the spears, use a vegetable peeler to peel off a very thin layer of the outer skin of the lower two to three inches of the asparagus spears. Prepare a large, shallow pan (with a cover) with a half-inch of water and a steamer rack.

Prepare the Hollandaise sauce. Melt the butter in a small pot. Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, and cayenne into a blender. Blend the eggs for 20-30 seconds at medium to medium high-speed until lighter in color. Turn blender down to lowest setting and slowly drizzle in the hot melted butter while the blender is going. Continue to blend for a few seconds after all of the butter is incorporated. Taste the sauce and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Keep warm while you are steaming the asparagus.

Bring the water in your steaming pan to a boil. Place the asparagus on the steaming rack. Cover. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender, but still a little crisp, definitely not mushy. The timing depends on how thick the asparagus spears are. Plate the asparagus. Pour Hollandaise sauce over them.

Steamed asparagus spears may be wrapped in a thin slice of deli ham to add additional depth and flavor. This is a nice touch to an Easter table.

Sweet Ending:

P1010215Easter Egg Flan:
Ingredients – Caramel Sauce:
1 Cup Sugar
3 tablespoons water

Melt 1 cup of sugar with water  over medium-high heat while stirring constantly to prevent sugar from burning. Continue to cook until all the sugar has melted and is a nice golden-amber color. Pour caramel sauce into the bottom of a large baking tin. (For best results, use a tin canned ham container.) Allow sugar to cool slightly before proceeding.

Ingredients – Custard Flan
20 Egg Yolks
1 Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
2 Large Cans Evaporated Milk
1 Cup Half & Half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat Egg yolks slightly with a fork in a medium size bowl. Add vanilla and sugar, set aside.

Scald evaporated milk and half & half in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Pour in egg mixture. Mix slowly while stirring constantly. Once mixed; remove from heat and set aside. Should only remain on heat for about 1 ½ minutes – DO NOT allow eggs to cook.

Using a strainer, CAREFULLY ladle the custard mixture over the caramel sauce. Don’t allow sauce to bubble up into the custard.

Cover with foil and bake in a bath for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes or until firmly set and done in the middle.

Let custard cool in the pan for 1 hour. Invert onto oven-proof serving dish. Pour any remaining caramel from pan onto custard.

Ingredients – Meringue Topping
3 Egg Whites
½ Cup Sugar
½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar

Beat together ingredients for meringue topping with an electric mixer until firm peaks form.
Top custard with meringue.  Sprinkle with pastel colored sugar and lightly brown under broiler. Allow to cool slightly, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

03-31-2013 Easter (20)Easter Basket Cupcakes:
Materials:
24 Pipe Cleansers
Assorted Egg Shaped Candies such as jelly beans or Chocolate Malt Robin Eggs
2 Cupcake Tins
24 Cupcake Liners
Green Food Coloring Gel

Ingredients – Cup Cakes
1 Box French Vanilla Cake Mix
3 Eggs
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Water

Place eggs and oil in mixing bowl. Mix until frothy and well blended. Add water, mix until blended.

Add cake mix, blend for 30 seconds on low, 2 minutes longer on medium-high.

Preheat oven to 325-degrees. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners.

Divide batter into tins, filling about 2/3 full using a small ladle.

Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Let cool in tins for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

While cupcakes cool, make frosting. See below.

Buttercream Frosting
1/4 Cup Solid Butter-Flavored Vegetable Shortening
3/4 Cup Butter, Softened
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
4 Cups sifted powdered Sugar
3-4 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup

Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl between additions and after the last of the sugar has been added. When all sugar has been mixed in, the frosting will appear to be dry. Add corn syrup one tablespoon at a time and beat a medium speed until light and fluffy. Color with green food coloring gel to desired color. Keep frosting covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

To Assemble: Bend pip cleaners into a U shape to fit just inside cupcake. Make sure cleaners are bent in such a way as to hold their shape. Set aside.

Spread a small amount of frosting as a base over each cupcake. Place remaining frosting into a pastry bag fitted with desired tip such as a leaf a star or small strait hole to “pipe” grass.

Place a few egg-shaped candies onto the center of each cupcake, press down lightly to secure in place. Insert U-shaped pipe cleaners to form handles for baskets.

Place on a large serving platter and set aside until ready to serve.

Note: Cup Cakes can be made up to 1 day in advance to the point of frosting. Place candied eggs and pipe cleaners on cup cakes just before serving to avoid damage.

Thanks for stopping by.  Hope you have a blessed Easter Sunday filled with much joy and spiritual renewal.

Elegant Four-Course Easter Supper

Before we know it, spring will be upon us – a time for renewal and rejuvenation.  I know as a Catholic I am making huge leaps over the season that precedes Easter – The Lenten Season. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself because Lent is filled with sad reflection, fasting and abstinence.  (And yes, we do refrain from the culinary celebration of fish during Lent).  All these thoughts of spring might just be the result of a warm day in February – birds are singing and it truly feels like spring.  So allow me to run, arms spread wide, toward the jubilant time of Easter and all the promise it holds.

This menu has been streamlined, with only one soup course. (Formal affairs of old would have served both a “clean” and “cream” soup in two courses).  The main entree course consists of meat, vegetable and potato served together as one course rather then spread out over several main courses.  This particular menu has also been “Americanized” in that the salad course follows the soup course rather than after the entree as a palate cleanser.  You could move it if you like.  Or place another palate cleanser between the main and dessert course such as a sorbet.  There’s a wide selection of wonderful sorbets in the ice cream section of most grocery stores today.  My personal favorites are Blood Orange, Mango or Lemon Sorbet.

The bread is brought to the table with the soup and remains until just before the dessert is served (or is gone – as in gobbled up – which ever comes first).  The bread is super easy to make – it starts with a frozen loaf of bread dough that is “doctored” up with fresh herbs.  It’s awesome!  Just remember, there are several courses to follow, so don’t fill up too much on the bread.

  • Easter Bread

03-31-2013 Easter (5)Lamb of God Rosemary Bread
1 package of frozen Bread Dough
Flour for kneading
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
Olive oil for pan
Wilton’s Lamb Pan

Place frozen bread dough in a pan, cover with plastic wrap and let thaw according to package directions, about 16 hours in the refrigerator.

Lightly flour a flat work surface, add savory flavors such as rosemary and oregano onto the floured board to incorporate the herbs into the whole loaf.  Kneed dough lightly.

Use olive oil to grease a bowl, place the dough in the bowl and flip the dough over so it is coated on top and bottom with oil.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk, about 1-2 hours.

Punch dough down, form into desired shape or place in a pan of desired shape such as Wilton’s Lamb pan.  Let dough rise for about fifteen minutes. While bread is rising, preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Place bread in the center of the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden grown, with an internal temperature of 190-degrees. Check the bread about mid-way through if using a mold pan – the bread may rise up out of the pan.  Should that happen, don’t panic.  Simply remove bread from oven, press top mold down and place a weight (such as a small cast-iron pan) on top, then continue baking.  For those wondering – that little tip came from experience.

Allow bread to cool, then wrap baked bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.  The bread can be made the day before, and warmed just before serving if desired.

Place bread on a serving platter.  If desired, garnish with fresh Rosemary and tomato rosettes or egg-shaped pats of butter.

  • First Course – Soup (recipe from 12tomatoes.com)

easter_smoked_salmon_soupSmoked Salmon, Leek & Potato Soup
2 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks, halved and finely sliced
1 bay leaf
1 head fennel
About 2 lbs potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb smoked or cooked salmon
A small bunch of dill for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add leeks and bay leaf.

Cook over low hear for 8-10 minutes, or until leek is soft.

Add and stir in the potatoes until well coated in butter. Add the chicken stock and heavy cream.
Bring to a simmer, and let bubble until the potatoes are tender (about 10-15 minutes), stirring frequently.

Add two-thirds of the salmon, and stir through to season. Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve and garnish with remaining salmon, dill, and pepper on top.

  • Second Course – Salad (recipe from myrecipes.com, adapted from a recipe in Southern Living)  I picked this particular salad because of its wonderful presentation.  Food isn’t just fuel for the body, it’s also a treat for the senses – and this is a beautiful salad.  I stumbled upon it while searching for Spring Menu Ideas.

Bacon-Feta Cheese Salad With White Wine Vinaigrette

easter_bacon_feta_saladThe Salad
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 medium cucumbers, peeled
3 cups mixed baby greens
2 cooked thick-cut bacon slices, halved
1/3 cup shredded or matchstick carrots
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350º . Place chopped pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool. (This can be done ahead of time, store in an air-tight container).

Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, cut cucumbers lengthwise into very thin strips just until seeds are visible. Discard cucumber core.

Shape largest cucumber slices into 4 (2 1/2- to 2 3/4-inch-wide) rings. Wrap evenly with remaining cucumber slices. Stand rings upright on 4 serving plates.

Fill each cucumber ring evenly with mixed greens, next 3 ingredients, and toasted pecans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle each salad with 1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinaigrette, and serve with remaining vinaigrette.

The Vinaigrette
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk together 1/4 cup white wine vinegar and next 3 ingredients until blended. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in salt and pepper to taste. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 week.

  • Main Course – Meat with two vegetables sides: Rosemary Balsamic Glazed Ham (the original recipe can be found at spendwithpennies.com), Gruyère Herbed Potato Gratin and Crêpe Wrapped Asparagus With Garlic-Tarragon Hollandaise Sauce

rosemary-balsamic-ham1-e1364102476233Rosemary Balsamic Glazed Ham
1 Cooked Bone In Ham
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Rosemary Crushed
1 teaspoon Black Pepper (or to taste)
1 Cup of White Wine/Champagne (optional)

Night Before:
Soak ham in cold water in the refrigerator overnight before cooking, discard water.

Day Of:
Score diagonal lines across ham each way creating a checkerboard (this allows the glaze to get into the ham)

Mix together brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, dijon, pepper and rosemary and brush over ham.
Put ham in a dish just big enough to hold the ham. Add wine/champagne to the bottom of the pan. Bake uncovered according to ham package directions, basting with leftover glaze occasionally.

Once ham is done, remove from oven and cover. Allow to rest 15 minutes. Slice and serve tableside for a more dramatic presentation or carve and transfer to a large serving platter.

easter_Potato_Gratin

Gruyère Herbed Potato Gratin
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoon flour
2-½ Cups half and half
3 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1-½ Teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 russet potatoes, (peeled optional) cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
4 Tablespoon finely diced onion
1 ½ Cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
butter or cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and flour, whisking until smooth. Cook the flour over medium heat 1 minute. Whisk in the half and half until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place a third of the potatoes in a casserole dish (buttered or sprayed with cooking spray). Season the potatoes with a pinch each salt and pepper. Top with half the onion and a third of the herbs and a third of the cheese. Sprinkle on half the chopped garlic. Repeat, layering potato, salt, pepper, remainder of the onion and garlic, and another third each of the herbs and cheese. Finish with the remainder of the potatoes and a last pinch of salt.

Pour the prepared half and half over the potatoes, using a rubber spatula to be sure to get it all out of the saucepan. Bake, uncovered, for 50-60 min until the potatoes are cooked through. Sprinkle on the remainder of the cheese and herbs. Serve once the cheese on top has melted.

p_asparagus-crep_1625011aCrêpe Wrapped Asparagus With Garlic-Tarragon Hollandaise Sauce

The Crêpes
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Eggs
1/3 Cup plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Combine milk and egg in a blender; cover and process until blended. Add flour; cover and process until blended.

Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat a lightly greased 8-in. skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter into center of skillet; lift and tilt pan to coat evenly. Cook until top appears dry; turn and cook 15-20 seconds longer. Remove and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing skillet as needed.

The Crêpes can be made in advance.  Wrap well in plastic wrap and store in an air-tight container.

The Asparagus
24 Asparagus Spears, trimmed, par-cooked and drained

Bring water in asparagus steamer to a boil.  While water boils, trim asparagus.

Place the asparagus on the steaming rack. Cover. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender.

The Assembly:
Place six asparagus spears on one side of each crepe; roll up. Place seam side down in a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Set aside until ready to bake.
Bake, uncovered, at 350-for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.  Make sauce while asparagus is baking.  Keep warm until ready to use.  If desired, asparagus can be dusted with Parmesan Cheese and the sauce can be passed table-side to use as desired.

The Garlic-Tarragon Hollandaise Sauce
5 Tablespoons Butter
2 Egg Yolks
1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
1 Garlic Clove, pressed
Pinch of Tarragon Leaves

Melt the butter in a small pot. Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic and cayenne into a blender.

Blend the eggs for 20-30 seconds at medium to medium high speed until lighter in color.

Turn blender down to lowest setting and slowly drizzle in the hot melted butter while the blender is going. Continue to blend for a few seconds after all of the butter is incorporated. Gently fold in tarragon leaves.  Taste the sauce and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Keep warm until ready to use.

  • Dessert Course – Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake With Buttercream Frosting (original recipe from myrecipes.com)

easter_cakeLemon-Orange Chiffon Cake:
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Edible Flowers & Kumquats for garnish

To Make Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine first 4 ingredients in bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer.

Make a well in center of flour mixture; add oil, egg yolks, and orange juice. Beat at medium-high speed 3 to 4 minutes or until smooth. Stir in zest.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into flour mixture. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 17 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Spread Lemon-Orange Buttercream Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.

Lemon-Orange Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 (32-oz.) package powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon additional fresh orange juice

Beat butter, orange zest, and lemon zest at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy; gradually add powdered sugar alternately with lemon juice and 5 tablespoons fresh orange juice, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Add up to 1 tablespoon additional fresh orange juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.