Easter Sunday was amazingly beautiful. I can remember warm sunny Easters (not many), but never a day when we could just sit outside all day and enjoy the loveliness. Somehow after weeks of rain this sunshine took on a supernatural significance...
Now, not to distract from all that or anything -- I mean I know you expect deep thoughts from us here in uber-Catholic-mother-daughter-land, such as what sandals we're ordering (and I didn't even tell you which ones *I* ordered! mainly because their name is something utterly unconnected with anything else -- Arezza, who even knows what that means) -- but Easter is a day when it's hard to know what it is that you don't want to eat.
Elimination is not an option.
Do you not admire my apron from the lovely Daily Decadent?
So we have a little of everything. Having gone to the vigil the night before, we have the day ahead of us to do justice to everyone's creativity.
First is the Easter (really Panettone di Natale -- Christmas -- but let's not cavil) bread from my old Gourmet cookbook. You know those tempting Panettones they have at the grocery store -- the ones that are a little suspicious with their everlasting freshness? But they are good, aren't they? (Also the packaging is fabulous. I have been known to succumb to the Panettone tin just out of sheer materialistic covetousness -- as opposed to gluttony.)
This recipe satisfies the Panettone urge.
It comes out looking like it might be disappointingly dry, but oh no, it's not! It's remarkably toothsome and buttery, and keeps for a long time (in a trustworthy kind of way), so you can make it the day before and it will be fine. For feeding a crowd it's invaluable. Of course, had I thought it through, I could have put more than a little orange peel and some currants in it, but all was well. I'm annoyed that they don't have the recipe on the Gourmet website, because it has taken me forever to upload this scan for you. I hope when you click on it you can read it.
Somehow Gourmet recipes are the most satisfying, especially the older ones. I've been making this Gateau Paris-Brest for years, preparing the puff paste ring the day before and the chocolate ganache filling in the morning as others are trying, mostly in vain, to find their cleverly hidden Easter baskets. (The recipe is in this post about how much I miss the old Gourmet.)
For the visual and taste impact, you can't beat how easy it is.
Meanwhile, Suzanne was cooking up her ham-egg cups. Oh my. These are to die for. (Sukie posted the recipe in the comments!)
We had some time out on the deck for sunny relaxation, even before our friends arrived. We had killer appetizers, and no, I don't mean dog treats, thought they do seem to be featured -- including Sukie's pecan, blue cheese, fig, and caramelized onion tart (she used the crust I had frozen from the rhubarb pie!), the only defect of which was its limited size, and my homemade lox with cream cheese.
I forgot to put out the pistachios, I realized yesterday.
all my frantic work leading up to all this paid off, and I truly rested on that glorious day!
This is the menu we've had, more or less, over the years, so I'm very used to getting it all together. It really does help to have someone bring a key side dish or two, and honestly, roasting a hunk of meat is easier than a turkey, you know? Most of it, including getting the lamb ready, can be done days ahead, especially if you have a second refrigerator.
Roast Leg of Lamb. The key with any roast is to have a good size. Have you been disappointed with your pot roast? Sad about your pork? Next time get a much bigger one. So often what's for sale is just too small, emerging from the oven dried and tasteless. Fortunately I found a hefty semi-boneless leg that I cut all over with little slits, the better to receive the many slivers of garlic. Then a rubbing with olive oil, mint, thyme, a little rosemary, salt, and pepper, and in it goes at 325* with some red wine in the roasting pan.
Gravy. Degrease the juices and proceed as for pork roast gravy, adding a bit more wine or water depending on how reduced the liquid had gotten during cooking. A little salt and you're all set.
Potato rolls. These came out so light and fluffy. Any sweet dinner roll recipe will do. Just reduce the sugar a bit. The dough can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated in roll form. Get them out on the counter to warm up a bit and bake while the roast is going -- that adds good steam for proper fluffiness.
Asparagus. I bought these on Thursday and carefully boiled them right away, to just a little short of doneness, quickly refreshing with cold water to stop the cooking, a la Julia Child. They will keep for days if you cook them, lose all flavor right away if you wait. A little toss with butter in the oven and they were perfect.
Salad of tender greens, orange sections, and thinly sliced fennel (anise). Refreshing and light, with a nice orangey vinaigrette.
Twice baked potatoes and roasted sliced sweet potatoes with whiskey (two dishes not one) both brought by our friends, which was a tasty and welcome relief to the cook.
Oh, and meat pies, using leftover pizza dough and leftover kofta mixture. They were good, although I think I could do better. I'll just have to try!
Thanks to Nick and Natasha for a regal bouquet!
Baklava (Egyptians call it Ba'lawa), made by Sukie (I did take a picture!). This comes out differently each year, and due to the helper's (my) distraction, this iteration's syrup somewhat crystallized. However, these vagaries -- a bit more crunchy than usual, a bit more syrupy than usual -- add a certain verisimilitude, because these very same things happen to the Egyptian grandmothers too!).
Gateau Paris-Brest. Sort of like a giant round eclair with a rich chocolate filling. See photo from Gourmet above!