Why you shouldn’t pass up entertaining on Easter? Forget the expectations, and try something new each year.
Growing up, grandma and mom bought one of those golden-sealed, spiral-cut hams that we doctored up by smothering it with dijon mustard that acted as a glue to packe on a layer of brown sugar, and we’d tack on orange slices with whole cloves all over the surface. It was rather simple and obviously presentable, and just the way French’s wanted you to do it back in the ’40s.
The juices were the best part – and as soon as I was old enough I’d baste the mustardy-syrup through the cracks of the spirals. The only recipe upgrade throughout the years was a gravy glaze with the reserved juices. I’d add in a couple of spoonfuls of apricot jam and some cranberries to give it body. Yet the ham was perhaps most enjoyed as leftovers, pan-fried until the sugar edges caramelized again, alongside creamy cheddar-scrambled eggs. The ham bone, of course, simmers quite wonderfully into split pea soup for the week with the leftover bits of meat.
The last time I made a spiral ham on Easter, the upgrade was toasty breadcrumbs. I pulled it out of the oven for its baste and it slipped onto the floor. Crumbs everywhere, ham intact. We didn’t tell anyone “Well it’s not dirty.. we just mopped the floor this morning…” my Dad offered in comfort.
I haven’t wanted to make one since.
Now, Easter demanded a rich and tender leg of lamb. A collection of spring herbs and garlic, allowing for a range of sides — creamy and cheesy potatoes, tangy hot-and-sweet roasted carrots, simple lemon-dressed asparagus.
The menu this year was as follows:
- Herb-roasted leg of lamb | Belcampo Meat Co.
- Cut 6-8 slits all over lamb and push in a quarter of a clove of garlic
- Chop about a teaspoon each of fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley, and garlic; make it a paste with a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil, season heavily with coarse salt and pepper. Rub all over meat and marinate at least 6 hours, or overnight. Bake at 325 about 20 min per pound
- Scalloped Yukon Gold Potatoes
- Harissa-Maple Roasted Carrots
- Roasted Asparagus | simply roasted and dressed with Meyer lemon, good olive oil, and Murray river sea salt
- Spring Green Salad with Strawberries, Candied Pecan and a balsamic vinaigrette with a bit of hazelnut oil
- Lemon-Lavender Pound Cake
Antipasti & Charcuterie
Have a think about what you’ve learned about the suggestions for a go-to charcuterie board, and tweak the perspective just a little a bit. Ok, maybe a lot.
Most tips for a reliable antipasti platter will tell you to “pick three different cheeses, one hard, one soft and one blue” or “one cow, one sheep, one goat” and offer some type of smoked or cured meat along with assorted crackers, breadsticks, maybe a smear of mustards, dried fruit and nuts. All of these offer a great foundation, but you’ll want to prevent too many distracting or clashing elements — someone accidentally smeared blue cheese into the whole grain mustard (eww, whoops) and no one seems to go for the cheddar next to those flavorless watercrackers (seriously, no yellow cheddar squares aloud!) Rather, think about the overall textures and the flavors jumps and layers that you’d like to create and work backward from there.
Starting with the cheese, categorize them based on various textures and their idea cracker-neighbors:
- something spreadable | oozy-gooey to be spread on a cracker or crostini, like a classic brie or pungent epoisses
- Easter choice: Moses Sleeper – (Jasper Hill Farm) inspired by a classic French Brie
- something crunchy | crystallized, crunchy to the tooth (no cracker, it will detract from its natural texture) – such as a nutty, aged gouda, hunk of parmigiano reggiano, or a well-aged Irish cheddar
- Easter choice: Mahon Reserva (Cowgirl Creamery) – second only to Manchego, it’s a Spanish cow’s milk cheese aged up to 24 months, nutty, sharp, buttery and a gorgeous golden hue
- something needing sweetness | one that would be too big on its own without a sweet counterpart, like creamy and tart gorgonzola dolce sharing a cracker with a rich fig jam, or chunks of salty pecorino drizzled with truffle-honey, or a pungent, deep cheese like aged fontina
- Easter choice: Reading Raclette (Spring Brook Farm) – a raw cow’s milk from Vermont that rivals any Italian fontina or Swiss raclette, usually used for melting – next time, I’m baking it to dip toasted baguettes into!
- PREP NOTE: Allow your cheese at least 1 hour to sit at room temperature. Nothing is more disappointing than cold cheese you can’t taste, impossible to cut.
Regarding the salumi, opt for at least two options: one that melts in the mouth, delicate and tender, such as paper-thin prosciutto or a mild Genoa. Then, get playful with a harder, chewy and pungent or spicy salami (such as a calabrese soppresata log you cut yourself) or a smoked sausage.
Easter choice: Creminelli – Milano thinly sliced and Creminelli – Ungherese cut into thicker rounds.
As for the platter build, fill the spaces with a range of fresh fruit (grapes are always easy) and at least one brine-y or pickled dish, such as new green olives, spiced peppers or cornichons. Something sweet is necessary – a rich jam, aromatic honey, or create your own side spread like ground walnuts with a little walnut oil, or a sticky sweet onion marmalade with truffle oil. The combination experiments are the best part!
And lastly, the vehicle in which to eat these cheeses – obsessed with every single Raincoast Crisp there is.