Spring & Easter

blender-scalloped-potatoes.jpgIn many homes on Easter Sunday, a succulent ham shank, crusted with brown sugar and mustard, is brought to the dinner table glazed and bubbling, surrounded by creamy scalloped potatoes. This will happen again in just a few days in many homes, but not mine.

Ham has never been part of the Easter meal tradition at my house. Growing up with a German-Czechoslovakian father meant every holiday dinner involved a roasted loin of pork, crusted with flavorful caraway seeds and softball-sized dumplings to soak up the drippings from the pork and lots of creamy sauerkraut.

After I got married, though, I discovered ham and scalloped potatoes. I tried to learn to prepare a moist ham and creamy scalloped potatoes. But, I almost always wound up with dry ham and curdled potatoes. I gave up and went back to the familiar pork dinner that I was more comfortable with in the kitchen. My favorite guy missed the cheesy scalloped potatoes, but adapted well to the more German-style Easter meal.

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ricepie.jpg"Hi, Mom. Can I have your recipe for rice pie?"

"You mean Nan's recipe? I've always made Nan's recipe."

"OK, then can I have Nan's recipe for rice pie?"

"What for, your ba - log?"

"Yeah, I want to do a post on Italian Easter pies."

"Ooh, isn't that nice, honey."

(silence)


"So, do you still have the recipe?"

"Yeah, first you start with -- "

"What, you found the recipe already?"

"Aaaa-y I've been makin' rice pies for so many years, I know it by heart. First, you start with 2 dozen eggs, then you add --"

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colaham2Is there such a thing as a ham of your dreams? I didn't think so until I had this one. BAKED HAM with RUM and COKE GLAZE is not your ordinary, dried out, gross, nasty, ham-holiday-dinner that you are used to. It is one of the best ham's I have ever had in my life.

It's so juicy, and puts Honeybaked Ham to shame. Trust me. Even after refrigerating and reheating the next day, it is still perfectly, PERFECT. (The ham sandwiches are to die for.)

If Easter for you means ham, this is the one for you. Let's have a little HAM 101 before we get started.

First of all, never ever buy a spiral-sliced ham. That is one of the first precursors to having a dried out piece of meat. The extra-processing ruins any chance of a juicy ham. All the pieces are exposed to air which leaves you with dried, processed meat. Yuck.

You need to pick the right cut and the BUTT half is the only way to go. A whole ham is way too hard to carve. A shank has all the connective tissue. But a BUTT is easy to slice with easy to see muscle groups, making carving a cinch.

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hotcrossbuns.jpgThere are many stories regarding the history of Hot Cross Buns. One interesting one comes from Alan Davidson's "The Oxford Companion to Food". He says that the Saxon invaders in Britain chomped on buns adorned with impressions of crosses in honor of the pagan goddess of light, Eostre, from whom the name Easter is derived.

Today they are traditionally served at Easter and there is a superstition that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday never became moldy and in the past one Hot Cross Bun would be saved as a good luck charm until the next year's buns were made. Whatever the history, these sweet tender buttery buns are a delicious treat and should be enjoyed all year long.

This is adapted from a Cook’s Country recipe for Sweet Dough.

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easterlambchopsIt's almost hard to believe that winter is gone and spring is actually here. The weather has been so unpredictable lately that if it wasn't for the blooming flowers and trees, we'd still think it were fall or winter. But it's the time to celebrate renewal and nothing says it more than the Easter holidays, which are just days away.

Easter celebrations vary from culture to culture and religion to religion. And then of course there's Passover. But what ties all these religions together is the presence of food and interestingly it's common to find lamb served at both a Seder and at an Easter dinner. It has symbolic ties to both Judaism and Christianity. So this year I'm making braised lamb shanks for the holiday, which is synonymous with Passover.

My Spanish-style recipe is both suitable for Passover and Easter. The lamb is braised in sherry vinegar and white wine, both of which add an acidic tang to balance the richness of the meat. Also included are garlic and onions and the spices cumin and paprika. The braising liquid is partially puréed to create a creamy gravy without the use of cream. I pair the lamb with creamed white beans and sautéed kale for a hearty holiday meal. Your family will love this meal whether you celebrate Passover or Easter.

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