Tidewater Kitchen - April 2011

 

Easter Feast
by
Pamela Meredith-Doyle

 

Easter is the oldest Christian celebration. Many dishes traditionally served at Easter have deep-rooted heritages. Throughout the country, families attend Easter services and come home to the perfect Easter Feast.
Most folks like to cook a ham for Easter. I prefer one of two types – fresh hams or the pink, partially cooked or smoked hams. Try to avoid “water-added” hams, as they are salty and you pay more for them. Look for a fresh or “regular” (cooked to an internal temperature of 137°) whole ham, not trimmed of all its fat. The butt end is more expensive and yields larger slices, but the shank end proves that the meat closer to the bone is tastier.
To cook a fresh ham, put it on a rack in a roasting pan and place it in a cold oven. Do not season or cover it yet. Turn the oven to 325° and roast for 30 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion reaches 160°.
To make a glaze for your ham use 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup of Dijon mustard and 2 cups of apple or orange juice. Mix that together and brush over the ham during the last 10 minutes of baking.
Make sure you let the ham rest for 20 minutes before carving.
For the best lamb dish, start with the best lamb you can find. Fresh is important. I have never had any imported frozen lamb that was really good.
When preparing fresh lamb, trim away as much fat as possible. Even those who say they are not fond of lamb will change their minds when it is properly trimmed. Roast the lamb to a perfect golden brown, then carve diagonally into thin, succulent slices.

HERBED LEG OF LAMB
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. ground pepper
1-1/2 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 (5 lb.) leg of lamb, boned and butterflied

Ask your butcher to butterfly the lamb for you. Process the first 5 ingredients in a food processor until well blended. Add the wine and vinegar and blend well. Place the lamb, skin side down, in a glass baking dish. Pour the marinade over the lamb, cover and chill for 4 to 8 hours, turning occasionally.
Prepare your grill to medium-high heat. Grill the lamb to desired doneness, about 13 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let the lamb stand for 10 minutes, then slice and serve with Kiwi-Mint Salsa.

KIWI-MINT SALSA
9 kiwi fruit, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 T. finely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 T. honey
1-1/2 t. chopped fresh rosemary

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill. Can be made 4 hours ahead.

POTATOES AU GRATIN
Serves 4
4 potatoes (1 potato per person)*
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
4 T. butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375°. Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices (can be sliced with a food processor or mandolin). Wash the potatoes to remove excess starch, and pat them dry.
Butter a baking dish and put a layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom. Cut the butter into small pieces and place on the potatoes, then season with salt and pepper. Layer on some of the cheese. Continue the layering until all the potatoes are used, finishing with cheese on top.
Pour the cream over the potatoes and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for about one hour or until the potatoes are soft.
Remove the aluminum foil with about 10 minutes left to cook to brown. Serve immediately.
* If you are in a hurry you can parboil the potato slices for about 3 minutes.

Crowned with a brown sugar and pecan topping, this sweet potato dish is destined to become a holiday favorite. This casserole is perfect to serve with ham.

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE
Serves 8
4 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (about 5 pounds)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup half-and-half
1/2 stick butter, melted
Vanilla to taste
1 t. sea salt
1 t. orange zest
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. ground pepper
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Combine the first 10 ingredients; spoon into a lightly greased baking dish. Combine the brown sugar, pecans, 1/4 cup melted butter and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the potato mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Note: Can be prepared ahead. Sprinkle topping on top of sweet potatoes right before baking.

GLAZED CARROTS with GRAPES
Serves 6 to 8
2 lbs. whole baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 T. honey
1/2 lb. seedless grapes, washed
2 T. chopped parsley

Cook carrots in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Plunge into ice water briefly to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.
Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the honey and drained carrots and stir until the carrots are heated through, about 3 minutes. Add the grapes and sautè for 2 more minutes and serve. Sprinkle with parsley.

Asparagus vinaigrette is the perfect springtime accompaniment because the delicate stalks of asparagus are at their peak flavor and tender best. It is a make-ahead side dish that works well as an appetizer, vegetable or salad.

ASPARAGUS VINAIGRETTE
Serves 8
2 lbs. fresh asparagus spears
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 T. virgin olive oil
1 t. dry mustard
1 t. lemon zest
1/2 t. ground pepper

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Cook the asparagus, covered in a small amount of boiling water, for 6 minutes or until tender-crisp, then drain.
Place asparagus in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Combine the vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Stir with a wire whisk until blended. Pour over the asparagus, cover and chill thoroughly. Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter using a slotted spoon.
Note: If you need to serve double the amount, buy about 4 pounds of asparagus and keep the vinaigrette ingredients the same.

HOT CROSS BUNS
This was my dear Granny’s recipe, and I miss her making them!

4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves
1 pkg. dry yeast
2 T. sugar
1/4 cup water (105-115°)
3/4 cup milk
3 T. butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup currants
1 T. lemon zest
3 T. all-purpose flour

Combine 2 cups all-purpose flour and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir well and set aside.
Dissolve yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar in the warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes.
Combine 3/4 cup milk and butter in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat until butter melts, stirring constantly. Let the milk mixture cool to lukewarm. Add the milk mixture, flour mixture and eggs to the yeast mixture; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until well blended. Stir in currants, lemon zest and enough of the remaining 2-1/2 cups of flour to make a soft dough.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour evenly over your work surface. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth (about 8 to 10 minutes). Place the dough in a large greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk.
Punch down the dough and divide into 24 equal portions; shape each portion into a ball. Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and again, let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets and cool completely on wire racks.

CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR ICING
3/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/4 t. vanilla
1 T. milk

Combine confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and milk. Make crosses on tops of buns with icing.

PICKLED BEETS with EGGS
Pickled beets with eggs appear at this holiday season. The sweet-and-sour piquancy makes this an especially popular dish.
This has always been a tradition in my home, and I love them. It is also a great way to use those hard-cooked eggs after the hunt!

6 small peeled and cooled hard-cooked eggs
1 16-oz. can sliced beets
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
Salt to taste

Drain the liquid from the beets into a saucepan and add the sugar, vinegar and salt. Simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Pour the liquid into a 1 qt. jar and cool completely. Add the hard-cooked eggs to the cold beet juice mixture and pile the beets on top. Press the beets down so the liquid covers them. Refrigerate for 2 days.

COCONUT CAKE
If you avoid baking coconut cake because you think it is too involved, then you will love this recipe. This version features a cake mix as the main ingredient, but tastes just like it is made from scratch.

3 large eggs
1 8-oz. carton sour cream
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup cream of coconut
1/2 t. vanilla
1 pkg. white cake mix with pudding
1 recipe coconut-cream cheese frosting

Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans. Set pans aside.
Beat eggs at high speed for 2 minutes. Add sour cream and next three ingredients, beating well after each addition. Add cake mix and beat on low speed until blended. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes more.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake at 325° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Spread coconut-cream frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.

COCONUT CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 to 2 cups fresh coconut (to taste)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 t. vanilla
1 11-oz. pkg. powdered sugar, sifted

Beat the cream cheese and butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Add vanilla, beating well. Gradually add sugar, beating until smooth. Fold in coconut.

EASY CHOCOLATE EASTER EGGS
5 dozen
I can still remember my sister helping me make these.

1-1/2 pkgs. (12-oz.) semi-sweet chocolate
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1-1/2 t. vanilla
ground nuts, powdered sugar, cocoa or toasted coconut to roll eggs

Melt chocolate in a large microwavable bowl on High for 2 to 3 minutes, or until almost melted, stirring after each minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside.
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Add melted chocolate and vanilla; mix well. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Shape into 1-inch egg-shaped balls. Roll in nuts, powdered sugar, cocoa or coconut. Store in refrigerator.