Easter traditions

April 6, 2015

Tradition on the buffet line.

Tradition on the buffet line.

Do you find that you serve the same menu, with only small variations, at holiday meals? I certainly do at Thanksgiving, although Christmas has more leeway, and it seems I tend to do the same at Easter.

For the last couple of years, I’ve had two of my kids and one grandchild here for Easter. Dinner happens midafternoon, since, even after I do a good deal of cooking the day before and even early that morning, there’s a limit to how quickly I can get things ready after church.

Here was our menu: glazed, baked, sliced ham; homemade yeast rolls; corn casserole; English pea salad; English peas the traditional way, cooked with butter and salt; deviled eggs; roasted asparagus, some of it wrapped in proscuitto, some plain, with Hollandaise. Dessert was pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream.

Touched all the based for spring, we did, appropriately enough on Opening Day, and can I have an Amen for the Cards topping the Cubs last night? Thank you.

No doubt you have made all these things, or a version of them. I have found a few little tips and tricks I’ve incorporated over the years, so I’ll share those with you today.

The ham: I always, always get a spiral sliced ham. I’m not a good meat carver, even with good knives, and I have good knives. The spiral slicer is my friend.

This year I got a Kroger Private Selection ham. Let it be known there IS a difference in the quality of different hams. Last year I had a Petit Jean Meats ham. It was twice the price, and five times as good. Do not skimp on the quality of your ham. I’ll not make that mistake again.

Then when you get ready to cook the ham (I don’t CARE if it says it’s fully cooked, you’re going to cook that sucker), throw away the packet of ham glaze that comes with it. Line a roasting pan with foil and put the ham on the rack, cut side down. Get out your squeeze bottle of standard American yellow hot dog mustard and decorate it liberally. Smear the mustard around with your hands. Still using your hands, pat brown sugar all over it. Tent it with aluminum foil, and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes per pound at 325. It’s the best thing you can do to a ham.

For your corn casserole — I use the tried-and-true Jiffy cornbread mix recipe, although I do use corn I froze last year. If you’re buying corn, get a can of cream-style and a can of whole kernel. I used two pint cartons of frozen, stirred up with a cup and a half of low-fat Greek yogurt (the original recipe calls for a cup of sour cream and a stick of melted butter, but this is SO much healthier!), a box of Jiffy, and two eggs. Bake it in a casserole dish until it’s barely starting to brown on top. Hard to beat.

The asparagus — I break the ends, wrap part of the spears in a half-slice of proscuitto, and put them on an olive oiled baking sheet (again lined with foil, because, dang, Easter is a pan-intensive process and it helps in the cleanup). Drizzle any bare spears/tips with oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake at 400 for 10 minutes or so. Homemade Hollandaise is about the easiest thing in the world: put two eggs in the blender with a tablespoon of lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt and a dash of Tabasco; blend it until it’s a pale yellow; then melt a stick of butter in the microwave and pour it in in a thin stream while the blender’s running.

Everybody’s got their recipe for deviled eggs, and I won’t fool with yours. But I will suggest this tip, if you do not, as I do not, own a deviled egg platter. Cut those babies in half crossways instead of lengthways. Cut a sliver off the bottom of each white. They will hold still on your flat plate. You’re welcome.

I changed the pea salad this year, and will probably stay with this basic recipe next year with a few tweaks. Thaw the frozen peas, or blanch and shock fresh ones if you’re lucky enough to have them. Drain, dry, and toss with crisp bacon bits and grated cheese (I used gouda) in a dressing of mayonnaise, a bit of sugar (a bare teaspoon) and a half-teaspoon of lemon juice. This recipe called for red onion, and I added it, but I won’t next year; too strong. I think it wouldn’t go amiss with some diced, blanched carrots, too.

The rolls are Miss Mary Lloyd’s rolls. Nuff said.

The pound cake is my favorite thing with strawberries, and I make it whenever I want a fresh fruit over cake dessert of any sort. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines butter recipe cake mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup light vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mix the first four ingredients well, and then mix in the eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. You can bake this in a Bundt pan or a loaf pan. I like mine, for some cause, in a loaf pan. Just oil it first, and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. You may need to cover with foil the last several minutes of baking to keep it from browning too much.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em follow this Easter menu, and I guarantee you a successful egg hunt.

 

 

 

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