I’ve recently discovered in myself that I want a BIG family. At least I want a large extended family that I can host large family meals for. Sadly, this isn’t one of those desires you can simply wish for by tossing a coin into a fountain. It seems you are either born into a big embracing love fest or (like me) you are not. (My Dad is the arch nemesis in the comic book version of my life and my mom can be described as ummmm…. “anti-social” at times.)
So I decided to Field of Dreams this year’s Easter Feaster by designing a classic Easter menu and putting out an invite to anyone willing to listen (my whole in-law crew, extended family, neighborhood friends, anyone in my immediate area who wasn’t already committed to another family event and liked ham or at least eating around it.). Three days before the feast, I had no idea if anyone was going to actually show up but I stuck with my original plan to prepare loads of appetizers, seasonal sides, a giant ham and a decadent dessert. On the day of, EVERYONE showed up. I built it and they came!
Look at those adorable cousins crammed into the tree house, enjoying a quiet ice cream break together. Adults, take note: getting family together doesn’t need to be so convoluted — just add ice cream and chill.
My Easter Menu
Cheese Platter: It really isn’t a family gathering without the cheese, right?! I went with a classic aged cheddar and a flavourful Applewood Smoked Cheddar, served with a bunch of seedless grapes.
Fruit Bowl: Kids love fruit bowls; this strawberries and pineapple mix disappeared from the table quickly.
Beet-Dyed Deviled Eggs: Prepare your hard boiled eggs in boiling water with a tsp of baking soda; cool, peel and soak in a bowl of beet juice for approximately 15 minutes. Cut in half, mash yolks with mayonnaise and pipe into beet-dyed egg whites.
Tomato Tart: This was a total experiment that totally worked. I had a bunch of vine tomatoes that needed to be used up so I patted down some store-bought puff pasty into a tart tin, drizzled it with chopped garlic and olive oil, layered sliced tomatoes with sliced onion & fresh basil, and sprinkled on some dried oregano, salt and pepper. After baking in the oven at 400°F for about 35 minutes, my house smelled like an Italian bistro and the tart looked and tasted molto buona (very good)!
Spinach Salad with Sliced Strawberries, Candied Walnuts and Poppy Seed Dressing: Yes, it is just as good as it sounds. Aside from a little slicing and broiling the nuts covered in organic agave syrup on low for 10 minutes, this salad takes nothing to create and is just the fresh boost a spread this rich needs.
Brussel Sprouts: My hubby has totally changed his opinion of brussel sprouts since I began cooking them with bacon fat. Trim the bottom and peel away the outer leaves; score the very bottom of each sprout with an “X” and add to bowling water, cook for about 15 minutes or until all sprouts are floating on top of the water. Add to an ice bath to stop cooking. Chop 1/2 lb. of stripy bacon into squares and add to a large, heavy bottom pot; cook on medium low heat. Slice brussel sprouts in half and add to the bacon pot once bacon begins to turn a golden brown. Stir together for another 15 minutes or until ready to serve.
Old fashioned Mustard Green Beans: This is my favourite holiday side because (1) it’s SUPER easy to prepare ahead of time and (2) it ALWAYS gets a positive reaction from guests. Wash and trim the ends of your green beans. Blanche in boiling water for a minute or two, until beans begin to float, and dunk into an ice bath to stop them from cooking any further. Wrap beans in damp paper towel, roll into an airtight Ziploc bag, and place in the fridge until ready to use. In a separate jar add: 1 diced garlic clove, fresh thyme, extra virgin olive oil, peppercorn, and a few heaping teaspoons of grainy old fashioned mustard. Shake and store in the fridge as well. 10 minutes before dinner, pour mustard sauce on beans and toss in a casserole dish. Reheat in the oven and serve.
Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes: I used Brown Eyed Baker’s Homemade Scalloped Potato recipe as a base and added some shaved Grana Padano cheese to the cream mixture. The casserole had a slight curdle look to it but was quickly forgiven by melted cheese on top and the incredibly decadent flavour it created.
Roasted Beets: I just love simple roasted beets.
The Main Attraction:
The Ham. Oh! That ham. I had never prepared a whole large ham roast before, so I took inspiration from the most retro of magazine images and topped it with fresh pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. Before doing that, however, I scored the ham in criss-cross shapes with a sharp paring knife, then prepared a sweet reduction on the stove top with half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey, organic brown sugar, mustard and agave syrup. Once thick enough to coat a spoon, I slowly poured the reduction over the ham, as it sat in its roasting pan, pouring directly into the scored grids. Adding 4 cups of chicken broth to the bottom of the roasting pan, the ham cooked covered for approximately 2 hours. It recieved rave reviews as one of “the most flavourful and most moist hams ever had” by more than one guest.
Ice cream cones for the kids
And for the adults (and any kids willing to try) my pièce de résistance: Pistachio Pound Cake topped with a Lemon Butter Whip and more pistachios. Remember that amazing Homemade Lemon Curd recipe I posted a few weeks back? As it turns out, it folded into equal parts whipped cream is the MOST DELICIOUS THING EVER. Seemed ideal to pair with a show-stopping pound cake such as this one.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups organic sugar
- 5 large farm fresh eggs
- 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed juice (from one lemon)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice (from one orange)
- 1 tsp lime zest
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 1 1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, divided
- Preheat oven to 325 F
- Grease a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan well, dust with flour, tap out any excess, and add a strip of parchement paper to the bottom to avoid any sticking.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sugar and beat until well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each.
- Add juices and zests to the mix, blending until well combined -- mixture WILL look curdled, don't fret.
- Turn mixer down to low speed and tap in the dry ingredients; beat just until incorporated.
- Using a rubber spatula or rubber spoon, fold in 1 cup of the shelled pistachios.
- Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, gently smooth top. Sprinkle remaining pistachios on top.
- Bake cake for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Rotate cake halfway through cooking time to ensure even baking.
- Let cake cool on stove top for 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife along the edges to loosen from pan. Transfer cake to a wire rack to cook completely before serving. Enjoy! xo
- Can be prepared one day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
This Easter was a milestone for me. I know I can cook, I know I love to cook, but for the first time in my life, I have a clear vision of who I want to cook for — everyone! Hunny, we’re going to need that restaurant soon, Thanksgiving is just a summer away.
— xxxxx —
What I’m Drinking:
Featherstone Estate Winery‘s Reisling was the perfect companion to this Easter meal. An outstanding fresh, crisp white wine.