I just loooove Spring! The weather here in South Florida is exceptional; cheery, vibrant colors abound (prime time to break out your Lilly Pulitzer); and one of my favorite holidays, Easter Sunday, is right around the corner. Easter has added significance in our house because Steve and I got engaged on Easter Sunday a few years ago. He hid the ring in a plastic egg - clever guy! As if that wasn't enough, my birthday also falls around and, in certain years, actually on Easter - so you can see there are always plenty of reasons to celebrate!
I usually offer to host Easter dinner and I was particularly looking forward to it this year because of the "Savor the Moment" Challenge. Our fabulous James Beard Award-Winning cookbook is rife with recipes perfect for an eggs-cellent Easter meal. Recipes I chose for this year's Easter Feast included the Artichoke Cheesecake (pg. 56), The Herbed Leg of Lamb (pg. 155), Strawberry Patch Soup (pg. 113) and, one of my all-time favorites, Green Beans and Friends (pg. 216).
Upon arrival, our guests were greeted with the delicious Artichoke Cheesecake and assorted cheeses including Brie with Red Pepper Jelly and a tasty Dill Havarti. To pair with our hors oeuvres we served Veuve Clicquot NV and a 2009 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes from Argentina. Susana Balbo, the winemaker, selected the term "crios" meaning "offspring" to indicate these wines are meant to be enjoyed young. Torrontes is the primary white grape varietal of Argentina and I love its distinctly floral aromas, citrus flavors and pleasing acidity. It paired very nicely with both the cheeses and the Artichoke Cheesecake with it's creamy delicious flavors of garlic, pimento, feta cheese, cream cheese and artichokes. I made the Cheesecake the night before, which was super convenient. It requires the use of a springform pan which sounds intimidating but actually makes serving a breeze! As suggested, I garnished it with basil leaves and chopped pimiento and, voila! the hors oeuvres were served!
Just before dinner as an "amuse bouche," I served small glasses of "Savor the Moment's" Strawberry Patch Soup. I followed the directions as stated in the cookbook, blending together 16 ounces of fresh strawberries, 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup half and half, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons white wine and blended until smooth. I also added some Chambord, a black raspberry liqueur, which really enhanced the flavor of the strawberries. I also made this recipe the night before, chilled in the fridge and served up the next day garnished with some mint and chopped strawberries marinated in a little additional Chambord. Light and refreshing, it was the perfect palate cleanser before our Easter meal.
For the main event, we went with the dynamic duo of "Lamb and Ham" - like Batman and Robin, an unbeatable pair! The Herbed Leg of Lamb recipe was from "Savor the Moment" and the ham, one of my all-time favorite holiday indulgences, was a Honey Baked Ham. I must tell you, my name is Stephanie and I am a ham-a-holic! I'm not sure what it is about a Honey Baked Ham, maybe it's the crispy, sugary coating or the perfectly seasoned, spiral slices but I just can't get enough! I am also happy to report the Herbed Leg of Lamb, which I made for the first time on Easter Sunday, was positively delicious (whew)! Seasoned with olive oil, crushed garlic, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper and dusted with flour, the bone-in leg of lamb roasted in the oven for a couple hours until it reached 145 degrees for medium rare. I basted it frequently with white wine and water added to the pan prior to roasting. In addition to the "Ham and Lamb" I also served Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and, the much requested holiday staple, Green Beans and Friends. I have included the recipe for the lamb below! Just FYI I used fresh rosemary and thyme instead of dried and I roasted it based on temperature, not time.
To pair with our Easter feast we served a 2007 Domaine Palon Vacqueyras. Vacqueyras is a French wine Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the southern Rhône wine region of France. It lies in close proximity to the much heralded Chateauneuf du Pape AOC and is primarily a red wine region with some white and rosé wines also being produced. The Domaine Palon Vacqueyras is a blend of 75% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre, and 9% Syrah, the principal red grape varietals of the region. It had a gorgeous, deep ruby/purple color and tantalizing aromas of black cherry, cassis and licorice. This delicious, full-bodied wine complemented the lamb beautifully with its bold tannins and juicy flavors of black currants, black cherries and pepper. It had a nice long finish and could easily age for a few more years in the bottle although, I have to tell you, it is quite delicious right now!
After our fabulous Easter meal we were all sitting around the table savoring the moment when, to my surprise, Steve emerged from the house with the most beautiful birthday cake I have ever seen! It was from my new favorite place in town Cupcake Couture, a gourmet sweet boutique that specializes in fabulous cupcakes named after designers (Cocoa Chanel, Donatella Vanilla, Yves Saint Lemon). My gorgeous cake was a "Limey Pulitzer" (after Lilly Pulitzer) and consisted of delicious white cake, key lime buttercream frosting dotted with candied limes and hot pink shredded coconut - divine! It was the perfect ending to an eggcellent Easter Sunday/Birthday Dinner.
Herbed Leg of Lamb (pg. 155)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (5-6 pound) leg of lamb
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
Mix the garlic, salt and olive oil in a small bowl. Spread over the lamb. Sprinkle with the thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and flour. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and add the wine and water to the pan. Roast at 325 degrees for 2.5 hours, basting frequently with the pan juices. Serves eight.