Friday, April 22, 2011

Rosie's Easter Celebration.

Hello, my friends. Today, I will be doing Rosie's Easter Celebration. Yes, it's not Easter, but I wanted to actually give you recipes and food FOR Easter- so you might get ideas and use some of what I've offered you for your own Easter meal. I'm making a pre-Easter meal just for you- partly to make up for only the best corned beef I've ever made, which I didn't offer until after last month's St. Patrick's day. My bad.
I was recently asked to do a monthly food column for the Outer Banks Voice, our local online information site. My first column, about Caesar salad, appeared in late March and can be found here. For my April column, I wanted to make a proper Easter meal. This post is about making that celebratory feast- my step-by-steps, if you will. My Easter column for the Outer Banks Voice can be found here: Celebrate Life. Please check it out. I have the recipes I'm doing in this post, plus I wrote about some of the religious history and symbolism of Easter. Here's my Easter meal.
I grew up eating lamb and I've always loved it. Leg o' lamb, lamb chops, ground lamb. They are all intimate friends of mine. Like Mama Hawthorne, I've always roasted a leg of lamb for Easter. I like the tradition. I like the continuity. That's probably going to end right here. But, whatever, it's what I do. This year, I'm going against tradition- meaning, I'm not cooking a lamb like Mama Hawthorne did. I've always prepared my lamb by pouring boiling water over top, like Mama did. This year, Rosie's going rogue. She's going to make a spice rub and a marinade for her lamb. And she's going to sear it before popping it in the oven. That's my plan.
Ingredients for the marinade: 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 ELBOO (Extra Light Bertolli Olive Oil) 1 cup red wine 6 cloves garlic 2 TB chopped fresh mint 2 TB chopped fresh rosemary 2 TB chopped fresh thyme 2 TB chopped fresh oregano 1 TB freshly ground sea salt 1 TB freshly ground pepper
Mint, top left. Garlic, top right. Thyme, bottom right. Rosemary, bottom left. Oregano, middle.
One tablespoon each of freshly ground pepper and salt.
Add pepper and salt to herb/garlic mixture. This is your spice rub.
Goodness me. Look at the price of this leg of lamb. Over thirty-two bucks! What I do for my peeps.
Here's my leg.
I commenced to slicing off the fat. Quite a bit at that. Leave a little bit on for delicious flavor.
Massage the garlic/herb/salt and pepper rub into the meat.
Make the marinade: 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup ELBOO (Extra Light Bertolli Olive Oil) 1 cup red wine I used Black Opal Cabernet/Merlot. I slowly poured the oil into the lemon juice, vigorously whisking to make a nice emulsion.
Pour this down the side of the bag. Try not to wash off the herb rub.
Cabernet/Merlot down the side.
Squeeze the air out, seal the bag, and massage whenever you think about it.
I marinated my lamb overnight, discarded the marinade, and ...
... wiped off the lamb.
Heat up an iron skillet. Toss in 2 TB or more of butter, some oil, heat over medium high, and when you see that first wisp of smoke wafting off the hot skillet, sear the meat. Place the lamb in the pan and leave it for 2 - 3 minutes.
Sear the opposite side. 2 - 3 minutes
Sear one edge.
Then the other.
After all that lovely searing, I deglazed the pan with red wine (maybe 1 cup) ...
... scraping up the goody bits with a wooden spatula ...
... then adding in 2 cups beef broth. Place into a 425 degree oven. After 20 minutes, turn heat down to 350 degrees. I baked for 1 hour and 7 minutes, until my thermometer reached 160 degrees.
My lamb has reached 160 degrees internally. Remove from oven. Do NOT remove thermometer probe. If you do, you will lose wonderful juices that will spout out of the probe hole, instead of the juices redistributing throughout the meat making it juicy and flavorful.
Lovely lamb. I went out today and picked flowers - tulips, jonquils, stock. When I came back inside, the aroma was stunning. Heady, earthy, yeasty, winy. I went back outside later to pick asparagus. I think the aroma was better the second time around.
Remove meat to a cutting board, tent, and let rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.
Return skillet of lamb juices to medium high heat until boiling. Lower heat and barely simmer. Add in more beef broth, a cup or so, scraping up the bits. Taste-test, as always.
Thinly slice the lamb.
I told you earlier that I was making the traditional lamb in an untraditional way for me. I've always made lamb the way Mama Hawthorne did - pour boiling water over the lamb as you watch the meat shiver and seize. Then bake at 350 until done. This time, I veered a bit. I marinated my lamb. I seared my lamb. Then I baked my lamb. The aromas emanating from my kitchen were heavenly. When I ate the outer slices of lamb, the marinade flavors were delicately lingering. As I ate toward the inner lamb, there was more of the wonderful lamb flavor. I poured some of the gravy over top. Baked a Schwann's baguette with a bunch of butter. Tender. Juicy. Flavorful. Meaty. Herby. Earthy. Most excellent. Just wait for my Spring Risotto with asparagus, green peas, and lemon.
Oh look! You don't have to wait for my Spring Risotto. Here it is! Risotto ingredients: 2 -3 TB butter 1-2 TB oil 1 cup arborio rice Imagine 1 small onion, chopped 1/4 cup white wine 1 lemon, zested and juiced 1 quart + vegetable stock, heated delivered in 1/4 cup increments 2-3 TB heavy cream 1 TB butter 6 asparagus spears 1/2 cup frozen peas 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Before you start cooking, always have everything prepared and ready to go. Zest your lemon and juice it. Grate your Parmesan. Chop your onion. To prepare asparagus, hold with one hand at each end of the spear, snap off the bottom portion, and discard. The asparagus will snap off in the right place naturally. Then cut into small pieces.
Heat butter and oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan.
Add in onions and let sweat for a minute or two. Do not brown.
Add in the rice and stir to coat with the butter/oil. You want to completely coat the grains with the butter so the rice doesn't absorb the liquid too quickly.
I added in another tablespoon of butter to completely coat all the grains.
Add in the lemon juice.
Add in the lemon zest.
Add in 1/4 cup white wine. Stir continuously and let the rice soak up the liquid before adding any more.
I'm using 2 cans of low sodium vegetable broth. Add 1/4 cup broth at a time, letting the rice absorb the liquid before adding the next 1/4 cup. Making risotto is a labor of love. You must stir constantly. And this will take about 30 minutes. My suggestion to you is to pour a nice glass of wine and keep the bottle near. Stirring is fun!
Keep scraping up from the bottom.
After 25 minutes, I added in the asparagus ...
... the peas ...
... a few tablespoons of heavy cream ...
... and grated Parmesan. Stir to mix completely, remove from heat, and cover. Risotto is best served immediately.
I like to serve the risotto in a lemon cup. Besides being pretty, the lemon conveys more flavor to the risotto. Most importantly, whenever I can use food as a vessel for food, I'll do it in a heartbeat.
Easter-egg lemon cup of my Spring Risotto, loaf of bread, lamb and gravy, asparagus, and baby red potatoes with butter and dill. Now, for more Easter symbolism:

As for the symbolism of the Easter bunny, the rabbit has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The rabbit was recognized as a symbol of fertility and renewal in ancient Egypt. Rabbits and hares were the most fertile creatures known and they served as powerful symbols of the new life during the Spring season. Later on, the Celts and other European groups celebrated the festival of Eastre. The name “Easter” and the word “East” (where the sun rises) both originate from Eastre who was the Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility, variously known as Eastra, Eostra, Eostur, Eostre, and Ostara. Eastre’s symbol was the rabbit, the most fertile animal and a symbol of new life. Interestingly, the word “estrus,” referring to an animal in heat, is also derived from Eostre, as her consort was a rabbit with an exceptionally high libido. The Easter Bunny as an Easter symbol seems to have its origins in Germany in the Middle Ages. The first edible Easter bunnies-baked pastry bunnies-were made in Germany in the early 1800’s. The bunny treats, along with gummy candies shaped like eggs (which is where jelly beans came from), were placed in straw nests, hidden, for the children to find. When the Germans arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country in the 1700’s, they brought their customs with them-chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and colored eggs. The German immigrants are credited with popularizing the Easter Bunny tradition in America. As for the colored eggs, German tradition has it that a magical rabbit, Oschter Haws, would leave the children a nest of colored eggs at Easter time if they were good. As the tradition of the Easter bunny spread throughout America, the introduction of elaborate Easter baskets, Easter hats, and Easter parades was only a hop, skip, and a jump away- all of which leads me to the ubiquitous Easter Peeps.

Peeps are indestructible. Using such agents as liquid nitrogen, boiling water, and cigarette smoke, Peeps are not burned, dissolved, or otherwise disintegrated. Peeps are insoluble in water, acetone, sodium hydroxide, and diluted sulfuric acid.

Why eat Peeps at Easter? (A better question: why eat them at all?) How did the marshmallow chicks find Jesus? The Easter Bunny is represented by the marshmallow rabbits, but what do marshmallow chicks have to do with Christ’s resurrection? Well, it seems they have very little to do with Jesus and a lot to do with spring.

The plot thickens: Sam Born, a Russian immigrant, moved to the United States in 1910. In 1917, he opened a small candy shop in Brooklyn, offering an evolving line of daily-made candy. The company survived the Depression, actually thriving in spite of it, and in 1932, Born relocated to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and named his chocolate and confections shop, Just Born, a slogan advertising the freshness of his wares. In fact, their logo is “A great candy isn’t made … it’s Just Born.”

Just Born grew through the acquisition of other candy companies. In 1953, Just Born acquired the Rodda Candy Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Rodda Candy Company, based in Pennsylvania Dutch country, was a Pennsylvania confectioner well-known for its jelly bean making prowess. Rodda also had a line of marshmallow products which intrigued the Just Born family - the iconic Easter Peeps. Originally, this popular three-dimensional marshmallow treat was laboriously hand-made in the back of the factory by squeezing marshmallow through pastry tubes. At that time, in 1953, it took 27 hours to make one Peep. Bob Born, Sam’s son, was instrumental in mechanizing the marshmallow forming process, cutting the time down to six minutes. In just one year, in 1954, Just Born had mechanized the Peep confection, bringing it to consumers on a mass scale. Today, Just Born is the world’s largest manufacturer of novelty marshmallow treats, cranking out more than 4 million Peeps each day- enough in one year to circle the earth twice. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the company began distributing the candies in other shapes, such as bunnies.

Again, the candy Peep’s link to Easter, not surprisingly, has basically nothing to do with any Christian roots, but rather with pagan origins. Eggs, and their occupants, the chicks, are long-standing symbols of rebirth and fertility- images appropriate for the celebration of spring and new life. Christianity eventually absorbed pagan fertility rituals symbolizing new life and incorporated them into their Easter rites.

And there it is.

You have Peeps for Easter.

Happy Easter, my friends.


Marilyn said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the history lesson as well as the cooking lesson!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thank you, Mar.

Rocquie said...

A lovely post and a delicious looking meal. I especially love that second photo--it really is beautiful.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thanks, Sage.