Springtime Feast for New Beginnings

Easter is a religious holiday with secular themes anyone can enjoy, like the promise of a new beginning each spring. This year, the celebration included a sense of relief and anticipation for the possibilities in the remainder of 2021 — the day before Easter I got my second dose of the vaccine! My husband and I are now fully vaccinated as well as three out of four of the kids’ grandparents (my mom has had one dose) and my grandmother. After a year of intense anxiety full of news briefings where folks who thought they were being reassuring said “it only seriously affects these people” when I am these people, I am thrilled to finally have some protection from this virus. This was a weekend to celebrate.

Deviled eggs with mayo, whole grain mustard, chives, and bacon.

Since we couldn’t go to Mass, we did Easter dinner instead of brunch and enjoyed a late morning egg hunt. Between hunting and feasting, we had deviled eggs. I went super traditional this year because I usually prefer to make Sunny Anderson’s deviled eggs but I didn’t have any pickled jalapenos (a crime in itself). My professional opinion is that deviled eggs require a pickled element and my husband hates pickles with the exception of pickled jalapenos, so my eggs were fine but I ate them with a pickle on the side. Remember to have your lover make a likes and dislike list before you agree to share meals until death do you part.

Now, I worked all day on dinner, including a couple hours the day before, but I was so tired from the vaccine side effects that when it came time to plate I lost steam and just got everything to the table. Plus, I made the dessert a couple hours before dinner and used up all my energy and plating skills on that dish alone.

This plate needs color! Look at that crust, though.

I took a survey on Facebook to decide what to make for Easter dinner since ham is also on my husband’s list of dislikes and we eat roast chicken at least once per week already. The overwhelming favorite was pork roast, so I honored the results and made a roast rubbed with thyme and garlic. The recipe I used called for rosemary but thyme is a little milder for this spring dish. Also, we have rosemary all the time because it grows in our yard (one of the only plants I haven’t managed to murder). Now, the timing and method are good, but I would not recommend adding garlic to the rub. There’s this line from Sex and the City that still bothers me, when Big is talking about life and using cooking as a metaphor, saying, “you have to brown the garlic before you put in the onions.” NO. Do not brown the garlic! Between the searing and the roasting in a cast iron pan, the garlic is brown before it’s even in the oven. Garlic that’s browned fast is burned garlic and it gets bitter in a hurry. Instead, throw a couple smashed cloves into the pan juices to sizzle on the stove and make a sauce while the roast rests. Deglaze with white wine or broth, scrape the bits off the bottom, reduce, and voila. Swirl in a pat of butter off the heat if you’re feeling sexy.

Miso poached carrots

The labor of love for this meal was not, in fact, the pretty dessert, but instead it was the carrots. I’ve been watching Gordon Ramsay’s Masterclass and he made miso-poached baby leeks that looked divine. I’ve never cooked with miso and was able to get some curbside from the fancy store on our side of town, but alas, no baby leeks. During the Masterclass Chef Ramsay said carrots would be a good substitution, so I got really beautiful carrots from the fancy store as well. First you trim the greens off the carrots and lightly rub them with a scrubbing pad or just clean them very well since small carrots don’t need to be peeled. Then you grill them with olive oil and lemon zest, just enough to get some marks. Next, make a miso broth (literally miso in broth) and poach them until incredibly tender. The sauce is a whole other event: hard boil eggs, separate yolks from whites, press them through a sieve, add lemon, olive oil, and chives. Chef Ramsay also adds a bunch of caviar to this sauce, but assured the viewers you don’t have to…but you should. Any guesses on whether I found fresh Osetra caviar in El Paso? LOL. It might be available somewhere here, but I didn’t even bother to look because it’s expensive and I am the only one who likes it in this house. So yes, the dish is modified, but the method and most of the ingredients are in the spirit of the Masterclass recipe, which I unfortunately cannot link.

The dish didn’t plate as beautifully as the original, in part I think because Ramsay has a sexy black plate and his sauce was tighter than mine, I must have added too much olive oil. Also the specks of caviar in his sauce make it pop and mine just looks like scrambled eggs, but the taste is really special. It doesn’t taste like a hard boiled egg sauce, it’s like an earthy vinaigrette with a hit of lemon that goes really well with the carrots. And y’all, if I can find caviar I will make it again because I love my black caviar with chopped eggs! The carrots come out silky but really flavorful because of the light char from the grill and the complex miso broth. You know I love a soft-cooked vegetable.

Snap peas and sweet peas with shallots, lemon zest, and mint.

This, my friends, is springtime in a bowl. Blanch peas and sliced snap peas in salted boiling water until bright green (you can eat snap peas raw, but I can’t, so I blanched mine). Shock in ice water and drain, then set aside until right before dinner. Sweat a minced shallot in olive oil until it’s translucent and soft, then toss in peas and snap peas and gently mix — don’t mash your peas! Grate in lemon zest (not juice — juice makes the greens turn brown), add salt to taste, and just before plating toss with chiffonade of mint. It’s delicious at room temperature, and you don’t want to cook your mint anyway, so this is a really easy and unfussy dish to pair with the prima-donna carrots. Garnish with more mint and zest and flakey salt.

Sweet cream and fresh fruit pavlova

And now for the showpiece. I have one kid that doesn’t like chocolate cake, and I’ve made a lot of cakes in the last year, so for Easter I made my first pavlova. Emboldened by a recent successful attempt at meringues, I chose a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa herself. Pavlova is not supposed to be cooked all the way through like a meringue cookie, but this recipe didn’t cook it enough, so I added some time and some heat. Baking in El Paso is always a little weird because its incredibly dry and we have *some* altitude, but not enough to ruin every single recipe, so we have to be flexible. The first attempt was so soft it cracked when I tried to very gently removed it from the parchment, so I put it back in the oven per the recommendations from the commenters. It was then stable enough to move but still chewy marshmallow in the middle. I made whipped cream and topped it with fruit and piped on tiny dots of lemon curd. Most pavlovas have a tart topping but I am pretty sure my family would be turned off by a pool of sour curd on top, so I didn’t add too much. The result was light, fluffy, and sweet with my “good vanilla” prominent in the meringue. The cream could have used some vanilla as well, but I didn’t want it to be off-white. I considered glazing the fruit with apricot jam, but didn’t want it to be too wet since it had to hold a couple hours before dinner. When I make it again, I might glaze it immediately before serving, as I don’t want the sugar to make the fruit and cream bleed as it sits.

I hope your Easter was full of love, new beginnings, and hope for the future, just like mine. If religion is your thing, you can be comforted by the reminder that our Savior died and has risen to wipe away our sins, and if you’re not into church, springtime shows us all that what once looked beyond repair in the bleak winter months is now blooming again. Happy Spring!

Fresh berry pavlova with unruly kiwis
Bonus: Thursday’s Hot Cross Buns

2 thoughts on “Springtime Feast for New Beginnings

Add yours

  1. I don’t know how you do this. The menu was inspirational and sounds divine. The pavlova photo could be a magazine cover. Your family is very lucky to have you.


  2. I don’t know how you do this. The menu was inspirational and sounds divine. The pavlova photo could be a magazine cover. Your family is very lucky to have you.


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