• October 25, 2014

For elegant Easter dining, think main-course finger food

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Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 4:30 am

Let’s think small this Easter. Think main-course finger food.

You ditch the big, expensive piece of protein, the large casseroles, too, and still keep the largesse with a menu that serves eight generously and has all the components of a typical Easter meal. It just puts them on a different scale.

Everything is downsized a bit, meant, except for dessert, to be eaten without utensils. Elegant and cute.

Rack of lamb persillade

A frenched rack of lamb means that all the meat and fat have been scraped off the bones down to the tenderloin part, leaving a nice nugget of meat.

  • 1 rack of lamb, frenched
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • ½ cup fresh white breadcrumbs
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the rack in a foil-lined pan, fat side up. Rub the top (not the bones) with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the lamb for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the parsley and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until they’re both finely minced. Add the breadcrumbs and lemon zest and process for a second until combined. Take the lamb out of the oven and press the parsley mixture on top of the meat. (You’ll have more than you need.) Drizzle with the melted butter, tamp the topping down with the back of a spoon and return immediately to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes for medium lamb, 8 to 10 minutes more for medium rare. Take the lamb out of the oven and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes, cut into chops. Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 8.

— Adapted from Ina Garten

Ham turnovers

These are based on a recipe from the Junior League of Tampa’s wonderful cookbook, “The Life of the Party.” The originals are bigger and use chicken. I subbed in ham and made them small.

  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 (5-ounce) package Boursin garlic-and-herb cheese
  • ½ pound smoked ham, thickly sliced and diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed but still very cold
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Mix milk into the cheese, then add ham and shallot. Cut each sheet into nine squares, brush the edges with the egg wash, put about 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of each square and fold into triangles. (You’ll have extra topping; it’s good on toast or in a baked potato.) At this point, you can freeze them for up to one month, if desired. To bake, brush tops with egg wash. Sprinkle with a little cheese if desired. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 10 minutes or until golden.

Makes 18.

— Adapted from “The Life of the Party”

Lemon and berry parfaits

Meyer lemons are less bitter and have a beautiful golden skin that’s thinner than regular lemons’. For a faster lemon cream, whip a cup of heavy cream and fold a jar of lemon curd into it. Any berries will work for these parfaits.

For the lemon cream:

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice (Meyer or regular)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter

Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar and salt in a stainless-steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of a saucepan over, not touching, the water. (Never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring; the sugar will cook the yolks and turn them granular.) Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick, about 10 to 12 minutes. It should thicken to the point that your whisk leaves a trail through the curd. Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool for a few minutes, stirring from time to time to release the heat. Meanwhile, cut butter into tablespoon pieces. Pour the lemon cream into a blender. With the blender running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow, opaque and quite thick.

You can use the cream immediately or refrigerate in a container with a tight-fitting lid for up to five days. Makes about 2-½ cups.

To assemble:

  • 1 pint strawberries, cut up and/or other, smaller whole berries, sprinkled with a teaspoon of sugar to release juices
  • ½ cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 2 to 4 butter cookies, crumbled

Divide the lemon cream among 8 small cups. Add a layer of berries. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cookie crumbs or small pieces.

Serves 8

— Food 52

Steamed baby vegetables

This isn’t really a recipe. You can use any regular-sized vegetables, but the little ones, found in most supermarkets, are festive and fun though more expensive. Roasting the vegetables gives them more flavor, but I like the look of steamed ones on the plate for this meal.

A package each of little carrots, zucchini, squash and potatoes, plus asparagus tips and, for color, uncooked little tomatoes.

Put about 1 inch of water in a large pot fitted with a steamer rack. Cook each type of produce (except the tomatoes, which are served uncooked) separately by covering the pot and bringing the water to a boil to create the steam. Carrots and small potatoes need about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how crisp you like them. Zucchini and squash take about 2 to 4 minutes and asparagus 1 to 2 minutes. Test them with a knife tip. When done, remove the vegetables and put them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. They can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4 to 8

— Lennie Bennett

Deviled quail eggs

You can use regular eggs, but these are so cute and make great little poppers. They taste just like chicken eggs. Find them in Asian markets. They’re fragile, and usually at least one is cracked and has to be discarded. You can add almost anything to the yolk mixture for variety.

  • 24 quail eggs
  • 6 regular eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard or to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Minced chives for garnish, optional
  • Sea salt for garnish, optional

Put quail eggs in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally and gently. When water boils, remove pan from heat, cover and let sit for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and chill. In time, peel.

For topping: Put regular eggs in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit for 8 minutes. Drain and chill. Peel the eggs and put yolks into a bowl. Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper to taste and mash.

To assemble: Cut a small slice off the bottom of the quail eggs so they’ll stand upright, and a small slice off the top as a platform for the topping. Pipe or spoon the yolk mixture onto each egg. Garnish with chives and sea salt if desired.

Makes up to 24 eggs.

— Lennie Bennett

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