Easter Potpourrie

I have noticed that quite a few of my readers have been hitting my site over the last few days, and it occurred to me that you are probably looking for some ideas for your Easter feasting. Sorry I didn’t think of it before, but I have been so focused on my bistro posts and our own Easter dinner that I completely forgot about the rest of the world! So today I thought I’d throw up a few recipes I think would be ideal for your holiday. Not much time to write more than a few thoughts on each. Hope it suffices. Have a wonderful holiday, whichever you celebrate. See you on the backside with a great post featuring pork.

This weekend is a time when everyone is looking for the best way to boil eggs, and Julia Child nailed that one for me years ago. Well, almost. You will note that I disagree with her with regard to the optimal timing and method to get the shells off. However, that is less relevant when preparing for dying and leaving them out for the bunny person to hide, as they will have been long cooled before the shelling begins. At other times, go with Julia’s overnight method, or try mine, or try both and report back. Either way, the method of cooking produces perfectly cooked eggs.

A few more hints: Hard-boiled eggs are easiest ot peel if they are made with old eggs. I have also read that if you buy your eggs ahead of time, you can get the yolks to center themselves in the egg whites by putting them in the fridge well ahead of time and daily rotating the sides they lie on. Too late for this year, but you might want to shelve the ideas.

PERFECT HARD-BOILED EGGS, À LA JULIA CHILD

 

12/10/11 I just re-read these Julia instructions, and I really disagree with the chilling overnight instructions. A fast chill with cold water, preferably ice-water, then a fast de-shelling under the faucet is my preferred way. I think that the immediate shelling works better because the separation between the layers is more pronounced immediately after you first do the cold plunge. Later they become connected/solidified.

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. The water should be 1” above the tops of the eggs. Lightly salt water and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water is boiling, turn off the heat and let the pan sit for ten minutes; that’s enough to cook the eggs through without overcooking them. Then place the pan under running cold water until the water feels cool (this will help the egg shells separate more easily from the egg whites). Chill overnight before peeling, if possible. Peel the eggs under cold running water to remove any small pieces of shell. Submerged in a bowl of water and stored in the refrigerator, peeled, hard-boiled eggs will keep for 2 more days.

This is a really wonderful coffeecake that I have been making some 35-40 years now. I particularly like the subtle blend of cinnamon and ginger against the tangy influence of the buttermilk. Flavorful, tender as hell from the buttermilk component, and without any fussiness regarding instructions, it is a great treat for a holiday morning; one of my long-times loves in the breakfast breads category

.

Serves 12 to16

 

CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE

Gourmet

2 ¼ cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup corn oil

2 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1 ½ tsp. salt

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Grease a 13” x 9” baking pan. Combine flour, sugars, oil,  2 ½ tsp. cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl and blend well. Transfer ½ cup of the mixture to a small bowl. Stir in the walnuts and ½ tsp. cinnamon and set aside. Add buttermilk, egg, baking powder, and baking soda to remaining mixture, and blend thoroughly. Turn batter into pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with nut mixture. Bake until a tester in the center of the cake comes clean, about 35 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool.

This is a terrific side, and a real favorite of mine. I frequently keep it in the fridge for snacking, one spear at a time. It’s a great way to add another vegetable to a holiday table without  having to deal with it last minute. It can be made well ahead, and is always a hit.

Serves 6-8

COLD ASPARAGUS WITH PECANS


1 ½ pounds asparagus, as young and tender as possible. Or 2 10-ounce packages frozen asparagus

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

2 T vegetable oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tsp. sugar (optional – I don’t)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the asparagus and cook in boiling water for 6-7 minutes, or until barely tender and still bright green. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again. Arrange in one or two layers in an oblong serving dish. Mix the pecans with the oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar, if using. Pour over the asparagus, lifting the stalks so that the mixture penetrates to the bottom. Sprinkle with black pepper. Serve chilled. The dish may be marinated up to 36 hours ahead.

Another vegetable that adds great flavor and color to any spread is Provençal Roasted Tomatoes.  To see what I had to say about them when I posted the recipe, go here. They taste great, even when made with off-season tomatoes, and can be cooked in the same oven with the Gratin Dauphinois, at its lower temperature. Just leave them in the oven for a few more minutes after you’ve taken the gratin out. You’ll love the fact that these can be prepared beforehand and just popped into the oven when you’re ready.
 

PROVENÇAL ROASTED TOMATOES

Bistro

 

8 firm, ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored and halved crosswise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 garlic cloves

¾ cup fresh breadcrumbs

A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely minced

3 T extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400º F

Arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up in a large baking dish. (Unless the tomatoes are exceptionally watery, do not seed or drain them: The tomatoes will hold their shape better and the natural juices will mingle nicely with the garlic and the herbs.) Season generously with salt and pepper. Slice the garlic into thin chips and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Combine the parsley and breadcrumbs and scatter the mixture over the tomatoes. Drizzle on the oil.

Bake, uncovered, until the tomatoes are soft, browned and sizzling, about 1 hour. Serve immediately.

Next on the list is the marvelous Potato Dauphinois from Mme. Cartet’s Paris bistro, a gratin of noteworthy stature. I absolutely love it, and it is the perfect accompaniment to a number of the usual protein centerpieces at holiday dinners. We are serving it to our table of 15 this Easter, alongside a wonderful smoked boneless leg of lamb stuffed with spinach, goat cheese and pinenuts my son-in-law John is preparing. But it would be equally perfect with a ham or roast beef.  It is hugely popular with all ages. If you have time, convert your heavy cream into crème fraîche. The recipe follows. All you need is a little buttermilk and 12 to 48 hours. You won’t be sorry. It elevates the gratin to a whole new level. Use the leftover buttermilk to treat your family to the Cinnamon Coffeecake I posted above.

Serves 4 to 6

 

GRATIN DAUPHINOIS MADAME CARTET

Bistro

 

1 garlic clove, cut in half
2 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup crême fraîche
salt

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Rub the inside of a 6-cup gratin dish with the cut side of the garlic clove. Rub until the gratin dish is well lubricated with the garlic

Layer half the potatoes in the bottom of the gratin dish. Spread half the crême fraîche over top. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the potatoes and season with salt.

Repeat the previous step with the remaining potatoes, crême fraîche, cheese, and salt.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

CRÈME  FRAÎCHE

NY Times

Crème fraîche can do anything sour cream does, more elegantly — serve it with caviar, drizzle on tacos, or dollop on berries. In fact, it’s better than sour cream because it doesn’t break at high temperatures: whisk a little into simmering sauces and soups to add tangy richness.

In a bowl, whisk together 1 part buttermilk with 8 parts of the best heavy cream you can find — not ultra-pasteurized. (For example, 1/4 cup buttermilk to 2 cups cream.) Cover the bowl and leave it at room temperature for 12 hours to 2 days, until it thickens and separates. Whisk together and transfer to a container; refrigerate, tightly covered.

If you’re looking for something a little decadent and different (not to mention utterly unforgettable) for dessert this weekend, you might want to consider the following Coconut Banana Cream Pie. One family friend who has always hated coconut can’t get enough of it. The really unusual element is a crust made solely of coconut toasted in butter. Every bite featuring this crust is a little piece of heaven. The filling is a classic cream filling layered  with bananas, topped with some whipped cream and a few sprinkles of toasted coconut. It is a real standout.

Happy Easter to one and all!

COCONUT BANANA CREAM PIE

Southern Living


3 cups flaked coconut

½ cup butter

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Melt butter in pan. Sauté coconut until golden brown. Reserve 2 T coconut and press the rest into a greased 9” pie plate. Bake for 7 minutes.

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

2 T cornstarch

¼ tsp. salt

3 cups half and half

4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

3 bananas, peeled

1 cup heavy cream

Sugar to taste

1 tsp. vanilla

In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add cream. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add a small amount to the egg yolks, then add back to the pan. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let cool to room temperature. To keep it from forming a skin on top, cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap.

Slice 2 bananas and layer them on the bottom of the crust. Cover with the filling, and chill for about 2 hours. Whip cream with sugar and vanilla till it holds firm peaks. Spread over pie. Decorate with the remaining banana, sliced, and reserved coconut.

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4 Responses to Easter Potpourrie

  1. Lara MacLachlan says:

    I made the cinnamon coffee cake today and followed your written instructions explicitly. When it was done, it seemed like something was missing (the topping seemed like just dry flour). When I reviewed the list of ingredients again I noticed the corn oil, but it was never mentioned in the text of your recipe. Where does the corn oil go? How do I make the topping less dry?

    Lara

    • Mim says:

      Hi Lara, just got your message. I’m so sorry about the error, which is what it apparently is. From a cursory look at the recipe I posted, I seem to have typed it in (it is from my long-time files) with an error, leaving out the addition of the oil at the beginning of the recipe. Just about all the Gourmet recipes are on epicurious.com now, so I went looking for it, since I’m not at home right now (at Jenn and John’s for the holiday weekend), and found one that looks almost like it. I am pretty sure that my recipe would say, as this one does to add the oil with the sugars flour, etc. at the beginning. Then the 1/2 cup comes out. I will take the time tonight to do a side-by side evaluation and send you the corrected recipe. I’m just so sorry that you went to the trouble of making it and had a failure due to a typo of mine. I hope this won’t keep you from trying it again once I figure out what the problem is. I have been making this recipe for about 4o years, and it is truly a favorite of mine. I consider myself to be pretty fussy about what I eat and recommend, so this really makes me feel awful. I am sure you will love it when made as meant to be made. I can’t tell you tonight for sure what is wrong, since my original paper recipes are at home. From a first look, however, the only difference I see is that my recipe calls for removing 1/2 cup, as opposed to 3/4 cup for the topping in the epicurious recipe. Here is the link, so you can take a look yourself. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/BUTTERMILK-CINNAMON-COFFEE-CAKE-50074627 Again, my apologies.

      Mim

  2. Lara MacLachlan says:

    Thank-you for your prompt reply! Another question for you about what kind of coconut to use for the coconut banana cream pie recipe. Sweetened or unsweetened? Flaked or shredded coconut? I only ask because there seems to be a variety of options between Whole Foods and my local grocery store.

    Lara

    • Mim says:

      hi Lara, Use sweetened, right from your regular grocery store for this. At least I do. In general I tend to go for the sweetened unless the recipe calls for unsweetened. Since most people don’t buy their baking ingredients in exclusive stores, I figure a recipe is most likely developed using commonly available ingredients. I think I used Baker’s brand, which is fairly short in flake, but for this recipe it will not matter. I am delighted that you are going to make it, as it is absolutely delicious. I hope you’llcome back and let us know what you think.

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