Celebrating Easter conjures up images of children decked out in their saddle shoes and Sunday Best, wildly hunting for dyed eggs and baskets heavy with chocolate bunnies and other sugary treats. Always fun, and always exhausting for the parents.
In thinking about Easters past, I recall spending the early part of the day staging my own children’s bunny hunt – inevitably one of my kids would end the morning in a fit of tears; bounties would be levied on the heads of their “too hard to find” Easter basket and egg nests.
Bleary eyed from sugar-highs, by the time Easter dinner rolled around, we were all ready for some “real food.” Traditionally, the star of my Easter menu was Butterflied Leg of Lamb, but this year, at $9.99 a pound, which translates to at least an $80 roast once it’s boned and butterflied, the cost is just too much to stomach.
The following menu is designed to keep your budget and your sanity intact since everything can be prepared in the days before, allowing you to revel in your own children’s celebration and collapse in a heap by mid-afternoon. You’ll probably still be exhausted, but this year, you’ll stay solvent and sane!
Organizing your time:
Four days before write a list of all you’ll need and buy everything except for the asparagus. The vegetable is best left until perhaps the day before when you buy your flowers for the party.
Three days before is a good time to whip out the food processor and get the orange mayonnaise and the salmon’s dill sauce prepped and tucked away for the main event. Wrap the stems of the leftover dill in wet paper towels and then place in an open plastic bag. Refrigerate the greens and use them for garnish on the day of. While the food processor is out, go ahead and make the dough for the Renaissance Ricotta pie. Be sure to wrap tightly in plastic before refrigerating.
Two days before get out your cookie cutter and prep the pumpernickel as either round or heart shape cut outs. Again, seal bread in a zip-lock bag and store at room temperature. This is also the day when you can prepare the filling for the Ricotta pie. As always, store in a large bowl sealed with plastic wrap. When it is time to assemble the pie for baking don’t be alarmed if the mixture appears watery – just give it a healthy stir with a large wooden spoon and you’re good to go. (This is less likely to occur if you strain the ricotta through cheesecloth when making the filling.)
The day before is fine for picking up the asparagus and flowers. (And while you’re running this last errand, set the ricotta filling out on the counter to come to room temp.) Prepare the asparagus according to the recipe and then move on to the Ricotta pie. Take the crust out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you roll it out so that it will be more pliable. Proceed as the recipe directs, allowing pie to cool before refrigerating.
Prepare the Coconut Cake. Allow icing to set before covering with plastic wrap. You can leave it out at room temperature, covered.
If you can, set your table and arrange your flowers before bedtime so that in the morning you can leisurely garnish your platters and re-warm the main course.
The day of, after the egg hunt, church and assorted Easter activities are finished and the kids are in a sugar-induced coma, take the asparagus and Ricotta pie out of the fridge. Gently, after loosening the sides with a knife, remove the outer ring of the spring-form pan and cut the pie into wedges, maintaining the integrity of its form. Lower the outer ring once again around the pie and reheat it in this way. We prefer the pie warm, so you might want to pop it into the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes just before the guests arrive.