In the Savory Pantry this month, as we're wrapping Easter Gift Baskets and stocking seasonal treats, we’ve been waxing nostalgic about favorite family Easter traditions and recipes. As you read how our homes and tables will be hopping, we hope you’ll be celebrating all the foods and traditions you most treasure!
ERIN WOOD, STOCKING THE PANTRY FROM LITTLE ROCK, AR
For me as a child, Easter was nearly as magical as Christmas. Part of that magic was delivered in the way that Easter calls upon the imagination: things hidden and found, cuddly bunnies anthropomorphized and primed for delightful interactions, sweet treats in copious amounts within golden wrappers that begged unveiling.
An Easter décor staple in our household was a Victorian Panoramic Sugar Egg. Then, I didn’t realize what it was called, only that I could peer into it endlessly, always with the feeling that the bunnies and chicks were communicating special messages intended just for me. (As an only child, I didn’t have siblings for entertainment, so I did lots of solitary activities like stare into this egg for what could have been hours.) And somehow the scene inside took flight and life—the narrative written in sugar transforming into something so utterly enchanting that I was transported entirely into the tiny world within. Through moves and summer ants and humidity and storage boxes, my mother’s Sugar Egg that had lasted through decades finally crumbled, before my marriage and the birth of our daughter. This year, when my romantic daydreams of Easter began, I decided to see if I could google up any help. Sure enough, just a state away, not too far from Austin, Texas, I found a lady who creates these hearty but ultimately temporary sugar treasures. Over the moon, I immediately ordered one for our family. As I opened the box with my 4-year-old a week ago, and she peered into the egg’s little window, I could see the warmth in her eyes. Within the scene, the bunnies were hopping and the chicks were peeping and the blades of grass were swaying in the breeze. A new story was writing itself just for her.
Lori Jack, Hot Springs
As children, all ten of my cousins and I would go to my Granny and PawPaw’s house for Easter. We’d line up in age order, dressed in our Easter attire with baskets in hand, to have our annual photo made. After the photo, we were released to run and find the hidden eggs. We’ve carried on this tradition for over 55 years! This year, I get to watch my adorable grandson, Landon (13 mos), and great niece, Emerson (1), begin a new generation at my amazing Mom’s house, and this generation knows her in a whole new way as a grandmother, “GiGi.”
Keeley Ardman DeSalvo, Founder and President of The Savory Pantry
Lamb is the centerpiece of our Easter table, and I have always been a purist when it comes to roasting it: olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt & pepper . . . and lots of it all to create a heavenly crust. Last year, however, I spotted a slightly different take on my recipe in The New York Times. Julia Moskin, reporter for the Times’ food section, made a paste from some of my favorite ingredients: butter (unsalted), anchovies (try Ortiz Spanish Anchovies) or, substitute a great dijon like our Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard—I've used both to rave reviews - garlic, and rosemary. DO NOT omit the anchovies because you fear it will lend a fishy flavor! Once cooked, you can't taste them, but they provide great depth of flavor and a nice contrast to the richness of the lamb. The pan drippings, used for the accompanying sauce, were plentiful and stunning in their own rite. Recipe, adapted from one courtesy of Julia Moskin and The New York Times. You can also see a video via the link.
- 1 large lamb roast with a cap of fat, 4 to 6 pounds: bone-in leg (these can be as large as 8 pounds), semi-boneless leg, bone-in shoulder, boneless butterflied leg or double loin
- 2 ounces Ortiz Anchovies packed in olive oil, drained, or 3 tablespoons Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard
- Leaves from 6 fresh rosemary sprigs (2 heaping tablespoons leaves), plus extra sprigs and branches for garnish
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- Black pepper (recommend India Tree Tellicherry Black Peppercorns)
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 1 ¾ cups white wine, plus extra for gravy
- Heat oven to 425 degrees. Use a small sharp knife to make about a dozen incisions, each about 2 inches deep, through the fat that covers the top of the meat. Using a mortar and pestle or a blender, blend 2/3 of the anchovies (or 2/3 of the mustard if using), the rosemary leaves and the garlic cloves into a chunky paste. Using your fingers, press paste deeply into incisions.
- Mix remaining anchovies (or mustard) and the butter into a paste. Smear this mixture all over the surface of the roast. Season liberally with black pepper. (Do not add salt; the anchovies are salty enough, and so is the mustard.) Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side up, and squeeze the lemon halves over. Pour the wine around the roast into the pan.
- Roast 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast until internal temperature reaches 130 to 135 degrees (for medium-rare or medium meat), about another 60 to 90 minutes. Baste every 20 minutes or so with the wine and drippings in the pan, adding more wine as needed to keep the liquid from scorching. If possible, for the last 15 minutes of cooking, use convection or a broiler to crisp the fat on the roast.
- Remove pan from the oven, remove rack from the pan, and let the roast rest on the rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes in a warm place, tented with foil. The internal temperature will rise to about 140 to 145 degrees.
- To make sauce from the pan drippings, remove a few tablespoons of fat by tipping the pan and spooning off the top layer. Put the pan over medium heat until the liquid simmers. Taste the simmering liquid and whisk in more wine, 1/4 cup at a time, until the consistency and flavor are right. Do not let the mixture become syrupy; it should be a sharp jus, not a thick gravy.
- Carve lamb into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange on a heated platter, decorated with rosemary sprigs. Serve with piping hot gravy.
A note on my lamb: Last year, for the first time, I ordered my lamb from Jamison Farm in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Purveyors of lamb to some of the country's finest restaurants, Jamison lambs are fed on grass, not corn or grain, resulting in a mild tasting, tender meat. Jamison uses no pesticides or herbicides, and the animals are antibiotic and hormone free. Their anthem is “A life fed by the bounty of earth and sweetened by the airs of heaven.” I definitely found that to be the case. Jamison Farm, 800-237-5262, www.jamisonfarm.com.
STACY DE GARAY, SARATOGA
My parents live in a gorgeous old farmhouse complete with a barn and apple trees—the idyllic spot for some old fashioned Easter fun. When my teenage daughter was a toddler, mom filled a few dozen plastic eggs with candy, scattered them in the field, and my daughter ran around in her white Mary Janes and straw hat, collecting them in her little basket. Fast forward 16 years and 6 additional grandchildren, and Grandma's Easter egg hunt has taken on Christmasesque proportions! In addition to the 200+ plastic eggs filled with everything from jelly beans to $20 bills, each grandchild is also given a tote bag that is color-coded to match the wrapping paper on their larger gifts. The kids leave with video games, gift cards, radio-controlled cars, and summer outfits complete with accessories! My mom is now known as “Grandma Easter Clause.”
As with all great family traditions, there have been hiccups along the way, like the years when snow-covered fields move the hunt indoors or a 75 degree day leaves 200 plastic eggs filled with puddles of chocolate. One year, metallic eggs attracted the attention of some local crows . . . they should have known better than to come between a 5-year-old and his candy! This year’s hunt promises to be another great one, as my 18-month-old old niece and nephew are finally mobile enough to join in the festivities. It's always so much fun to help the little ones. And of course, I will be available to eat their candy; it’s important to protect those baby teeth!
MEGAN KING, STOCKING THE PANTRY FROM SAVANNAH, GA
My family (parents and grandparents) all live near each other and we have the normal Easter egg hunt. We always eat ham and cheesy potatoes. My parents always hid the Easter baskets themselves, too. My husband and I have taken this a step further and started a scavenger hunt tradition for the baskets. In addition to hiding the candy-filled eggs outside, inside the house The Easter Bunny hides eggs with pictures inside. Each picture shows the location of the next egg and the final picture leads to their Easter baskets!