Irrational & Impromptu Easter Dinner Menu
Spiced Caramelized Cauliflower Florets
Creamy Artichoke Dip with Pita Chips
Roasted Asparagus with Sage and Lemon Butter
Potato Gratin with Mustard and Cheddar Cheese
Fresh Ham with Cracklings and Pan Gravy
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Every so often I become irrationally influenced by the food media. Last Wednesday’s “Got a Crowd Coming Over? Think Big” in the New York Times convinced me that I needed to cook a humongous fresh ham.
However, this gung ho undertaking posed a logistical problem. It turned out that I was going to be home alone on Easter, so thinking big wasn’t the wisest. But I’ve never been terribly astute and once I want to make something, it’s impossible to get out of my head. So, I invited a handful of friends over. I’m not sure if eight constitutes a Timesian crowd, especially when that number includes a few vegetarians and a couple stray Jews (how come calling someone a Jew is pejorative while Jewish is ok? Forgive me, I wasn't raised amidst diversity), er, nice Jewish girls.
Side dishes seemed relevant, just in case no one was feeling hammy. I went for the simple, hearty and economical approach, nothing sophisticated. My criteria for ingredients were that they had to be found at Western Beef (my favorite all-purpose NYC grocery store) where I assumed (rightly) that my fresh ham would be readily available. The smallest roast available was a little over 16 pounds, but at under 20 bucks for the whole porcine shebang—how could I resist? And the Lee brothers (they are siblings and not “partners,” correct?) thought they were getting a steal at $1.59/pound. Please, try $1.19. Western Beef never disappoints.
Well, if you stick to meat. They had like every iteration of Mexican and South American cheese, but no white cheddar. I didn’t think white cheddar was a specialty item, but I was sticking to my guns, no stressing over the meal, no foodie sourcing of ingredients. So, sharp orange cheddar it was.
The artichoke dip was merely a device to try and use up at least a fraction of the half-gallon Costco jar unloaded on us last month from James’s parents (at least I like artichoke hearts—there are like three big bags or gingersnaps that have been stagnating at the back of our downstairs shelves for over a year). Unfortunately, after scooping out 18 ounces, there was still more than half left.
It’s nice when vegetables are a hit. I ran out at the last minute in a pair of holey sweats and giant t-shirt with dark brown hair dye stained into the collar because I feared the two bunches of asparagus I’d purchased the day before would be insufficient. I was right, and thank god no one of any importance saw me looking like I belonged on secretly videotaped What Not to Wear footage. I could’ve done with more cauliflower, which was intended as a snacky appetizer instead of filling the house with jelly beans and Cadbury eggs (besides, I knew James would be sent home with chocolate bunnies and Lindt truffle eggs because that’s been the routine for the past three years). The sugar and spices render the florets caramel-sweet almost like candy, not Peeps candy, but a savory, semi-healthy (never mind the massive amount of melted butter used to adhere the cinnamon and paprika) treat.
Thankfully, I ended up with six ham-eaters, but even at a generous pound per person estimate, that still left a good nine pounds of meat, allowing one pound for the bone. The cracklings were also a nice touch, but then, I’m abnormally fond of crispy skin and fat. I see tacos (this is one of my favorite recipes—I’ve been using it for years) and cubanos in my future. I’m sure there are more uses for roast pork, but those two top my list. And certainly, freezing is always an option.
Ham & gravy
I deferred to neighborhood bakeries for a last-minute dessert. I’m not even sure what I bought, some sort of Italian cheesecake with either candied fruit or rice pudding pellets (I’m not sure which) strewn throughout and a lattice top. It was a non-special order item that was still warm (too bad I’d be refrigerating it overnight) when I spied it at Brooklyn Bread Company around the corner from my apartment. Yes, I’m Italian food ignorant.
P.S. How the hell do you center things in TypePad? Not being able to control my HTML is one of the many things about blogging that drives me insane. No matter what I do, my text and images align left.