Easter is this Sunday, and even if it's not your holiday, you can't help but be surrounded by the signs of spring; daffodils, crocus,
a plethora of hams
and leg of lamb in the grocery store.
and strawberries, are all signs of spring, and the reawakening that comes at this time of year.
To say the weather in the US has been crazy would be an understatement, it's been downright bizarre, so spring in some places may not even come, we may go straight to summer! That said, all this week I'm going to try and give you some great recipes for a spring dinner, that will be perfect for Easter or any other Sunday supper.
Today we'll begin with a potato gratin; the French version of scalloped potatoes, only cheesier. I'm positive that there are a billion of similar casseroles on Easter tables and many of them aren't cooked all the way through, or taste lackluster. I've got the perfect recipe, and it's all do-ahead, so you can make these a few days ahead and keep them in the fridge you are ready to bake them. Since leeks are coming in now, they are perfect in this gratin, but you can leave them out if you have some diners that don't prefer onions. Choosing different cheeses, adding leftover ham for another meal, or a layer of caramelized onions can all be done in this recipe. This recipe calls for heavy cream and milk; don't substitute for either one, the sauce will separate and you will have a proper mess on your hands.
Springtime Potato Gratin
2 leeks, thinly sliced, using the white and tender green parts
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (1/2 pound)
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5. In a large skillet, over medium high heat, melt the butter in the olive oil and saute the leeks for 5 minutes, until tender.
6. Add the cream and milk to the skillet, and add the potatoes, salt and Tabasco. Simmer the potato mixture until the potatoes are tender, about 6 minutes.
7. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the cheeses evenly over the top of the potatoes.
8. Bake the gratin covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes, remove the foil and cook another 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown. Allow the gratin to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Cooks' Note: Choose a low starch potato for this dish; no russets or baking potatoes, but reds, white creamers and Yukon golds will all work beautifully here.
Peel the potatoes if the skins aren't beautiful; or if they have a green tinge on them. Peel off all the greenish area before using the potatoes.
Mint Pesto Crusted Racks of Lamb with Cucumber Mint Salsa
1 cup packed mint leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
6 to 7 leaves fresh oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
Four 1-pound racks of lamb, trimmed
- In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the mint, garlic, vinegar, oil, oregano, cayenne and salt, processing until smooth.
- Do-Ahead: the pesto can be frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost before proceeding.
- Make ½-inch slits all over the racks, and transfer to a zipper top plastic bag.
- Pour the pesto sauce over the racks, and turn to coat. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 12 hours, and up to 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the racks from the bag (no need to pat dry) and place in a roasting pan, fat side up.
Roast the lamb for about 25 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 140.
- Remove from the oven and allow the roast to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with cucumber mint salsa.
- Do-Ahead: If you would like to roast the racks ahead of time, roast them to 125 degrees and remove them from the oven. Allow to cool to room temperature and then wrap in foil or zipper top plastic bags. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. One hour before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and place the racks in a baking dish for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Bake the racks for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are heated through.
Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Cucumber Mint Salsa
Makes about 2 cups
1 European cucumber, cut into ½-inch dice
2 green onions, chopped, using some of the green part
½ cup packed mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
- In a small glass bowl, stir together the cucumber, onion, mint, vinegar, oil, parsley, salt, sugar, and cayenne.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours. Toss again, and serve cold.
I'll be back tomorrow with a few ideas for veggies and dessert; I hope this day brings you joy.