Ham or lamb? Deviled eggs or dyed eggs? Cook at home or go to a restaurant? When it comes to celebrating Easter, the culinary questions are somewhat different than those for other occasions.
It’s a serious holiday but it wears a public face full of some pretty silly food. (Also pretty, silly food.) Just look at the cookbooks and magazines: They’re covered in rainbows of candy and bunnies and other cute things. If you didn’t know better, you might overlook the fact that Easter is the most important Christian holy day.
Lent, a time of penitence, culminates with the celebration of Easter. When you consider it occurs in spring, the joy and gaiety make sense. Everything feels fresh. Still, many foods we serve nonetheless represent tradition, even if those are more personal than specifically religious.
Not long ago, a couple of chefs made passionate arguments for their positions in the ham vs. lamb debate, detailed in the Chicago Tribune. Here in the Carolinas, there’s no doubt we’re partial to our home-grown ham. But Kris Reid, executive director of the Piedmont Culinary Guild, shared some thoughts that just might sway us in the other direction.
“Easter is spring! New life! Hope! The official start of the growing season life-cycle,” says Reid, who cooks lamb “to honor my Greek husband, Nathan Lafionatis.”
She explains, “I don't cook it over an open fire like his elders did. I do prepare it with a rub made from lavender, which I grow, and walnuts; local black walnuts if I have them. We will also have a fresh salad from the garden with radish, carrot, and pea tendrils tossed with a homemade vinegar I produce. There will likely be some roasted baby turnips with herbed butter and a sweet potato hash.”
Even with all this inspiration, there’s a chance some of us may not want to spend the holiday in the kitchen. Easter inconveniently coincides with spring break, when people often travel. If that’s the case, Sunday brunch at a restaurant makes sense. At the very least, there’s candy and chocolate most everywhere, and it’s guaranteed to add a taste of something sweet to the day that celebrates new beginnings.
Kris Reid’s Lavender Walnut Rub for Lamb
1 cup walnuts (dry roasted)
1/2 cup rosemary leaves (fresh)
1/2 tablespoon dried tarragon
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup lavender buds (dried)
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/4 olive oil (cold pressed)
1 tablespoon coarse ground salt
Pepper to taste
Toast walnuts. In a food processor; pulse walnuts, rosemary, tarragon, and oregano to a fine crumb. Add lavender and lemon zest. With food processor running, add oil and lemon juice. Finish with salt and pepper.
Use for a standing rib roast, or lamb with cloves of garlic inserted first.