For many, Easter (and the end of Lent) means lamb, but in our family Easter always meant ham. Mom was usually on the task of prepping the ham with cloves and halved oranges, and Dad was in charge of carving – whomever was circling around the kitchen during carving time was lucky enough to get a small bite before the ham made it to the table. Now that my sister and I are grown, it’s usually my parents pug and puggle that vie for a bite of ham.
As soon as I learned to make a bechamel, a task learned from my mom and her homemade mac and cheese recipe, I became enamored with the ways in which butter, flour and milk could be coaxed into a luscious sauce. One of my favorite uses of my tinkering with bechamel was a recipe for potatoes au gratin. Tender potatoes layered with a velvety cheese sauce were baked in my parent’s Le Creuset dutch oven until tender. The dish became the perfect accompaniment to the ham and thus, an Easter favorite.
I’ve rounded out the menu with some tastes of spring that require little to no effort. Frozen lima beans and mint become a silken puree for crostini. Spinach, eggs and bacon are dressed in a tart buttermilk dressing. Tender asparagus spears are dressed with a bright and zippy gremolata. Finish the meal with the simplest, most gorgeous lemon curd muffins – they are way impressive in terms of looks and people will be hard-pressed to believe how easy they were to construct. Whether you celebrate Easter, the bunny, the onset of spring or just a tasty slice of ham, this feast is comforting on all levels.