Monday, March 11, 2013

Elegant Easter Dinner

Easter, the epitome of spring, the "new" in new beginnings, the fresh start of hope and love.  Children hunting for Easter eggs, sharing a meal with family, powerful church services, memories with friends, the Easter bunny.  All things that remind me of Easter.

But there's one more thing special to me about Easter.  My amazing husband proposed to me on Easter.  I had planned a roast for dinner that year with all the wonderful side dishes to go with it.  As I got ready for the day, I realized that I needed to run the store for one more ingredient that I had left out (don't you hate that!). When I walked out into my living room, there it was, my proposal.  Now, the picture isn't the best one, but this is what I got.

On such a blessed day, I had been doubly blessed with my greatest gift (besides my children) soon-to-be husband.  And such a special day to propose!  After many tears of joy, I proceeded on with my day of cooking.  I was so excited and flustered by the prospect of getting married that I burned our dinner!  I had a double oven, and I adjusted the temperature on the wrong oven.  It was the first time I have ever burned dinner for my soon-to-be husband.  He was such a gracious man about it, though.  He ran out and bought all of the fixings for fajitas, and a great meal we had!  His mother was so pleased that he proposed to me on such a special occasion.  Now we have two anniversaries, and we celebrate them both.

So this year, to honor this very special day, I decided I would make a mouthwatering prime rib for my family, along with a beautiful Potato Galette, a perfect springlike Confetti Salad, some ridiculously large Popovers, and a decadent Strawberry & Meringue Napoleon.  I hope you enjoy your Easter as much as I did.

Happy anniversary, John!

One 4-5 lb bone-in prime rib
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
4 sage leaves
1 T dried minced onion
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
2 T salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 C water or beef stock
Olive oil

1 1/2 C sour cream
Juice of half a lemon
2 T prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste

2 C beef stock
1/4 C flour
1/4 C vegetable oil
Salt & pepper

A day before cooking the prime rib, put the roast on a rack in a pan. Liberally sprinkle salt all over the roast.  Allow to sit overnight uncovered to quickly dry the roast.

7 hours before cooking the roast, set the roast out on the counter covered to bring to room temperature.  Let it sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  After it comes up in temperature, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Blend the fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, sage leaves, marjoram, dried minced onions, and parsley in a coffee grinder or food processor.  Put this mixture in a bowl and mix in the remaining herbs and seasonings.  Drizzle olive oil all over the roast and rub it in.  Sprinkle the seasoning all over the roast and rub in, making sure to coat the entire area of meat.  Place the meat back in a pan on a rack fat side up.  Pour the water or stock into the bottom of the pan.  Cover tightly with foil.  Using a meat thermometer, cook the meat until the desired temperature, 125 for rare, 135 for medium, and 145 for well done.  (I would suggest not cooking it to a full 145 degrees for well done since there is additional cooking time at a very high heat to sear the outside.  I would pull it out at 138-140 for well done.)  Remove from the oven.  Let it rest from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

To make the gravy, melt the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Whisk in the flour to combine, making sure there are no lumps. Whisk in the beef stock quickly to prevent lumps.  Cook and whisk until thickened and bubbly.

For the horseradish cream, at least an hour before serving the roast, mix all of the horseradish cream ingredients together and refrigerate.

After resting the roast at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  This is the time to sear the outside and cook off the fat.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the outside is very dark, on the verge of burnt but not quite.  Let it rest at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Serve the horseradish cream and gravy with the roast.

4 large baking potatoes
1 stick butter, melted
2 T dried parsley
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Slice potatoes very thin, preferably on a mandolin.  Generously grease a cast iron skillet (or other large skillet). Put down one layer of potatoes, covering the bottom, in the skillet.  Brush the tops with butter and sprinkle some parsley over them and season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with additional layers.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until fork tender.  Put a plate over the top of the skillet and invert the potatoes onto the plate.

1 lb sugar snap peas
2 yellow squash, sliced thin longways (on a mandolin preferably)
2 zucchini, sliced thin longways (on a mandolin preferably)
2 green onions, sliced
1 1/2 C grape tomatoes, sliced in half longways
4-ounce package of feta, any flavor (I used herb & garlic)
2 C broccoli florets
1/2 C shelled sunflower seeds

1 1/2 C olive oil
3-4 T balsamic vinegar (to your taste)
Juice of one lemon
2 T fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 T dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar (more if you like)
Salt & pepper (to taste)

Combine all of the dressing ingredients together with a whisk.  Blanch the sugar snap peas by boiling them for 3-4 minutes and then transferring them to a bowl of ice water.  This shocks them to stop the cooking and keep the color.  Repeat this process with the broccoli.

Mix the blanched sugar snap peas, broccoli and the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Refrigerate a few hours, stirring occasionally.

Popovers, also known as Yorkshire Pudding, are beautiful eggy little rolls that are hollow in the middle.  The ones in this picture were 4 inches tall in the center!  I have some really large popover pans.  But you can use a standard-size muffin tin.  You will just get more.  Enjoy!

4 eggs
2 C flour
3 T butter
3 T vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 C beef stock
1 1/2 C milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease your popover pan or muffin tins liberally.  Mix all of the ingredients together.  Fill the tins 1/2 of the way full.  Bake for 40 minutes or until golden browned and they feel hard to the touch.  They soften up quickly out of the oven and will fall in the center when cooled.

8 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 C sugar

4 C powdered sugar
One 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1 stick butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-5 T water

1 pint of strawberries, sliced
1 1/2 C strawberry jam, slightly heated in the microwave
Parchment paper (absolutely a must)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  To prepare the meringues, put the egg whites in a stand mixer.  Start beating on high.  When they are slightly frothy, add in the sugar slowly and the cream of tartar.  Whip this until there are very stiff peaks.  You'll know you're there when the meringue is sort of in a ball around the whisk.

Prepare two sheet pans by covering them with parchment paper.  I just cut them to fit the inside of the sheet pan.  Pipe out the meringue with a large star tip.  (Don't worry...if you don't have frosting bags, you can use a zipper bag with the corner snipped off or even just spread the meringue around.)  Pipe out 4-inch flat circles.  You should get 7-8 circles.  Bake for an hour to an hour and 10 minutes.  They should be crispy and browned. Let cool.

Next, cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Add in the powdered sugar and beat.  Add in the water slowly until the frosting is the right consistency, stiff enough to pipe out and not runny.

To assemble the napoleons, take one meringue and spread or pipe the buttercream all over the top.  Next spread on the softened jam.  Then top that with sliced strawberries.  Repeat as many times as you like.  On the top, just use the buttercream and a whole strawberry for garnish.

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