Cooking with Rod
An Easter Menu – And an Easter Surprise
This is the month we celebrate EASTER! After a dreary, cold Winter, we welcome the first flowering buds on trees, the buoyant blooms popping through the soil as Hyacinths, Daffodils, Jonquils, Tulips and other bulbs burst through - first offering their sweet green leaves before bringing forth their colorful blooms. Youngsters all round begin thinking about how many Easter eggs they can find to fill their Easter baskets and Moms begin worrying about how in the world they’re going to keep all those hard-boiled Bunny Eggs from going to waste! Fear not, oh faithful cooks! For we have a plan (or two or three) that will save the day and please the palate.
First of all, if your neck of the woods has been hit by one of Mother Nature’s little quirks – like snow and frostbite or a bit too much of the watering of the bulbs that left your yard awash in mud instead of sweet, green grass – try a creative Bunny egg hunt inside! You can still let the kiddos help decorate the eggs or you can shop for some Cadbury’s eggs, chocolate bunnies, peanut butter eggs, or what-have-you in the way of Easter candies, or you can buy a batch of plastic eggs and some miniature toy treats. Whichever plan you adopt, make sure you keep the chocolate away from the pets as it is toxic for the four-legged crowd. Count carefully to ensure every egg treat gets “found” by the kiddos, even if Grandpa or Grandma must help. This is a good plan with those decorated Bunny eggs, too, for it only takes one sulfuric disaster to spoil the atmosphere if overlooked!
Now to the fun part – the best part of Easter, the sharing of the blessings and the food with the loved ones.
The Easter Ham
At our house, Easter just calls out for a delicious, juicy, tasty ham and all the fixings. The best choice, in my opinion, is a spiral cut ham since it offers those nice thin slices and the cuts usually go to the bone, making it easy to salvage the bone for the bean pot or a nice ham and potato chowder. Most spiral hams come with a pre-packaged glaze or basting sauce, but we kind of prefer to mix our own. Sometimes we use both – blending the packaged goodies in after we mix our own. Our goal is to have plenty for the ham and enough to serve at the table as well. The choice is up to you, but here’s our recipe:
Large 7 to 10 lb. ham, spiral cut, precooked, no water added (this is often referred to as a city ham, as opposed to the country ham which is not sliced, usually is not precooked, and comes with a whole different set of rules for cooking!)
Large 20 oz. can pineapple slices, drained, all juice reserved
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp allspice (this spice if very strong, go easy)
¼ cup honey
½ cup reserved pineapple juice (reserve what is left)
1. Preheat the oven to 250°.
2. Rinse, score the outer surface not cutting into the meat itself, then wrap the ham completely in aluminum foil. Place in a large roasting pan. Let roast for about 1 to 1 ½ hours to ensure the ham is fully heated through. A warm ham absorbs the glaze better (and lets the cook move forward with all the side dishes.)
3. Prepare the basting sauce: In a small bowl place the brown sugar and spices. Add honey and about ½ cup of the reserved pineapple juice. The basting sauce should have a pretty thick consistency in order to glaze the ham and not just wash over it. You can always add more liquid if needed.
4. When the ham has become deliciously aromatic and is fully heated through, remove roasting pan from the oven, increase the oven temperature to about 350° and unwrap the ham.
5. Using a basting brush or large plastic spatula, begin glazing the bare ham (we will add the pineapple slices later). Make sure to cover the entire surface, but end up with the meatiest side up and the flattest side down in the roasting pan.
6. After about 20 minutes, pull the roasting pan from the oven and place the pineapple slices on the ham, securing as necessary with toothpicks (which can be removed later).
7. Baste the entire ham and all the pineapple slices and return to the oven.
8. Baste again after another 20 minutes.
9. Return to the oven for the final browning. You want the ham to have a lovely, even glaze but not be overly browned in any section. If you must, wrap foil over any part that is browning too much while the rest is not ready. You be the judge – it is your presentation. (Pssst, remove those toothpicks before serving!)
Easter Surprise Dressing
Here’s the fun part! We will use those leftover hard-boiled Easter bunny eggs to hide in the dressing, making it even more fun for the kiddos. It is even more fun if some of the dye material has colored the cooked egg whites.
1 small bag or box bread cubes for stuffing or dressing
- 1 small bag or box cornbread for stuffing/dressing
- 4 stalks celery, de-stringed and cut into small half-moon slices
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, whatever color you choose, diced
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tbsp rubbed Sage
- 1 Tbsp parsley
- ½ Tbsp onion powder
- Dash garlic powder
- 1 to 2 tsp black pepper, your choice
- 1 can chicken broth, unsalted, no fat
- 3 to 4 hard-boiled Easter eggs, cut in half, with yolks
1. Preheat oven to 350° (it may still be warm from the ham)
2. Prepare vegetables next, washing, dicing, and cubing.
3. In large bowl, combine cornbread and bread cubes. Add spices and prepared veggies. Add ½ can of the broth and the 3 eggs. Begin mixing with your hands (clean hands, always). The mixture should be fairly moist but not soggy. (No one really likes a soupy dressing!) Add broth or more bread or crackers as necessary to achieve the right texture.
4. Butter a 9” x 13” oven-proof casserole dish. Press about half of the dressing mixture into the bottom of the dish.
5. Now add the Easter egg halves, gently pressing each into the dressing but making sure they retain their egg shapes.
6. Add the rest of the dressing mixture on top, making sure each egg is completely covered.
7. Bake the dressing about 30 to 45 minutes, until the top is evenly browned and, when tested, a toothpick comes out clean from the middle of the dish.
Devilled Eggs a La M
Now, it wouldn’t be fair not to include a little idea or two from my sweet wife, the original Miss M, now would it? Besides, this ole boy dearly LOVES her devilled eggs and they make a perfect appetizer, along with a tray of fruit, cheese and crackers, while we wait for the ham and fixings to cook up.
2 dozen hard-boiled Easter eggs, peeled and carefully halved (we don’t want to break the egg now, do we?)
- ½ cup Miracle Whip (you can use mayo, but we prefer this)
- 1 Tbsp prepared mustard (the old-fashioned yellow hotdog favorite)
- 1 Tbsp sweet pickle relish (keep the jar handy, we may want some juice)
- Dash of black or white pepper
- Paprika, for dusting the prepared eggs
- Parsley, a nice garnish as well
1. Make sure all the egg shells are washed from the eggs before you cut each in half.
2. Remove all the cooked yolks and place in a small bowl.
3. Mash up the yolks, using fork tines, keeping them fluffy.
4. Add about half the Miracle Whip you’ve set aside and begin mixing into the yolks. Work until the mixture is fairly creamy, adding more of the Miracle Whip as necessary.
5. Add the mustard, ground pepper, and pickle relish. Continue fluffing the yolk mixture, the goal is to have a light and creamy mixture. A touch of the pickle juice adds flavor as well.
6. You can spoon or pipe the yolk mixture into the egg white halves, depending upon how artistic you wish to be.
7. Arrange the egg halves on a pretty dish (we use a couple of dishes specially created for presenting these egg delights)
8. Garnish with Paprika, parsley, or your choice of: black olives, sweet pickle slices, celery stalks with leaves attached, whatever strikes your fancy.
Texas Style Angels on Horseback by M
Here’s a fun twist on the old bacon-wrapped oyster or scallop thing they do on the Coast. My Miss M has come up with a very tasty alternative. Give it a try!
2 Packages of Cocktail wieners (Lil Smokies are delish)
- 1 lb. maple bacon (cut in thirds, and do not use thick cut)
- 1 bottle barbecue sauce (Keep it Simple, Kraft’s will do)
- 1 jar grape, apricot, or peach jelly
- Wooden toothpicks
- ¾ to 1 cup brown sugar (in a bowl)
1. Heat your oven to 450°.
2. Foil a large cookie sheet, this will make clean up easier.
3. Mix the barbecue sauce and jar of jelly together, whisking thoroughly. Heat in a saucepan on top of the stove, add 2 of the Lil Smokies in to give the flavor and a bit of fat to the sauce.
4. Wrap each Lil Smokie in a strip of bacon, securing with a toothpick and letting each end stick up (for angel wings, of course)
5. Dip in the heated sauce, then in the bowl of the brown sugar, be sure to completely coat the wiener and the bacon.
6. Place each wiener on the foil-wrapped cookie sheet. (Be sure to retrieve the last two Lil Smokies from the sauce and wrap them, too.)
7. Pop in the oven and cook until the bacon is crisp.
8. Serve with the toothpicks still attached (the horsebacks, of course!) to make it easier for your guests to help themselves.
9. Be sure to have a small bowl of the dipping sauce alongside.
A tip from M: To turn these into Devils on Horseback, use chili sauce instead of barbecue sauce and slice each Lil Smokie, insert a strip of jalapeno pepper and a small strip of cheddar cheese before wrapping in the bacon.
The Easter Menu – all the fixings? Well, we like to have a potato dish (mashed taters or Potato Au Gratin, even Scalloped Potatoes), sweet potatoes prepared your favorite way, some green beans (casserole, with some of the ham and onion, or your family’s fav), a really nice crisp salad, hot breads, cool tea, and lots of Easter blessings for your family from mine! Happy Easter, folks!
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