After all of the weird weather Southern California has faced so far this year, the mere fact we've made it to spring must be classed as encouraging. Couple that with an early Easter holiday, and logic decrees that it's time for a welcome holiday celebration. So let's get to it.
Easter is a most appropriate time to splurge on a whole ham, even if yours is a small family. Granted, the thought of living with ham leftovers forever may horrify you, but that's easily avoided if you consider Easter a perfect excuse for a party and collect a batch of family and friends to help celebrate both the holiday and the arrival of spring.
Most of the whole hams readily available today are already "fully cooked." You can, of course, serve these cold with no further treatment. They do, however, taste better when cooked a little longer. So why not gussy one up a bit for the holiday? It's easy to do, for essentially all that is required to turn out a culinary masterpiece of this sort is to heat it through and top it with a light, fruity glaze.
If you're really feeling energetic, you can go even farther and have the butcher remove the bone from the ham, leaving you with a nice pocket to fill with an aromatic stuffing. Or do the boning yourself, if you're daring. Merle Ellis, who writes "The Butcher" column for The Times, gives tips on how to do this on Page 18. A boned ham, stuffed with a rich corn bread dressing, can be a carver's delight. Or, if that sounds like too much work, take the easy way out and leave the bone in. In that case serve the corn bread dressing separately in one of your prettiest casseroles.
You'll find a suggested menu for a festive holiday ham meal on this page. And just in case you'd rather serve something besides ham this year, we've included another menu featuring a celebration dinner built around a spring leg of lamb.
Easter Menu I
Easter Ham With Cornbread Dressing
Saucy Asparagus or Brussels Sprouts and Carrots in Lemon Butter
Green Beans Lyonnaise or Artichoke Ratatouille
Springtime Banana Salad
EASTER HAM WITH CORN BREAD DRESSING
1 (12- to 14-pound) whole, fully cooked ham
Corn Bread Dressing
1 (6-ounce) can pineapple juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 fresh pineapple, peeled
Have butcher bone ham or do it yourself. Prepare Corn Bread Dressing and spoon in cavity left in ham by bone. Press meat around dressing, reforming ham to original shape. Tie ham together with string. Spoon extra dressing into casserole dish.
Place ham, fat side up, on rack in roasting pan. Score fat diagonally in 1/2-inch slashes to form diamonds. Bake at 325 degrees 18 to 20 minutes per pound or until meat thermometer placed near center of ham registers 140 degrees. (Be sure thermometer is placed in meat, not dressing.)
About 1 hour before ham is done, place 1/4 cup brown sugar, pineapple juice and mustard in small saucepan and heat, stirring, over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Baste ham with mixture 2 or 3 times during rest of cooking period. Bake remaining dressing at 325 degrees about 30 minutes or until heated through.
When ham is done, remove from oven and allow to rest 20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, slice pineapple crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place on broiler pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar and place under broiler just long enough to brown lightly. To serve, place ham on platter, remove string and place pineapple slices around ham. Makes 18 to 20 servings.
Note: If desired, ham bone may be left in and dressing cooked separately. If entire dressing recipe is cooked separately, increase cooking time to about 45 minutes. Corn Bread Dressing
1 (15-ounce) package corn bread mix
2 tablespoons minced sweet red pepper
2 tablespoons minced green pepper
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups shredded Jack cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth
Prepare corn bread according to package directions. Stir in red and green peppers. Bake according to package directions. Cool in pan.
Meanwhile, saute onions and celery in butter until tender but not brown. Cut corn bread into cubes and place in mixing bowl. Gently mix in onion mixture, cheese and eggs. Moisten with enough chicken broth to hold mixture together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 7 cups dressing. SAUCY ASPARAGUS
2 pounds asparagus
Orange-Lemon Butter Sauce
Clean asparagus and snap woody portion from bottom of stalks. With string, tie asparagus in bundle and stand upright in about 1 inch boiling salted water in deep kettle. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until done as desired. Drain and serve hot with Orange-Lemon Butter Sauce. Makes 6 servings. Orange-Lemon Butter Sauce
1/4 pound butter or margarine
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
Melt butter in small saucepan. Stir in orange juice, lemon juice, lemon and orange peels. Heat to serving temperature, stirring occasionally. Serve with cooked asparagus spears. BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND CARROTS IN LEMON BUTTER
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in halves
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut in halves lengthwise and crosswise
1/3 cup butter or margarine
Grated peel and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 small clove garlic, minced
In large saucepan, cook Brussels sprouts and carrots in 1 inch boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well. In same saucepan, melt butter with lemon peel and juice, caraway seeds and garlic. Add cooked vegetables and heat. Makes 6 servings. GREEN BEANS LYONNAISE
1 1/2 pounds green beans
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 cup minced onion
Salt, white pepper
Snap ends from beans and remove any strings. Cut into 4-inch lengths. Cook beans in salted water until tender but firm. Drain well.
Melt butter in skillet. Add onion and saute until browned. Toss with beans. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Makes 6 servings. ARTICHOKE RATATOUILLE
1 eggplant, about 3/4 pound
1/2 pound zucchini
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup sliced green peppers
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled tomato
3 tablespoons minced parsley
3 medium artichokes
Peel eggplant and cut into 3-inch fingers. Slice zucchini crosswise, discarding ends. Toss eggplant and zucchini in bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand 30 minutes. Drain eggplant and zucchini well and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat oil in large kettle. Add onions and cook until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook 1 or 2 minutes. Add eggplant and zucchini, green peppers, tomatoes and parsley.
Trim tough outer leaves from artichokes. Trim spiky tips from remaining leaves. Cut artichokes into halves lengthwise and remove fuzzy chokes with sharp knife or sturdy spoon. Add to vegetable mixture, cover and simmer over low heat 35 minutes or until artichokes are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot or chill thoroughly before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings. SPRINGTIME BANANA SALAD
3 medium bananas
1 basket strawberries
4 navel oranges
1 cup melon balls
Cut bananas into large chunks. Slice strawberries. Cut small slice from top of each orange, cut out pulp and reserve. Serrate cut edges of oranges. Dice pulp and return to orange shell.
Arrange bananas, strawberry slices, melon balls and filled orange shell over greens on salad plates. Serve with Citrus Dressing. Makes 4 servings. Citrus Dressing
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon mustard
Combine orange and lemon juices, oil, sugar, paprika and mustard in jar or bowl and shake or beat with rotary beater until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup dressing. BRANDIED BAVARIAN
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup half and half
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine gelatin and cold water and let stand about 5 minutes. Heat half and half but do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, salt and gelatin, stirring until gelatin is dissolved (mixture will look curdled). Chill until slightly thickened.
Beat sour cream lightly and fold into gelatin with brandy and lemon juice. Pour into 1-quart mold and chill until firm, about 3 hours. To serve, unmold dessert and serve with Apricot Sauce. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Apricot Sauce
1 cup apricot jam
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons apricot brandy
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine jam, water and sugar and cook, stirring, over low heat 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in brandy and lemon juice. Cool. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
EASTER MENU II
Roast Lamb With Currant Sauce
Sprouts With Nut Butter or Green Beans Dijon
Lemon Asparagus Mold or Avocado-Orange Salad
Coffee Tortoni ROAST LAMB WITH CURRANT SAUCE
1 (6-pound) leg of lamb
1 tablespoon gin
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Wipe lamb well and place on rack in shallow roasting pan, fat side up. Combine gin, salt, mustard and pepper. Blend well to make paste. Spread over lamb.
Bake at 325 degrees 20 to 25 minutes per pound for rare, 25 to 30 minutes per pound for medium and 30 to 35 minutes per pound for well done. If meat thermometer is used, roast to 140 degrees for rare, 160 degrees for medium and 170 for well done.
When cooked to desired doneness, remove from oven and let rest, covered with foil, 10 minutes. Reserve pan drippings for Currant Sauce. Serve with Currant Sauce. Makes 8 servings. Currant Sauce
1/2 cup currant jelly
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup gin
2 tablespoons flour
Remove excess fat from drippings. To drippings add currant jelly and 1 cup water, heating until jelly is melted. Stir in gin. Blend flour with remaining 1/4 cup water and stir into sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Season to taste with salt. Remove from heat. Makes about 2 cups sauce. SPROUTS WITH NUT BUTTER
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter or margarine
Wash and trim sprouts. Combine with chicken broth and onion in saucepan. Bring to boil, cover and cook 10 minutes or until sprouts are tender-crisp. Drain.
Saute pecans in butter 2 or 3 minutes. Pour over sprouts and toss lightly. Season to taste with salt. Makes 6 servings. GREEN BEANS DIJON
4 slices bacon, diced
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 small cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cooked
Saute bacon in skillet until crisp. Add green onions and garlic. Saute until tender. Pour off excess fat. Reduce heat to low and stir in mustard.
Gradually blend in chicken broth, stirring until thickened. If sauce seems too thick, thin with additional chicken broth. Pour sauce over cooked beans, tossing until coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 6 to 8 servings. LEMON-ASPARAGUS MOLD
1 pound asparagus spears, cleaned, cooked and chilled
2 cups boiling water
2 (3-ounce) packages lemon-flavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Dash chervil, optional
Arrange 5 or 6 (6-inch-long) asparagus spears diagonally in bottom of 9x5-inch loaf dish. Pour boiling water over gelatin in mixing bowl. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Mix 1 cup dissolved gelatin mixture with 1 cup cold water. Gently pour over asparagus. Chill to set.
Mix remaining 1 cup hot gelatin with remaining 1/2 cup cold water, vinegar, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Blend with rotary beater until smooth. Chill in freezer about 20 to 25 minutes. Whip until fluffy and thick. Dice remaining asparagus. Fold in 1 cup diced asparagus, tomatoes, parsley and chervil.
Pour over clear gelatin layer in loaf dish. Chill until firm. Unmold and garnish with lettuce and lemon slices. Makes 6 to 8 servings. AVOCADO-ORANGE SALAD
2 avocados, halved and pitted
1 1/2 cups orange segments (about 3 oranges)
12 strips sweet red pepper
8 red onion rings
Line individual serving plates with lettuce. Place 1 avocado half on each plate. Fill cavities with orange segments, pepper strips and onion rings. Garnish with watercress sprigs and lime wedges. Serve with Lime-Mustard Dressing. Makes 4 servings. Lime-Mustard Dressing
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
Whisk together lime juice, orange marmalade, white wine vinegar and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Add garlic. Chill 2 hours. Remove garlic and stir before serving. Season to taste with salt. Makes about 3/4 cup. COFFEE TORTONI
1 egg white
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
Beat egg white until stiff. Combine with coffee granules and 2 tablespoons sugar. Mix well. Whip cream with remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Fold into egg white mixture.
Spoon into 4 sherbet or stemmed glasses. Garnish with almonds. Chill before serving. Makes 4 servings.