Bunnies, bonnets and baskets are all part of Easter and, with the holiday’s relaxed style, so are buffets.
But unlike the first three, buffets strike fear in the hearts of some. Think of all those dishes to prepare. Think of all those diners standing impatiently in line. Don’t fret: We in the Times Test Kitchen have put together a menu to make your Easter fuss-free.
First, of course, is the biggest question: lamb or ham? Lamb seems so sophisticated, so very European; ham is homespun American. When it came time to choose the centerpiece of our buffet, we didn’t. Why not serve both? (Those of you who are more decisive can pick one; the rest of the menu will work just fine with either.)
Ham is rich and salty, so it works best with flavors that are tangy and sweet. Rather than using a predictable jam glaze, we marinated our ham overnight with red grapefruit juice and rosemary.
Leg of lamb is a spring favorite. Because of its unusual anatomy, though, it can be tricky to carve, particularly when everyone is watching. We got around that problem by boning and butterflying the leg. This has the additional benefit of allowing it to cook more quickly.
The rest of the menu just seemed to come naturally. Any Easter meal needs stuffed eggs. For another appetizer, try this rustic goat cheese and roasted vegetable tart.
With the best of the spring vegetables in the market, deciding on side dishes is easy. Artichokes, of course, roasted with lemons and olives. And potatoes and watercress, paired in a lovely warm salad. Though the biggest part of the fig harvest comes in the heat of summer, there is a small first-flush harvest in the spring. We roasted our figs in Port and served them with mixed lettuces.
And then there are strawberries. This is the very peak of the season, particularly in Southern California, and to show the fruit at its best advantage, we turned an old family favorite into something a little bit fancy.
All of these dishes can be made ahead and then assembled with a minimum of hassle just before serving.
And hey, if anybody complains, just give them some more ham ... or lamb.