April 3, 2017
Easter weekend is almost as much about lounging and eating as Thanksgiving - as the days get longer and warmer, people unfurl from hibernation much like the first green things to emerge from the ground. Brunches are planned, and family dinners, and chocolate egg hunts. And I love that there’s no pressure to roast a turkey; baked ham is about as easy as it gets, is perfect for feeding a crowd, and kids love it as much as grown-ups do. You can set it out and leave it - ham is as delicious hot as it is cold or at room temperature. I love making a batch of biscuits, with or without cheese, so people can tuck in some ham and make little sandwiches if they’re standing or running around outside.
Bonus: ham makes the very best leftovers, and it’s reason enough to buy one just to make soup. A hambone in the slow cooker makes the very best black bean, lentil or split pea soup ever - it’s like dinner that keeps on giving. Pre-cut spiral hams are easy to carve; they need little more than to be heated through, brushed with a sticky glaze of some sort. I often default to roughly equal parts brown sugar, grainy mustard and balsamic vinegar, stirred together in a small dish, but have been known to finish off the end of the marmalade jar in a similar way, with some form of mustard and a splash of balsamic.
Most people think of scalloped potatoes when they envision a ham dinner, but my friend Aimee introduced me to the Quebecois tartiflette awhile ago - it’s a simpler version of scalloped potatoes, made with cubed potatoes, bacon and cream, with a small round of Oka cheese set on top to melt into the potatoes as they bake. It truly is divine, and as well suited to a festive Easter brunch as a ham (or roast beef, or chicken, or turkey) dinner. We’ve been known to make one and gather around the table to eat it straight from the pan.
My sister always makes a ham and mushroom tart for celebratory meals - it makes a great appetizer, but I like having a sliver on the side of my plate along with all the other components of the meal. Because it’s like a dense, rich quiche, it’s also well suited to a long weekend brunch. I like having something savoury on the table to balance the sweet pancakes, waffles and inevitable cinnamon or hot cross buns.
Whatever you have on the menu, have a great long weekend (and week of leftovers!)
Spiral cut ham
Yukon gold potatoes
dry split peas
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