With one of my best friends over from London for a few days, I decided to host an Easter feast at my place. It ended up being a girlie catch up with Elizabeth, Caroline, Fionuala and I eating and drinking well into the evening.
Having spent 10 years in London, and now almost 10 years in New York, quite a few of my friendships are transatlantic and it is always such a treat to get to spend time with friends that I miss so much.
Since it was Easter, I knew that I wanted to feature eggs in some shape or form and one of my favorite appetizers is deviled eggs. I remember making it and tasting it for the very first time when I attended the now infamous yearly barbecue that my friend Larry hosts in Brooklyn. I had arrived earlier than the other guests to give him a hand and he put me to work mashing the eggs yolks with mayonnaise. I loved it instantly.
This rather old fashioned dish has been making a bit of a comeback in the past few years so it’s not uncommon to find it on restaurants menus – I almost always order it as most chefs put their own spin on this classic. My favorite take so far has been the version that April Bloomfield at the Spotted Pig in NYC makes – thankfully the recipe is available online and I’ve made them several times!
Since the eggs are pretty rich, I wanted to also serve a light and refreshing appetizer and settled for a lemony shrimp and fennel salad that I served in small glasses.
Adhering to another Easter tradition, I picked lamb loins as the main dish that I just seasoned with salt and pepper and quickly seared. I had the idea of making a tarragon aioli to go with it as I loved the combination of a red meat with some type of mayonnaise when I made Ina Garten’s roasted beef with basil mayo a few weeks ago. I had always wanted to try and make my mum’s famous Gratin Dauphinois (a favorite childhood dish of mine) and I also served some simple roasted asparagus as an additional side dish.
Notes: Deviled eggs are pretty time consuming to make. I made mine the day before, up to the step of assembling the eggs which should be done on the day itself. I stored the egg whites shells in a seal-able container and layered a couple of sheets of kitchen towel underneath them (the whites release a lot of liquid). I also put the egg yolks mixture in a zip lock bag – when it came time to assemble the eggs, I simply cut a corner off and basically used it as a piping bag.
Notes: Because I wanted to serve the salad in these pretty little glasses I like, I decided to adapt this recipe slightly by chopping every ingredient into small dices.
Seared Lamb Loins with Tarragon Aioli
Trim excess fat from the chops and score them. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper; place on plate and cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours ahead of cooking. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add chops to skillet; cook to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare.
For the tarragon aioli, I followed this recipe but made sure that the eggs were at room temperature and also used half olive oil and half canola oil for a more subtle taste.
My Mum’s Potato Gratin
Peel the potatoes (I used Yukon) and cut into slices using a mandolin
Rub an oven proof dish with a large clove garlic cut in half
Then grease the dish with butter and put in a first thick layer of potatoes at the bottom
Sprinkle some salt, pepper and grated nutmeg (in moderation)
Repeat with a second layer of potatoes, then salt, pepper etc …
Once finished, fill up the dish with cream (leaving roughly 2 cm at the top)
Sprinkle a layer of grated Gruyere cheese
Bake in oven at 400F for 1 hour or more (mine needed 1h and 15 minutes in the end).
To test if the potatoes are done, prick the gratin with a fork and it will be ready when the potatoes are very tender.
If the top browns too quickly or starts to burn, you can place some foil over it.