Sunday, April 13, 2008

Easter Dinner

I've been meaning to post about our Easter dinner for weeks now but we left for Mexico a couple of days after and then life has been nonstop ever since we stepped in the door from our return flight! Anyway, better late than never, right?

Easter is the signature day of the beginning of Spring. The Spring produce is beginning to hit the market, daffodils have hit Trader Joes for $1.29 a bunch, and the weather is beginning to look happy again.

Usually we have a number of friends over for dinner, where we all take a dish or two, and really "fancy" it up. Here are some pics from our house last year, compliments of Rachel, who was part of it.

This year David's parents were in town and we did a more casual, smaller dinner- well, it was more of a "brunch for dinner". It was pretty good! I had to do Susie's raspberry soup which is just to die for. It has become an Easter tradition and one dish I anticipate for weeks!! It is best made the day before, or even a couple of days before, and is served cold. De-seeding the pureed raspberries takes a little time, but it is pretty methodical and can be done while watching a good movie on tv. You can replace the sherry with water, if you prefer, and it is best to let the soup sit out on the counter for a half hour or so before you serve it because it is quite thick when it is cold. Garnish it with fresh mint sprigs, a few raspberries and a dollop of creme fraiche. All the recipes are at the end of this post.

After the cold raspberry soup we had everything else (except dessert of course!). There were steamed fingerling potatoes, ham, sliced strawberries, monkey bread, and cheese "souffle". I'm a little embarrassed to share my monkey bread recipe because it is such a cheater recipe, but it is sooo good. Everyone who has ever had it can't stop eating it and thinks it is much more difficult to pull off than it is. In fact, it is the perfect dish to bring to anything in the morning because it rises in the fridge overnight and then just has to be put in the oven for about 45-55 minutes. This recipe came from my friend Michelle, who brought it to her very first appearance at our dinner club. We knew she was a keeper!

This cheese souffle is from our stay at the Whitegate Inn, a Bed and Breakfast in Mendocino, CA, back in February (yes, I know I haven't written about it yet. It's on my list...). It is what they served at our first breakfast there along with these incredible orange cranberry scones and a yogurt parfait. I begged for both the scone and souffle recipes, which they were happy to give. Beware, it is filling, as it not really a true souffle. It has croutons in the bottom of the dish which absorb the eggs and milk and make it a little heartier than a traditional cheese souffle. It works best in the 8 oz size ramekins, but I made it here in a big gratin dish (you could also use a 9x13 pan).

We were so full after our meal that I had to wait probably five hours before I could even think about making dessert. I made a Strawberry Meringue Cake, adapted fromSaveur magazine, which I found on one of Tori Ritchie's "Tuesday Recipe" posts which you can learn about here. It was incredibly easy to make and the perfect ending for a rich, filling meal. It is a little like an Australian pavlova, except with hazelnuts. The outside is crisp and then inside is light and chewy. Make sure you bake it long enough so the inside is fully cooked. I needed to bake maybe 10 minutes longer than she says to, but every person's oven is different, so be sure to begin checking on it according to the recipe.

A great meal and time was had by all! Isn't Easter dinner great?

The Recipes

Raspberry Soup

1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup cold water
3/4 cup hot water
30 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries- sweetened to taste
28 ounces sour cream
1 1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 1/3 cup half/half
1/2 cup sherry
1/3 cup grenadine
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Puree and strain raspberries of all the seeds and set aside. Mix the cold water with gelatin for 5 minutes, then add the hot water to dissolve. Combine all ingredients and chill overnight.

Monkey Bread

pecans or your favorite type of nut (optional)
1 package of Rhodes frozen dinner rolls (or your own recipe)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large package of cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix

Grease the bottom of a bundt pan. Pour desired amount of nuts into bottom of pan. Arrange frozen rolls on top of nuts. Melt the butter and mix the brown sugar into the butter- pour over the top of the rolls. Sprinkle butterscotch powder over the top. Let rise about 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Bake at 350 degrees, with the rack set int the lowest position to account for the rise of the rolls, until golden brown on the bottom, about 45-60 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter.

Cheese Souffle

1 package of your favorite seasoned croutons
1/2 pound shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 pound shredded jack cheese
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 package cream cheese, cut into cubes
19 eggs
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
4 shakes of hot sauce

Cover bottom of 14 4-ounce ramekins (or 8 large ramekins or a 9x13 pan), generously with seasoned croutons. Top croutons with shredded cheese, generously. Sprinkle sliced green onions on top and then cream cheese cubes on top of that.

Mix together the eggs. Add milk, salt, pepper, dry mustard and hot sauce and mix well. Pour this mixture slowly over each filled ramekin until almost full. Cover and allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

strawberry meringue cake

To make the prep go faster, toast and grind the hazelnuts a day or two before and store in an airtight container.
serves 6
prep time: 30 minutes
bake time: 1 hour

6 egg whites, at room temperature
pinch salt or cream of tartar
1-1/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, peeled, and ground (see note)
1/2 pound strawberries
2/3 cups heavy cream

Preheat an oven to 325°. On the back of a piece of parchment paper, draw an 8-inch circle with a pencil. Turn paper over and use it to line a baking sheet. Set aside.With an electric mixer, beat egg whites with salt or cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in 1 cup of the sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the ground hazelnuts and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Pour meringue onto parchment sheet circle, then gently spread to the diameter of the circle. Bake meringue for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 275° and continue to bake until golden outside but slightly chewy inside, about 40 minutes more (it may crack). Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack.To serve, hull and slice strawberries. Whip the cream. Gently loosen meringue from parchment, then transfer to a serving platter (if it sticks to parchment, just transfer with parchment to platter and lift each portion off parchment with a spatula or cake server). Spread cream over meringue, then top with strawberries, leaving a border of meringue around the edges. Serve immediately, cut into wedges with a knife.

Note: to toast hazelnuts, place them in a pie plate and bake at 350° until skins start to crack and nuts smell toasty (18 to 20 minutes). Remove nuts and cover with a dish towel; let stand about 5 minutes to steam. Put nuts in towel and knead and scrunch towel around nuts to slough off as much skin as possible (don't worry about every bit). Pulse nuts in a food processor until ground, but do not let turn to paste.


Brian & Aimee said...

Michelle?!? Monique pointed me to your blog... and how I stumbled on to her site, I'm not sure! This is Aimee Rogers (now Sprik)... how are you? Yummy recipes - I'll definitely have to steal the monkey bread (one of my hubby's favorites). Anyway, just thought I'd reach out and say hi!
:) Aimee

jeanine said...

All the food looks delicious! I'll have to try those recipes soon!