While it took me over a week to settle on a recipe for the leg of lamb, I knew I wanted to serve leek bread pudding (also from Thomas Keller’sAd Hoc at Home) since I decided to host Easter dinner. I first made this savory bread pudding last Easter and made it again in December for my office holiday party. Both times those who ate the concoction oohed and aaahed at its deliciousness. My culinary prowess aside, the true reason this bread pudding tastes so great is because three cups of heavy whipping cream, three cups of whole milk, three eggs, and a cup of cheese are involved in putting this together. Additionally, twelve cups of buttery rich brioche is the bread of choice (though a Pullman loaf is can also be used per Thomas Keller). If you think the one thing this recipe is missing is the addition of nearly half a dozen more eggs and tons of butter, go for the brioche; otherwise my preference is to make this bread pudding with a Pullman loaf or regular white bread. As a person who regularly runs 40 miles a week, I hardly think twice about decadent dishes but this one made me pause and consider whether I would have a mid-run heart attack after consuming this. Luckily that has not yet happened. If I can stick to making this luscious bread pudding only three times a year (and convince others to eat the majority of it), I can assert that as rich and decadent as this dish is, it is worth every single calorie.
For Easter dinner, I asked Emily to make the bread pudding while I handled the leg of lamb. Part of me wanted to go for the brioche this go-around but the responsible-ish part of me opted for a loaf of white bread, similar to a Pullman loaf. Emily came over with the remaining ingredients and after she finished the knife work (cutting leeks, cubing bread, etc.) we broke into a bottle of white wine she had bought when we were in Paso Robles last summer and drank away while putting the finishing touches on the bread pudding. As Emily and I have perfected the art of cooking while drinking, the bread pudding came out as delicious as I remembered. I love how the bread puffs up while baking away in the oven and turns into a nice golden brown. It is wonderfully crisp and firm on the outside but gooey and sumptuous on the inside. If it were up to my stomach, I could make and eat this at least once a month, but my arteries likely can only handle this 3-4 times a year and only if there are others to help me plow through it.
For Easter 2012, Emily and I decided to roast a leg of lamb. For a solid week I searched high and low for the perfect recipe, sending Emily close to a dozen from pancetta wrapped to mustard crusted. Nothing seemed quite right until I realized that what my heart and stomach really wanted was a simple and traditional preparation that would showcase the lamb itself. Finally, a few days before Easter I found the recipe I was looking for right on my bookshelf in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.
Rather than a plethora of herbs and spices, Keller calls for the lamb to be marinated in nothing more than canola oil, garlic, and rosemary. In order to ensure that the lamb is evenly flavored, the garlic cloves are inserted directly into the thickest parts of the lamb. Rosemary sprigs are then inserted strategically into the sirloin of the lamb and salt, pepper and canola oil are rubbed into it before putting the lamb into the oven. Since the preparation was so simple, I splurged on the leg of lamb by heading to Eastern Market, buying the last one in the case, and requesting that the butcher remove the fell (which gives lamb its gamy taste) and french the bone.
After an hour and 45 minutes in the oven, the lamb came out perfectly medium rare to rare. I let it rest for another 45 minutes while Emily and I finished preparing the rest of dinner, drinking some sparkling wine, welcoming guests, and munching on cheese, pate, and duck mousse. Easter is the greatest of holidays and celebrating it by breaking bread with my best pals makes it even more joyous.
The appetizing spread
Like nearly all Americans, both roommate Alex and I are huge fans of Mad Men. Since late fall, we have frequently mentioned hosting a party to celebrate the show’s undoubtedly triumphant return from a long hiatus and the start of the fifth season. At the time, March 2012 seemed so far away and we would only drop a few words here and there like, “we should make updated versions of 60s classics,” or “everyone should dress up like characters in Mad Men.” As the day drew near, Alex and I solidified our plans for this bonanza; we would indeed make everyone dress up in Mad Men inspired garb, and delicious and updated versions of 60s classics would be had. We invited a dozen or so of our dearest Mad Men loving friends and laid out the conditions for the evening: dinner from 7:00pm until 9:00pm when the show would start, no talking while the show is on, and yes, dressing up is required under penalty of exile.
Clams Casino from Tom & Shelley
Deviled Eggs, also from Tom & Shelley
That Sunday, I tapped into my inner Betty Draper and made two bacon covered meatloaves and Mothers Ruin Punch while Alex made green bean casserole.
A glass of mother's ruin punch
Alex's Green Bean Casserole
Not to be outdone, our guests brought over inspired dishes such as deviled eggs, clams casino, scalloped potatoes, spinach salad, bacon wrapped dates, and jello with cool whip.
EJ's scalloped potatoes
Needless to say, we had a feast at hand. All in all the night was a hit: everyone had a great time, the food was really amazing, and the first episode of Mad Men’s Season 5 was very good. To top it all off, I had an extra meatloaf to last me through most of the week! To all of this, I can only say Zou, Bisou, Bisou.
Jello & Cool Whip