Have you ever noticed how much better food tastes when it’s in season? Sure, you can buy basil in February and peaches in December, but eating them in the season that nature intended them to be eaten doesn’t compare to that alternative.
Spring and lamb go hand in hand, and in our house it’s the centerpiece of our traditional Easter dinner.
Further, have you ever noticed that the best food and wine pairings happen when you match a food and the wine indigenous to same region? Think about spaghetti with red sauce and Chianti, Pacific Northwest salmon and Oregon Pinot gris, and lamb with Pinot noir (in this case, both from Oregon as well). Lamb and Pinot noir are one of those ideal combinations. The gentle gaminess and of the lamb seems to show off the sweet spiciness and rich fruit flavors in the wine – heaven.
Naturally we serve Pinot noir a lot around here, and lamb.
As I write this, a particular memory popped into my head. A few years ago I was pouring some of our Pinot noirs for a man in Seattle who owns a subterranean wine shop. Now this guy was quite a curmudgeon and was really putting me through my paces. Nonetheless I carried on, not at all sure that I was going to be able to win him over. He tasted one of the reserve Single Vineyard Pinots, and suddenly he stopped and a thoughtful tone overcame him.
After a moment he said ” You know, a great Pinot noir is like a great date. In the beginning of the evening she’s all polished and pretty, that’s all well and good. But if the evening goes well, she really starts to open up. She tells her stories and draws you in. Eventually she is no longer pretty and polished, she is gorgeous and incredibly intriguing.” If you’ve ever had a truly great Pinot noir, you’ll know exactly what he was talking about.
But I digress. This post is supposed to be about spring lamb and Easter menus.
This year it’s our turn to host the big feast – last year I shared our 20+ year Easter tradition here. Our dear friends who own Bethel Heights winery will be at our house, three generations strong. There’ll be 16 grown ups and bigger kids, plus three toddlers and three tiny babies (and one big black lab, going a little crazy).
I plan to make my new favorite lamb recipe – French Four Hour Lamb (borrowed from The Barefoot Contessa FoolProof). I love this method, it’s dead easy and the lamb cooks unattended for four, or if you’re French as many as seven, hours. The result is deliciously tender and mellow lamb. It’s not all crispy on the outside and pink on the inside, another way I love lamb. So don’t be alarmed, it’s not over cooked. In fact, that’s the beauty of this preparation if you’re serving a big group. There is virtually no stress about the timing of the meat. On Sunday I plan to take the lamb out to rest, slip the asparagus and carrots in to roast, and simply pour another glass of wine while they do.
Easter Dinner Menu
Other hors d’ouerves contributed by guests
Four Hour Leg of Lamb
Roasted Spring Carrots and Asparagus
Lime and Honey Beet Salad (from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table)
Creamy, Cheesy, Garlicky Rice with Spinach (from the same book by Dorie Greenspan)
Homemade Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
I’m not making dessert, my guests are bringing it. But if I were, I’d make:
Glazed Lemon Cake (from the first Silver Palate Cookbook – it’s divine!)