This is the first Easter Sunday that I have not worked in a long time. Being in the restaurant industry, you are generally expected to work holidays, and for the past several years, I have spent my Easters and Christmases with my work family. While I enjoy their company, it was really nice to be able to spend this past holiday cooking for Dan and my friend Teri. It was a lovely day in all that included attending Easter Sunday Mass at St. Cecilia’s in Boston and then a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts as well as our lavish feast.
By Dan’s request, I cooked a roasted chicken and I had to have a ham as well to honor family tradition. We also had two home made breads: cornbread and white sandwich bread and there was baklava from our local bakery and peach and mango sorbet! I also had a hankering for asparagus and sweet potatoes, so I worked them into two dishes that I’d like to share with you here.
The asparagus made its way into a pasta salad. It was light and refreshing, and I served it as a first course while the chicken, ham, and sweet potatoes were finishing up in the oven. It was fresh and clean and made for an excellent way to start the meal. This is a bit of an homage to the macaroni salad that adorns many holiday tables for Easter, but is considerably lighter because it doesn’t use any mayonnaise. I also like orzo particularly because it has an egg shape.
what you’ll need:
- 1 bunch asparagus
- Italian parsley
- Mandarin oranges
- Sherry Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- Peel away the bitter green skin of each asparagus in the bunch with a vegetable peeler. Chop them into 1 1/2 inch pieces and steam them until just cooked. Set aside for later.
- Prepare orzo according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside for later use.
- Make a vinaigrette with the juice of a mandarin orange, grated ginger, minced garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper.
- Peel two or three mandarin oranges and separate the fruit into segments. Set aside for later use.
- Chop 1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, and 1/8 cup of cilantro.
- Combine all of the ingredients, adding just enough vinaigrette to coat. Correct with salt and pepper if necessary.
For the sweet potatoes, I initially had planned on simply baking them, but then we invited our friend Teri to join us at the last minute. I needed to stretch the potatoes to make enough for three instead of two. I immediately thought of the traditional sweet potato pudding that is usually served that involves marshmallows and nuts, but I didn’t want to be quite so literal for our meal. On top of that, sweet potato pudding is quite heavy and I wanted something less dense. To lighten things up again, I turned to the idea of the soufflé.
I’ve never made a soufflé before, so I was admittedly going out on a limb, but since there was so much other food I wasn’t too worried about us going hungry. It also turned out that Teri isn’t really into sweet potatoes, but she did eat a helping and commented that it was delicious, so I suppose that’s the ultimate compliment for a recipe. The other upside to this recipe is that I got to use my Kitchen-Aid mixer, and anytime I get to do that, I’m a happy man!
what you’ll need:
- two large sweet potatoes, roasted and mashed
- three eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice powder (optional)
- Combine mashed sweet potatoes, egg yolks, brown sugar, butter, salt, and 5 spice powder. Work together until the ingredients are well-mixed. You can add everything to the potatoes while they are hot except for the eggs yolks. You must wait until everything is at room temperature to add the yolks, or they will cook before you put the whole thing in the oven.
- Whip the egg whites using your stand mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Fold the whites into the sweet potato mixture being careful not to lose too much of the air you’ve whipped into it.
- Pour the resulting soufflé “batter” into a round oven safe container that is almost as tall as it is wide. You’ll need to grease the side of the container with butter too. The shape is important so that the soufflé will rise. Because this is pretty dense and relatively heavy, it probably won’t rise over the top of the bowl, but it will fluff up and rise an inch or so.
- Bake the soufflé in a shallow dish of water. The water helps it bake evenly and the steam also help with rising. You’ll want to leave it in a 400˚ oven for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and it has risen an inch to an inch and a half. Avoid opening the oven door if you can so as not to lose heat.
- Serve immediately. You could garnish it with chopped nuts at the table for a texture contrast, but it is also delicious on its own.
Although I did cook both of these items for Easter, I think they would be great for any Spring meal over the coming months. I hope that you derive some enjoyment from them and happy spring! Bon apétit!