One in an occasional series."Easter brings feelings of excitement and renewal, like the sighting of the first yellow daffodils, which provide a sense of hope and a burst of brightness," writes royal-adjacent Pippa Middleton in her party planning book, Celebrate.And, I might add, a feeling of excitement when one sees the arrival of Cadbury Mini Eggs in the candy aisle.Pippa, apparently, loves Easter, and so do I.It's all the celebration of Christmas without as much commercialization, with better flowers for decorating, and I'm sorry, Santa, but those Mini Eggs kick candy canes' behind any day.In my family, Easter means a morning church service followed by a midafternoon lunch of ham or pork and plenty of carb-loaded and veg-heavy trimmings -- usually recipes downloaded from that all-American source, the Food Network, and prepared lovingly and expertly, mostly by my father, in my parents' kitchen. It's a tried-and-true formula for celebratory success, and never once has a family member begged for something exotic on the menu. Like lamb.Spring lamb, evidently, is the traditional dish of Easter in England, so lamb is what the Duchess of Cambridge's sister suggests serving to readers as the main course around their tables, too.And since I have committed to trying Pippa-the-party-planner's advice for all my major celebrations this year, lamb is what I would make for my "Parties with Pippa" (pre-)Easter family meal.But when I announced to my family I needed "guinea pigs" for this meal, suddenly everyone had to be washing their hair. My significant other cited irreconcilable differences with Mary and all of her little lambs, my father declared himself not to be "a lamb man" and my two grown brothers split -- not because of the lamb, but because they're burned out on anything and everything having to do with the British royal family. (Pretty sure if I'd told them it was from a Bavarian cookbook by Dirk Nowitzki, they'd have tucked their napkins into their T-shirts.)That left my mother, an inexperienced but willing lamb-eater, and my grandma, who -- no pressure -- grew up eating lamb that her mother cooked on a regular basis in their Chicago home.It was settled. I'd head to my parents' house on a Saturday to prepare a dinner of Pippa's stuffed roast lamb, potato Dauphinoise, asparagus and Easter trifle. Mom, Grandma and I would eat. Dad would be my non-lamb-eating sous-chef.Grocery shoppingMy shopping list for this meal looked like an adult and a child were fighting for lines on the notepad: besides legs of lamb, I needed supplies that ranged from red currant jelly to orange Jell-O, from prunes to vanilla pudding.Fortunately, my neighborhood Kroger Signature was prepared. In almost no time, I had all of that, plus asparagus, garlic, rosemary, potatoes and more from the produce section, and the Gruyere from the cheese department. Brilliant.The first hiccup, though, came in the bakery. For my trifle, I needed hot-cross buns (another English Easter tradition) or brioche. They had neither. What to substitute?"You need something eggy," a bakery employee said. "We have some Challah bread on the mark-down carts in dairy."Except ... they didn't. I picked up something called "Italian sweet round loaf" and tossed it in the cart because one of the ingredients was the very evil high-fructose corn syrup, and I figured any thick bread with the very evil high-fructose corn syrup in it would be pretty darn delicious in a trifle.On to the meat department. I've never made lamb, which means I've never bought lamb. A little nervous, I told the meat counter employee I needed "two three-pound legs of boneless spring lamb.""Let me get the butcher for you," she replied.Oh no. This is a high-maintenance request. But wait, I called this morning and they said they sold lamb. Geez, if I EVEN have to go to Central Market after this ...The butcher appeared, and I followed him as he walked down the meat aisle, stopping before a case clearly labeled "Lamb & Veal."Shoot. I feel dumb."Here you go, ma'am," he said, handing me two little $13 packages of bone-in lamb with netting around them."Mine are supposed to be boneless," I say."Honestly, they'll cook better with the bone on them," he said.Oh, no. Pippa says to use boneless. I'm going to have to butcher. Or, Dad is.I scurried around the store until I had just one last thing to pick up: the Cadbury Mini Eggs -- a British product -- to garnish the trifle. I panned the Easter candy aisle up and down, and all I could find were small, portion-controlled packs of Mini Eggs (as opposed to the ginormous packages of pastel pink and green American-made bite-size candies).Just when I was thinking, "Those self-disciplined Brits. No wonder they're skinnier than we are," I saw a sign that said, "Cadbury Mini Eggs: Buy 2, get 1 free." And I tossed three mini-bags in the cart.My total came to $150.92. Time to cook!In the kitchenI often wish there were a counter in the grocery store where you could take anything to be chopped, sliced or minced on site. (Hello, the deli will slice your meat, so why won't produce slice your potatoes, onions and garlic?) I like to cook, but I loathe the knife-work involved.I immediately appointed sous-chef Dad to be the knife wielder for the day.He started by slicing two pounds of potatoes for the cheesy potato dish, which everyone in my carbivore family -- myself included -- looked forward to the most.I started by opening one of my portion-controlled bags of Mini Eggs and popping a few into my mouth.Then I squished together the stuffing for the lamb, which I knew I was going to like because it involved dried apricots, prunes, and the zest and juice of two oranges ("Dad! Need you to zest and juice!").With the stuffing made, I tackled the lamb by cutting the two packages open and laying the meat on the cutting board. They were both blobs with a big bone in the middle. Hmm. I needed to figure out how to follow Pippa's directive to lay them out, stuff them, roll them up and tie them in neat parcels."Dad!"With a knife bigger than I was comfortable holding in my dainty hand, he whacked and cut and jimmied and wiggled the bone off the first lamb.I ate a few more Mini Eggs and watched.Using a knife more my size, I attempted the second lamb deboning. I'm pretty sure my butchering technique resembled a scene out of a bad slaughterhouse horror movie. And I'm pretty sure my tied-up parcels, with stuffing oozing out between the strings, looked like carnage from that horror scene.Oh well. I managed to sear them and get them in the oven.Now on to that potato dish. And a few more Mini Eggs.We basically had to saute some onions and garlic, then layer them with the potatoes in a dish, pour cream over and cover the top with cheese. I let it be known I'd bought about three times as much Gruyere cheese as the recipe called for."Sprinkle it between each layer," my resourceful mother suggested as she passed through the kitchen.Brilliant! I did just that. Problem was: I didn't have much cheese left for the top. I opened my parents' refrigerator and found a new package of Swiss cheese. I sprinkled the entire eight-ounce bag on top. In the spirit of excess, Dad poured a dollop of extra cream over the top, too. (So, dear readers, the nutritional numbers you see for this recipe are not exactly accurate for the dish we ate.)With lamb and potatoes in the oven, it was time to wait. And wait.I attempted to start the trifle, but sous-chef Dad did not approve of my choice of the corn syrupy bread, which basically was an oversized, too-sweet hamburger bun."Mom!"She hopped in her car and drove to Kroger for the poundcake Dad suggested. Poundcake! Why didn't I think of that?I polished off the bag of Mini Eggs and cut cubes of premade orange Jell-O for the trifle. The Jell-O seemed a little, well, down-market for this meal; apparently the British eat more gelatin than we do, Dad explained.The lamb continued to cook. And cook. And cook. The suggested 1 hour, 20 minutes became 1 hour, 40 minutes, which became two hours. Every 10 minutes or so, we'd stick a meat thermometer in and wait for the numbers to climb to the recommended 165 degrees. The potatoes were done, the trifle was chilling in the fridge. And still, no lamb.Finally! After more than two hours in the oven, it hit 165 degrees, we took it out, let it rest, steamed the asparagus and made the gravy (Score! Lots of red wine involved!).Moment of truthWe gathered around the table -- decorated with a daffodil, as Pippa suggested -- like Europeans, at a very late dinner hour after almost five hours of cooking.As I cut into the lamb, I announced that if the meal flopped, I'd treat the fam to BoBo China.However, the lamb was well cooked, and the stuffing was delicious. Mom and Grandma approved, and even Dad took a small bite smothered in gravy.The highly anticipated potatoes oozed with cheese, and I wanted to bathe in them. I polished off the leftovers for breakfast the next morning.By the time dessert came out of the fridge, I was pooped, so sous-chef Dad whipped up the fresh whipped cream, and I spread it on top of the trifle and topped it with the remaining two bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs. I was still a little weirded out by the Jell-O (it elicited talk about family hospital stays), but the poundcake was a perfect substitute for the hot cross buns.It was a perfectly Pippa-licious dinner.Unfortunately, in the days between the pre-Easter meal and my sitting down to write about it, Pippa's literary agent discontinued representing her because Celebrate was, in the eyes of many critics and bookstores, a flop. Next month, though, she'll start writing a column called "Pippa's Friday Night Feasts" for a British magazine. Next stop, the Food Network, perhaps?Personally, I'd like a show about recipes that use Cadbury Mini Eggs.Stephanie Allmon, 817-390-7852Twitter: @FWST_YourLifeStuffed roast lambIn Europe it is tradition to eat lamb at Easter. The stuffing is really tasty, but give yourself time to carefully tie up the lamb to create a neat parcel. If you are roasting lamb on the bone, roll the stuffing into small balls and bake them on a greased baking sheet for 30 to 35 minutes until crisp and golden.For the stuffing: 5 ounces dried apricots, finely chopped5 ounces prunes, finely chopped1 1/4 cups white bread crumbsZest and juice of 2 oranges4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley1 egg, beatenSalt and freshly ground black pepperFor the lamb:2 3-pound boneless legs of spring lamb4 tablespoons olive oil2 garlic bulbs, cut in half horizontally8 sprigs rosemaryFor the gravy:4 tablespoons all-purpose flour1 quart beef stock1 3/4 cups red wine4 tablespoons red currant jellySalt and freshly ground black pepper1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To make the stuffing, mix the apricots, prunes, bread crumbs, orange zest and juice, garlic and parsley in a large bowl with the beaten egg to combine. Season well with salt and pepper.2. Lay the lamb legs out on a chopping board, skin side down, then season, and place the stuffing down the middle of each. Roll up the lamb, tying in 4 to 6 places on each leg using butcher's string. Heat the oil in a large roasting pan and, once hot, add both legs and brown all over until nicely golden.3. Roast in the oven for approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes until pink. After 15 minutes of cooking, add the halved garlic bulbs and the rosemary sprigs to the pan. Continue to roast for the remaining cooking time. Remove from the oven, transfer the lamb to serving platter and cover with foil. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes.4. For the gravy, heat the meat juices in the roasting pan in which the lamb was cooked over high heat. Whisk in the flour to combine, and cook for 1 minute, then gradually pour in the stock and wine, whisking constantly.5. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer and reduce for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in the red currant jelly and season to taste. Strain the gravy into a small pan and warm it to serve.Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 939 calories, 54 grams fat, 48 grams carbohydrates, 53 grams protein, 212 milligrams cholesterol, 1,409 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 55 percent of calories from fat.
A rich and indulgent potato dish that can be made up to a day in advance and goes well with any roast, particularly lamb. Peel and slice the potatoes ahead of time and keep them fresh in cold water to prevent them from turning brown -- just pat dry before using.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-by-12-inch baking dish with a little butter.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Place 2 medium peeled and finely sliced onions in the pan and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until soft but not colored.
3. Add 3 cloves of peeled and finely chopped garlic and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and turn off the heat.
4. Peel and finely slice 2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, preferably using a mandoline or a slicer attachment in a food processor.
5. Layer the potatoes in the dish, overlapping slightly. Scatter a small amount of the cooked onion mixture between each layer and season well. Repeat until all the potato slices have been used. Place the dish on a baking sheet.
6. Place 1 cup of milk and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream or crème fraiche in a pan over low heat and bring to a simmer. Pour the liquid over the potatoes -- it should come just to the base of the top layer of potato.
7. Bake for 1 hour, sprinkling 1/3 cup of grated Gruyere, Parmesan or cheddar cheese over the top for the final 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it stand for a few minutes before serving straight from the dish, or use a round chef's ring mold to stamp out elegant individual portions.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 315 calories, 21 grams fat, 26 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 74 milligrams cholesterol, 119 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 60 percent of calories from fat.