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French Easter Dinner Menu

Issue #18, March 26th, 2010

Bonjour et bienvenue to La Marmite!

This month you'll find some Easter dinner menu ideas. Try part or all of it as you wish. As always when serving French food, don't forget the baguette. I have not included rice or another starch as part of the main course, because the menu really does work well with just French bread.

Oeufs de caille sur son nid de roquette

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Côtelettes d'agneau sauce à l'ail

Haricots verts à l'étouffée

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Plateau de fromages

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Nid de Pâques

Quail Eggs in a Nest of Arugula

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Lamb Cutlets in Garlic Sauce

French Green Beans

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Cheese Platter

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Easter Nest Cake


In France there is no typical dish that is served at Easter. Many people will dine on lamb, but it will be served in a myriad of fashions. One of my favorite ways to serve lamb is in this lamb stew recipe, called navarin. However, the recipe for lamb cutlets given in this newsletter is truly easy to fix and also quite tasty.

One recurring idea on a French Easter dinner menu is to have some sort of nest. You'll find two on the menu here. The first is the salad and the second is the dessert. The dessert is not exactly elegant, but it is a huge hit with the kids.


Quail Egg Salad

Quail eggs have a wonderful flavor that is quite distinct from chicken eggs. Their size will invite you to have just one more - that is if you don't have to peel them!

Peeling them takes time and really shouldn't be done in a hurry. The eggs are delightful to look at - each one has a totally different pattern on the exterior and a lovely pale blue interior. Looking at them is your reward for taking the time to peel the eggs for everyone else.

If you can't find quail eggs, chicken eggs can be substituted, but I think some of the nest effect will be lost.

Oeufs de caille sur son nid de roquette
  • 2 dozen quail eggs
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced dry cured ham (prosciutto for example)
  • 8 cups washed and dried arugula
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs (you pick)
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Hard boil the quail eggs by placing them in a pot of simmering water. Cook at a simmer for 4 minutes, then immediately drain and place in a bowl of ice water. When they are completely cooled, remove the shell by rolling the egg between your fingers to crack the shell all over. Then carefully remove the shell. Rinse and dry the shelled egg.
  2. Slice the ham in long, slender strips. In a large salad bowl toss together the arugula, shredded carrots, and ham.
  3. Prepare a vinaigrette by mixing the vinegar with the shallot, herbs, sugar and salt and pepper. If you have time, let this sit for a while to infuse flavors. Whisk or shake in the olive oil. Pour the dressing on the salad and toss.
  4. Arrange the salad in "nests" on 4 salad plates and place 6 peeled quail eggs in the center of each.

Makes 4 servings.



Pan Fried Lamb Cutlets

Next up on our Easer dinner menu: lamb cutlets. These should be cooked quickly on high heat, making them an ideal dish to serve when you don't have a lot of time. Maybe not the best spirit for Easter, but possibly you'll be busy hunting eggs for most of the day.

Côtelettes d'agneau sauce à l'ail
  • 12 lamb cutlets - about 1 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup crème fraîche (or whipping cream)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil on high heat in a large heavy skillet. When the oil is quite hot, add the cutlets. Brown the cutlets for three minutes on each side, then remove from the skillet and set aside.
  2. Pour off most of the oil from the skillet and return the skillet to low heat. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook, stirring to keep it from browning, for a minute or two. Add the white wine and scrape any bits clinging to the bottom of the pan into the wine. Add the crème fraîche (or whipping cream). Heat to a boil, then remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. To serve pour about 1/4 cup sauce into each of four serving plates, and arrange three of the cutlets on each plate. Garnish as you wish.

Makes 4 servings.



Easter Nest Cake

This cake would make a great cooking project with the kids, allowing them to contribute to your Easter dinner menu. The decoration requires no special skills, and you just know they want to give the cake decorating bag a whirl. It is, of course, supposed to resemble a bird's nest. I have to admit that only one out of four "got" the nest in my family. I thought it was so obvious!

The recipe here fits a 4 cup savarin mold, but you could also make this in a bundt cake pan or other tube pan if that is what you have, adjusting batter amounts and cooking times as needed.

I just used the simplest of cake and icing recipes here, but you can make this with any sort of cake batter you wish and use your favorite decorating icing as well.

Nid de Pâques
    For the cake
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • For the icing

  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream (more as needed)
  • For the decoration

  • Lots of various chocolate eggs and Easter candy.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a savarin mold.
  2. Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the the sugar and vanilla, creaming well. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each.
  3. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding this to the batter with the yogurt (three parts dry ingredients, two parts yogurt), beating well after each addition.
  4. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  5. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then turn out onto another rack to completely cool.
  6. Cream together the powdered sugar, butter, cocoa, and whipping cream until well blended. You may need to add a little more whipping cream to get the icing to good decorating consistency.
  7. Place the cake on a serving dish. Fill a cake decorating bag with the icing and use a plain round tip to create strings all over the cake (think like a bird building her nest). Place the candy eggs in the center.


More Sweets

Here's a last little tasty bit for a French Easter. These small marine inspired chocolates are called la friture de Pâques. Normally friture is small fried fish, but that is clearly not the case here.



Next Issue:

That's it for the Easter dinner menu issue, so until next month kind readers.

For the next issue, due out on April 22nd: the cuisine of French Guiana.

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A bientôt and remember to enjoy your food!

Your friend in France,

Kim

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