Easter Dinner is usually at our house, since Aude's husband's grandmother lives in Lyon and they like to visit at that time with the kids. Count my youngest sister-in-law who is a hat maker here, and that's all it takes to get my in-laws all to convene at our house for Sunday dinner on Easter.
I was explaining to Loic that ham is a classic where I come from, and we'd been looking around for one we could roast at home. Sometimes you see them around the holidays in grocery stores in the rural areas. The ham you get here usually is only sold by the slice at the butcher. The idea of presenting a whole ham at the table is a bit odd to my French family, and they weren't buying it, but I knew that they would love a honey roasted ham pierced with cloves if they saw one coming to the table.
We decided to get up early and get to the market where we know a farmer who raises pigs and also lamb and mutton in the Bugey. His meat is really the very best, and I usually order my lamb shanks from him. We headed down the market straight to his stall and there was already a line. He could not help me with a ham, so we decided on lamb, which is a classic for Easter in France. Since I was expecting 10 at the table, I decided to get 2 racks of chops and to tie them into crowns and roast them simply, with fresh rosemary and bay tucked into the tie and garlic pierced between each bone in the fleshy part of the chops.
As the main vegetable, I served young tender spring asparagus and steamed cauliflower, both steamed and then finished in the oven with a touch of butter. We followed the main course with a salad and cheese, then a cognac spiked apple crisp with Chantilly.
In France, something that always delights me is the "friture", little fish made of chocolate. The children were very well behaved about their chocolate, obediently taking only a little bit while their mother and grandmother tucked the rest back into the package and put it away.
We got into a discussion about chocolate, and I mentioned that it was not something we normally had when I was growing up, except at certain holidays, so Easter was like a chocolate feeding frenzy for us kids. We wouldn't let anyone touch our candy. My father-in-law told us how he had chocolate milk every morning during the second world war, because it was meant to fortify and nourish the children, and that they also got a piece of bread with chocolate tucked into it at snack time in the afternoon. I joked that it must have seemed rather ho hum when the American soldiers rode into town tossing chocolate bars from their tanks at the end of the war! Yves looked at me with a blank stare and then Brigitte explained that since his father was a dentist, they often got many things like chocolate and meat throughout the war because much of his work was done on a bartering basis. He said that when chocolate was passed out as a rare treat at school, he would give his chocolate to another child because he already got it at home. I asked if he told them it was because his father was a dentist, alluding to the idea that chocolate is bad for your teeth. He just looked at me again with a poker face. He takes his chocolate very seriously indeed.
Labels: Spring 09