As a child of Korean immigrants, I did not grow up with Easter baskets, bunnies, egg dying or egg hunting. (What do those things really have to do with Easter anyways?) Instead, my childhood had the best patterns from Simplicity or McCalls in my talented and resourceful mother’s hands. I wore newly sewn Easter dresses to church every year. One time she even made a little pink lacy pouch purse that matched my pink lacy dress, and I LOVED wrapping the long, white ribbon straps around my arm to carry it.
While I do remember my mother making a completely traditional (kimchee-less) Thanksgiving meal, I have no recollection of any Easter dinner traditions. Somehow in my adult life, I have decided that I like the idea of it anyways. I have tried to fudge my way through it in various years. This year was another such year.
What would we otherwise non-resourceful 2nd generation children do without the internet to make a classic Easter meal? I put Google to good use and found a meal that had stress-reducing “do ahead” options. Perfect. I canceled out the fancy appetizers for opening packages of crackers, cured meats and cheeses. Guests were bringing dessert and bread. That left me with only three items I had to make. Perfect.
Google was also helpful at the grocery store. Had it not been for an image search of an ingredient while standing puzzled in the produce section, I might have made a fatal mistake. I posted the picture on Facebook assuming that I would stump the world as well. About 2 seconds after I posted the image, someone correctly guessed it before others not only guessed but also told me how they had prepared it in the past. I felt like a neophyte saying something as naive as “Did you know you could actually make your own bolognese sauce from scratch and not crack open a jar of Newman’s Own?!?!” (I may have posted something like that a few weeks ago.)
Was I supposed to make my life easier by actually doing those do-ahead things ahead of time? I did not. Was I supposed to feel relaxed since I was only cooking three items? I did not. Contrast this to the night before Easter when we were treated to a lovely dinner party hosted by friends. Kirsten had made at least ten different dishes in massive amounts. Not only that, she also set the boys up for make-your-own-pizzas that they had with mac-n-cheese fixed just for them. She essentially pulled off with beautiful ease what I would have assumed only a catering company could do. Mike and I should have raised our hands up and down like Wayne & Garth, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”
When I felt a little concerned about my measly three dishes, I tried to channel Kirsten for inspiration. Are you not supposed to try brand new recipes out on dinner guests? Did I mention all three were brand new recipes, some of whose ingredients I had never bought before in my life? Worse case scenerio, I knew I had packages of Shin Ramyun (Korean instant ramen) in my pantry that could be ready in 10 minutes should the need arise.
YouTube is my friend. Thanks to instructional videos, I was able to trim, clean and cut leeks and celery root. YouTube also helped me out with trimming, rolling and tying the leg of lamb. Another item I had never bought and used before this weekend is kitchen twine. Sunday was like sky diving and white water rafting in my kitchen; I was being so darn adventurous.
It started out very promising. My sister-in-law had given me a Pampered Chef mandolin slicer that I had only used a handful of times for grating. I remember her mentioning how handy it was for gratin. I almost had an adrenaline rush as I watched each thinly sliced potato piece fall. What a gift from heaven! Thank you, sister! 🙂
I continued to feel the sweetness of success after managing to prepare the lamb. I was on a roll with my bad self. I was already anticipating when some poor novice would post a picture of celery root on Facebook and in record time I would share my wealth of knowledge on this roast as an Herbs-de-Provence-seasoned veteran.
While both dishes were baking in the oven, I tackled the “Green Salad with Orange, Fennel (Fennel?! Should I post a picture? No, I learned my lesson.), and Asparagus.” Did you know you could make your own salad dressing?! My dependence on Newman’s Own products may have gone down dramatically! (Who am I kidding? Nothing beats the ease and convenience of popping open ready-made products.)
Just as my high was escalating to dangerously prideful heights, I noticed smoke coming out of the oven. A lot of smoke. The gratin was bubbling over and sizzling on the oven’s bottom! Mike placed it on a cookie sheet forcing it on another rack while I opened windows and doors to the lovely sound of our LOUD smoke detector. I lost count to how many times it went off. If I close my eyes right now, I can still distinctly hear the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The lamb was supposed to have jus but only had a couple drops of grease left in the pan. This was probably due to overcooking because my meat looked, well, overcooked. Another sign was the vegetables, some of which had a hardened black crust that Mike dutifully cut off for me. While the gratin itself looked decent when done, my formerly clear glass baking dish was now completely browned with a layer of baked-on crud. That crud took me three days to remove. Three days. (On the 3rd day, Jesus and my glass pan rose from the dead.) I had almost thrown it out along with the cookie sheet that had blackened, crusted gunk all over it as well.
The green chile bread and cake were really, really good! 🙂
I have to say that all in all, dinner was edible. Need proof? Ok, you skeptics, here you go.
What mattered most is that we were able to celebrate Easter with a traditional meal that had plenty of mishaps but lots of love. People are more important than food (WHAT?! But, of course!). Sharing the table with friends who are becoming family definitely had a hand in making each dish taste delectable. They are blurry here because 1) I wanted to protect their identities, 2) there was still too much smoke in the house, or 3) my hands were shaking from adventurous overuse.
Perhaps the Easter tradition my kids will remember growing up with is the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! of the smoke detector and always having Shin Ramyun in the pantry. Regardless, I (and my adventurous kitchen) lived to see another day. And LIVING is what it’s all about. He lives and we can, too.