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...AND OUT LIKE A LAMB-- An Early Spring Dinner Party

Updated: May 2, 2023

March 2023 certainly came “In like a Lion” and is going “Out like a Lamb.” Here we bid farewell to March with another season-specific menu.



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We welcomed in March with a Braised Lamb Shank Dinner, and we celebrated the Vernal Equinox by preparing Pasta Primavera with a side of Vivaldi. So… how best to flip our calendars to April?


Here’s what we’ve come up with–


Smoked Trout & Horseradish Spread

Asparagus & Ham w/ Sweet Mustard Drizzle

Crudité (Red/Yellow Peppers & Broccoli) w/ Dip

(Grüner Veltliner or Dry Gewürztraminer)

~~~

“Spring Chicken” w/ Sautéed Greens & Baby Potatoes

(Pinot Noir or Valpolicella)

~~~

British Strawberry Fool


The first course is a stand-up “mingling” course, the better to enable your pickier guests to select what they want and avoid ingredients beyond their comfort zones. The asparagus & ham is simply that– twin spears of blanched asparagus wrapped together with paper-thin Serrano ham–

Prosciutto or any other quality ham will work. (Pro tip: unless you are buying it pre-sliced, have your counter person layer deli paper between all the slices to prevent them from sticking together.) For the drizzle you can use your favorite version of honey-mustard dressing, store-bought or homemade. (Honey, and mustard, and maybe a little olive oil. Don’t overthink it.)

The recipe for this Smoked Trout & Horseradish Spread appears in a previous essay. If you’ve never had or served Grüner Veltliner before, the bold flavors of these appetizers present a perfect opportunity. (And besides, Grüner = Green, and it’s Springtime!)


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White and Red Verjus

What, exactly, is “Spring Chicken?” My google search suggests that no one has ever used that name for a dish, so I’ll be the first. The “Spring” comes from verjus– the juice of under-ripe grapes, which, as compared to vinegar, offers bright and refreshing (i.e., “Springlike”) acidity. The lemon zest & juice do likewise, and we use just enough brown sugar to balance the acid. The remaining ingredients are common to many other marinades, and the salt both balances the sweetness and serves to brine the meat, further enhancing its juiciness.



Marinade for boneless skinless “Spring Chicken” breasts:



Verjus (a cup or so each red AND white)

Zest & Juice of 1 Lemon

Brown Sugar (enough to balance the acidity)

Soy Sauce

Chopped Shallots

Olive Oil

Gluten-free Soy Sauce

Paprika

Granulated Garlic (or fresh minced)

Salt & Pepper


Marinate chicken breasts overnight. Briefly grill each side, then finish in a 350ºF oven.


Sauce is optional, and the meat is sufficiently moist and juicy without it. We topped ours with a quick sauté of shallots in olive oil enhanced with a last-minute toss of chopped parsley.


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And what on Earth is a “British Strawberry Fool?” Short answer– the easiest way to get the word “fool” into an April 1st menu. Even shorter answer– the simplest dessert in the world. (BTW, we tacked on “British” to identify its historical origins.) The ingredient list is quite brief– strawberries, whipped cream, and sugar. (You’ll maybe want to add a dash of vanilla if you are whipping your own cream.) But we don’t just throw everything together– most recipes entail slicing and sugaring the strawberries and then puréeing a portion of them.

Here’s a recipe from Aurora Satler for the version in the photo above. Some hacks from other recipes include adding some puréed strawberry directly to the whipped cream in order to turn it a pleasing shade of pink, garnishing with mint leaves or strawberry wafers, and/or incorporating a layer of strawberry jello. However you choose to make it…


Happy Spring, Everyone!


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