This time of year the marketplace is flooded with images of cute animalsâ€”lamby-kins and chickies and duckies and bunnies. We home cooks are expected to come up with an Easter menu that includes a slaughtered, roasted version of one of those little cute-niks, but it’s hard to get your mind around it. Just try going through checkout at Ralph’s with a leg of lamb in your cart while there’s a stuffed, fleecy-white relative of that leg’s former owner staring down at you from atop the cash register.
Ham is less guilt-inducing because the piggy is not regularly featured in the crush of Easter creature-cuteness. Plus it’s called ham, not piggy, so you can mentally disassociate it from the darling, pink animal whose butt it once was.
If the whole thing just makes you too darn squeamish, you can chicken out (pardon the expression) and go vegetarian. Make a brunch (or as we say in my family, blunch*) with something simple like my sister-in-law’s Easy Cheesy Thing. It’s loaded with cheese and eggs but I have it on good authority that the cows and the chickies would rather have you use their bi-products than their body parts.
Ellen’s Easy Cheesy Thing
1 loaf challah bread
Â½ cup butter, melted and cooled (plus extra to butter the pan)
Â½ pound grated Gruyere cheese
Â½ pound grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Assemble this the night before Easter (Easter Eve).
1. Cut the crust off the challah bread, slice it, and tear the slices in half or quarters.
Mix together the two cheeses in a bowl and set aside.
2. Butter a deep casserole dish and place a layer of bread on the bottom. Sprinkle about a third of the cheese over the bread. Add another layer of bread, a layer of cheese, and then another of bread, reserving the extra cheese.
3. Lightly whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Whisk in the milk, and the melted butter and the cayenne. Pour the mixture over the bread and cheese, then top the casserole with the remaining cheese. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate it overnight.
4. Easter morning, before your egg hunt, preheat the oven to 350Âº.Â Place the dish in a larger pan (a roasting pan or Pyrex with high sides), pour in hot water until it’s about half-way up the side of the casserole dish, and place the whole thing in the oven for about a hour. Take the foil off and let it cook a little longer, until the top is slightly brown.
You’re done. Now go eat that chocolate bunny.
*If you want to know why we call it blunch, you can read about it in The Crabby Cook Book, which will be out next year. (I know, the suspense is already killing you.)