How to Celebrate Easter & Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions

Easter_BunniesUp until I was ten, maybe eleven, my family celebrated Easter like everyone else in the neighborhood. We shopped for Easter outfits and bonnets, decorated eggs, went to church and had dinner at one or the other grandparent’s house. Then skiing and a spring vacation or two got in the way. Around that time, Mom’s parents began spending the winter and spring in Florida. So, unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas and Independence Day, Easter became a bit hit or miss celebration in our family; mostly miss.

If you share my haphazard history of Easter celebrations and need help planning your weekend, here are a few suggestions.

Fly a kite. What could be better than a sky full of kites on a breezy early spring day? This tradition began in Bermuda. Legend has it that Easter kite flying began when a teacher was trying to explain Christ’s ascension to heaven. Today, a colorful kite flying festival is held every year on Good Friday. Easter kite flying is also practiced in Guyana but on Easter Monday. I’ll let you, the weather and the wind pick your best day to fly.

Light a fire. Like many rites, this tradition harks back to pagan days. Easter bonfires are an old custom in parts of northern Europe. Usually lit at sundown on Good Friday or Saturday, it is a good way to get the neighborhood together (and burn some of the dead tree limbs that fell over the winter). The fire is meant to chase away the dark and cold of winter. Don’t forget to get a permit!

Start a parade. Early Christian processions where solemn affairs and took place both before and after Easter services. This tradition took on a decidedly festive note on New York’s Fifth Avenue in the late 1880’s. In the spirit of see and be seen, wealthy New Yorkers strolled up and down the avenue in their Easter finest. Whether you dress to the nines with a gorgeous bonnet or don bunny ears, enjoy the fresh air as you parade through the neighborhood.

Decorate eggs. An ancient symbol of new life, the egg played an important role in pagan festivals. Early Christians adopted the practice with a different spin. Eggs were forbidden during Lent so people began to decorate and color them to enjoy at their Easter feasts.

Before skiing got in the way, Mom always hardboiled a dozen or so eggs for my sister and I to decorate. I can still smell the vinegar that we used to activate the special dyes. We loved the fun of decorating but neither Brenda nor I liked hardboiled eggs. We brought them with us to Easter dinner and palmed as many as possible off on our grandparents.

Watch the sun rise. Several local churches are holding special sunrise services. These services commemorate the empty tomb that greeted Mary at dawn on Easter morning. Enjoy the hymns and celebration of the resurrection. Alternatively, a quiet, solitary meditation in a favorite place may suit you better. Sunrise is at 6:37 on Easter morning.

Gather friends and family. In spite of my spotty history, I like to invite friends around for an Easter dinner. More often than not, the weather is far from springy so I rummage through my files for festive but cozy recipes. Chocolate bunnies and eggs decorate the table and we at least pretend that spring is here.

However you celebrate, have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
I love lamb at Easter and these shanks are a homey favorite. Add a spoonful of creamy polenta for a delicious Easter feast. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large or 8 small lamb shanks
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with a piece of string
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes or to taste
2-3 cups dry red wine
4-6 cups chicken stock
Olive oil
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1 pound pearl onions, peeled and trimmed or use frozen

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and reserve.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper, raise the heat to medium high and, working in batches, brown the lamb in the bacon fat. Remove the shanks and place them in a casserole or roasting pan large enough to hold the lamb in a single layer, sprinkle with the bacon and add the herbs.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with dried chili flakes, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more.

Evenly spread the sautéed vegetables over the lamb, add 2 cups wine and enough chicken broth to cover about 3/4 of the shanks. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Turning the lamb shanks once, cook at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

While the lamb is cooking, add a little olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high. Add the mushrooms and sauté until golden. Turn the lamb shanks again, add the mushrooms and pearl onions and more wine and/or stock if needed. Continue cooking uncovered for 1 hour.

If using large shanks, remove the lamb from the bones. If using smaller shanks, let each of your guests have their own. Transfer the lamb, mushrooms, pearl onions and a few spoonfuls of sauce to a deep serving platter or individual plates and serve. Pass the remaining sauce.

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One Year Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Two Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Four Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Five Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Six Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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