Christ is risen! (Or soon will be, depending on when you read this). But how should one celebrate this glorious event in food and drink?
Easter once marked the end of a rigorous fast. Eggs and all other dairy products were forbidden during Lent and still are among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics.) The only problem with this mortification is that nobody told the chickens. While folks fasted, the hens kept laying, and by Eastertide there were plenty of eggs in store. Easter eggs and Paschal breads rich with eggs (one Ukrainian recipe uses eighteen eggs for a single loaf!) were prepared with abandon. Pascha, Eternity Cakes, and Koulitch are just a few of these many delightfully decadent Easter breads.
Some Christian cultures have turned Easter dinner into an allegory of new life in the risen Christ. In Ukraine and other Slavic nations, a main course of ham symbolizes our liberation from the Mosaic law and its kosher restrictions; linked sausages represent Christ breaking the chains of Hell; horseradish evokes the bitter herbs of the old Passover feast (and the bitterness of Christ’s Passion, now sweetened by His resurrection); Easter bread, or Pascha, recalls Christ’s rising from the dead; butter and cheese symbolize spiritual nourishment as from mother’s milk; and salt signifies purification and preservation. And then there is the humble egg, in some respects the supreme symbol of the resurrection, for out of the “hard shell” of the tomb comes the miracle of new life.
All the ingredients are brought to church beforehand, either on Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday morning, and blessed by the priest. In some places, the priest travels from house to house blessing the foods. The feast begins when the father of the family takes a blessed egg, breaks it, and distributes it to all at table. It is a beautiful tradition.
Another age-old favorite, for obvious reasons, is lamb: through His Passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ is the true Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world and averts the angel of death by His slain Blood. There is even a special blessing for Easter lamb in the old Roman Ritual:
O God, who during the deliverance of Thy people from Egypt commanded through Thy servant Moses that a lamb be slain in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ, and instructed that afterwards the blood of the same lamb be put on the door-posts of the houses: do Thou deign to bless and sanctify this meat, which we Thy servants desire to receive for Thy praise, through the resurrection of the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth unto endless ages. Amen.
Our recipe for Parmesan Herb–Crusted Lamb Chops is a fusion blend, the diverse ingredients of which represent the universality of our Faith and our obligation to use the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands in service to others. And the herbs are a nice tie-in to the bitter herbs of the Jewish Passover, the olive oil to the Garden of Gethsemane (as well as the oils used during our Baptism), and the bread crumbs to the risen Christ present in the Eucharist.
Parmesan Herb–Crusted Lamb Chops
Serves: 4 Prep time: 25 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes
2 Tbsps. garlic, minced
2 Tbsps. fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsps. lemon juice
2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 Tbsps. fresh mint leaves, minced
The Herb Crust
2 cups panko or other bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 frenched racks of lamb
4 Tbsps. olive oil
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Combine the ingredients for the marinade and allow the rack of lamb to marinate on
- Combine the ingredients for the herb crust and press the rack of lamb into the
crusting on both sides.
- Put rack of lamb on a baking sheet with a baking rack and cook for 20–25 minutes, or
until the internal temperature reaches 125°F.
- Use the rest of the marinade to make a sauce by heating it in a saucepan over medium
heat until it lightly boils.
- When lamb is cooked, pull the lamb out and tent with foil so that the lamb stays warm
while resting, about 10 minutes before slicing.
- Slice into chops and serve with the mint marinade sauce.
As for what wine to pair with your dinner, it depends on the main course.
For lamb, look for a red wine that is fruity and acidic. Cabernet Sauvignon usually tops the list, but Malbec, Merlot, or any Burgundy are also contenders.
For ham, look for a dry rosé, a white wine with fruity notes (to complement the ham the way pineapple does), a sweet white like a Riesling or Gewürztraminer to balance out the meat’s saltiness, or a bold fruity red like a Zinfandel to balance out the sweetness of the glaze.
For after dinner, treat yourself to our new and revised decadent dessert cocktail:
1 oz. dark crème de cacao
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. Irish cream liqueur
1 oz. heavy cream (optional)
Pour crème de cacao, vodka, Irish cream liqueur, and cream into a shaker filled with ice and shake forty times (the cream makes the drink less sweet and more balanced). Drizzle chocolate syrup into a cocktail glass, and strain the shaker into the glass.
Food for Thought
Make Easter a type of a “new year” by making an informed resolution to live joyfully, even in times of trial. And then tonight, before you go to bed, practice saying “Alleluia” with a sincere heart.
The preceding is an excerpt from Dining with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Righeous Feast by Fr. Leo Patalinghug and Michael Foley (Regnery, 2023)