Spring’s Holiday Table

    Easter and Passover Plates to Savor

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    1404_Cookin_1Cornish Hens with Apricots
    Soak 3½ cups dried apricots in hot water for 1 hour, then drain. Heat 6 Tbsp peanut oil in a large saucepan. Sprinkle 6 Cornish hens (split in half) with salt, pepper, and 1 tsp cinnamon and brown. In another saucepan, heat 6 Tbsp peanut oil. Add 4 cups chopped onions, and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Add 3 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp ground cloves and cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain 3 cups diced plum tomatoes, reserving liquid. Add ½ cup of the tomato liquid to the onions. Purée 1½ cups soaked apricots in a food processor, and coarsely chop the rest. Add the pureed apricots, the diced tomatoes, and 1 cup chicken stock to the onion mixture. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Purée 2 cups of the onion mixture. Return to the pan, add the remaining apricots, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup chicken stock and enough liquid to make a medium-thick sauce. Pour half the sauce in a large casserole. Add hens and cover with remaining sauce. Cover and bake at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes. Serves 12.

    1404_Cookin_2Roasted Potatoes in Brown Butter
    Put a sheet pan in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Cover 3 lbs peeled, halved, and sliced Yukon gold potatoes with 2 inches water in a large pot and add 1 Tbsp salt. Simmer until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain potatoes. While potatoes simmer, heat 1 stick unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in ¼ cup drained nonpareil capers. Keep warm, covered. Toss potatoes with 3 Tbsp caper butter, then spread out in hot sheet pan. Stir remaining caper butter into 2 cups coarse bread or matzo cracker crumbs and scatter over potatoes. Roast, turning potatoes once or twice, until potatoes are tender and crumbs are golden, about 20 minutes. Season with salt. Serves 6 to 8.

    1404_Cookin_3Asparagus and Green Onion Sauté
    Add 1 Tbsp kosher salt to 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Cook 2 lbs trimmed and halved asparagus until tender, 5 minutes. Drain, transfer to paper towels to dry. Separate white parts from green parts of 1 bunch of scallions. Halve whites lengthwise. Halve green parts lengthwise and again in half crosswise, to make 3-in pieces. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until oil shimmers. Add white parts of scallions and sauté until they just begin to wilt and turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add asparagus and dash of salt and sauté to heat through. Add green parts of scallions and continue to sauté until they just begin to wilt, about 1 minute more. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve with a grind of black pepper.

    1404_Cookin_4Zesty Lemon Cakes
    Put oven rack in middle and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly brush 8 muffin cups with melted butter and chill 2 minutes. Butter again and chill a minute more. Dust cups with matzo cake flour, knocking out excess. Beat together 9½ Tbsp softened, unsalted butter, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then add 3 egg yolks, one at a time, beating until well blended. Beat in 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 2 teaspoons zest until combined. Add ¾ cup matzo cake flour and mix at low speed until just combined. Beat 3 egg whites with remaining 1/8 tsp salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add 2 Tbsp sugar, beating until whites just hold stiff peaks. Stir a little of the whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites, gently but thoroughly. Spoon batter into 8 prepared muffin cups. Blend remaining 2 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp lemon zest with your fingertips and sprinkle over batter, then bake until cakes are puffed, edges are golden, and a wooden pick or skewer 1511_MiseEnPlaceinserted in center of cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then lift out cakes carefully and cool completely on rack. Serve with whipped cream and berries.