Wine Wednesday: Celebrating Easter and Passover

There is nothing more exciting…ok, so thrilling than a reason to celebrate.  You’re with your family (or loved ones), the kitchen has all these great smells and depending on whose in the house, there is probably the sound of a sports game in the background.  I don’t think Passover or Easter will be any exception.

This is absolutely one of the longest Wine Wednesday posts I’ve ever done.  Why? Well, both holidays are thisclose and I didn’t want to choose one over the other.  I can appreciate all religions and respect those that don’t.  I have even gone back to my childhood Lent belief system and have given up liquor (all of it…no beer, wine, whiskey…you get the point) for the last 36 days (only 4 more to go). The only day I, well ‘slipped’, was on my birthday.  Hey it was on Leap Year and I think that God will forgive it.  I’ve also been fasting so that means one meal a day.  With Easter just a few days away, I’m SO READY to eat!! Yes writing about food and liquid libations for the last 5 weeks has been a challenge, but I really appreciate the fact that so many of you enjoy it the recipes I’ve posted and love the comments.

Ok, so I’m sharing these if you are looking for something to shake up your family meal this holiday season, here is a meal, dessert and of course something to ‘wash it down’ with.

I want to wish you all the very happiest of holiday. May your heart be light, your tummy full and blessings all around.

Celebrating Passover, then these are for you:

The Sipping Seder is a clever reinterpretation of the Seder plate as cocktails, conceived by Rob Corwin and Danny Jacobs. This adaptation of their recipe indicates one of the two bitter herbs on the Seder plate, which in many households is represented by horseradish. Think of this as a “borscht martini.” If using it, be sure to add the red beet stick only as you’re serving since it starts to add color right away.

3 oz Distillery No. 209 vodka (or potato or fruit-based vodka)
1 inch piece raw golden beet, peeled and chopped
1 quarter-sized slice fresh horseradish, peeled (or tsp jarred, grated white horseradish)
stick of fresh, peeled red beet for garnish (optional)

Muddle the golden beet and horseradish in the bottom of a shaker. Add the vodka and ice. Shake. Pour over a fine mesh strainer into a chilled cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with the red beet if desired.

Vermouth-Braised Short Ribs With Spring Herbs and Honeyed Shallots

Time: 1 hour, plus 2 to 3 hours’ cooking

  • 8 pounds bone-in short ribs, rinsed and patted dry
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, more as needed
  • 8 shallots, 6 finely chopped, 2 thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped (save leaves for garnish)
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle white wine, not too dry
  • 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup dry vermouth
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley, stems separated (save leaves for garnish)
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)
  • 1 small bunch chives, roughly chopped
  • 1 small bunch fresh mint, leaves roughly chopped.

1. If you have time, the night before or several hours before cooking, season the meat generously with the salt and pepper (you will need at least a tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper). Wrap and refrigerate until needed. (You could do this just before cooking, if necessary.)

2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a very large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Working in batches, arrange as many of the short ribs as fit comfortably in a single layer and brown on all sides. Take your time with this and let them get good and brown, and don’t crowd the pot or else they will steam and never develop a tasty, caramelized crust. Transfer the ribs to a bowl once they have browned, and add more oil to the pot as needed.

3. Add another 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pot if it looks dry, and stir in the chopped shallots, garlic, leeks, celery and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until softened, about 7 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. Add the wine, chicken broth and vermouth, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Arrange the short ribs in the liquid in the pot. Using kitchen twine, tie together the thyme, parsley stems and rosemary, and drop into the pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer on the stove, then cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook, turning the ribs every 45 minutes or so, until the meat is tender but not yet falling off the bone, about 2 hours. Add the carrots and let cook until tender, about 30 minutes longer.

5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the short ribs and most of the carrots. Discard the herb bunch. Bring the liquid to a simmer, reducing it until it thickens slightly. If serving right away, spoon off some of the fat from the surface of the sauce. Or pour the sauce back over the meat and chill overnight in the pot, then spoon off the fat. Reheat if necessary.

6. To serve combine the sliced shallots, vinegar and honey in a bowl. Place short ribs on a platter and top with some of the sauce. Sprinkle with the flaky salt, chives, mint, parsley leaves and celery leaves, and scatter the shallots and vinegar mixture over the top.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

Orange-Almond Flan  (yes this is for Passover even if it is a Flan)

Adapted from “Dulce lo Vivas,” by Ana Bensadón (Ediciones Martínez Roca)

Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus 2 hours’ chilling

3 cups granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds, finely ground, or 1 cup finely ground almonds.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water. Stir until completely dissolved. Place pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until syrup begins to bubble. Stop stirring and allow pan to sit until syrup begins to turn golden at edges, brushing down any sugar crystals with a brush dipped in cold water. Occasionally rotate pan to mix syrup without stirring it, then replace over heat. Continue doing this until syrup is evenly golden brown. Pour caramel into an 8-inch round flan mold or cake pan, or 10 to 12 3-inch fluted molds, tilting to spread caramel evenly along bottom. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, mix together remaining 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool until lukewarm.

3. Whisk together yolks and whole eggs until blended, then pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Add orange zest, orange juice and ground almonds. Whisk in sugar syrup. Pour into caramel-lined mold or molds, filling to just below rim. Cover mold or molds tightly with foil.

4. Place mold or molds into a larger pan. Pour enough hot water into large pan to reach halfway up side of flan mold. Bake until a knife inserted halfway into flan comes out clean, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on type of pan and oven used.

5. Allow flan to cool, then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. Just before serving, warm base of pan by dipping it briefly in a pan of hot water. Invert onto a plate, and serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings with large mold; 10 to 12 with smaller molds.

Are you celebrating EASTER? Here are some options for you and yes, I do love the Lamb! 

Akvinta Easter (aka Why the Rabbit Was Late)

2 oz Akvinta Vodka
3/4 oz egg whites
3/4 oz Aperol
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup

Shake with out ice for 15 seconds, add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Inside Out Persillade Lamb

Time: About 1 1/2 hours, largely unattended

  • Butterflied leg of lamb, 3 to 4 pounds
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges for serving.

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Trim excess fat from lamb. In a food processor, make persillade by puréeing olive oil, parsley, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and some salt and pepper.

2. Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper on both sides, then turn so the side that had been on the bone, the one with the more irregular surface, is facing up, with the wider end facing you. Smear the surface of lamb with most of persillade mixture, then fold it in half (there will be a kind of natural hinge, as you’ll see) with persillade on the inside. Smear the remaining persillade on outside of the lamb and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Put lamb in a roasting pan and cook for about 35 to 40 minutes for rare meat, or until an instant thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 130 degrees, or, for medium rare, 135 degrees.

4. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes; slice, and serve with fresh lemon wedges.

Lemon Meringue Pie

For the crust:
6 oz. (1-1/4 cups plus 2 Tbs.) unsifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes; more for the plate
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) frozen vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 to 4 Tbs. ice water

For the filling:
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 oz. (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.) cornstarch
1/4 tsp. table salt
5 large egg yolks
1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
1-1/2 Tbs. finely grated and minced lemon zest, plus 1/3 cup strained juice (from 3 medium lemons)
1 oz. (3 Tbs.) finely ground gingersnap cookies

For the meringue:
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup superfine sugar
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

Make the dough:

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a zip-top bag; shake to mix and chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Add half of the butter and shortening to the bag and toss to coat with flour. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Give it four 1-second pulses and then process for 3 to 4 seconds. Add the remaining butter and shortening and pulse again 4 times; then process until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal with some pea-size pieces of butter and shortening, 3 to 4 seconds.

Empty the mixture into a large bowl. Drizzle 1 Tbs. of the ice water around the side of the bowl and use a fork to push the flour mixture from the edges towards the center; repeat with a second tablespoon of ice water. Clusters of dough will form and become larger with each addition of water. After adding 2 Tbs. water, test the dough by pressing a small handful of clusters clusters together and then breaking them apart. If they feel dry and crumble easily, add more water, 1 Tbs. at a time (up to 4 Tbs. total), until the clusters feel moist and bind together.

Gather and press the dough into a ball, flatten it into a 4- to 5-inch disk, and dust with flour. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until cold but still pliable enough to leave a slight imprint when pressed with a fingertip, about 1 hour.

Shape the crust:

Butter the bottom, sides, and rim of a 9-inch glass pie plate.

On a floured pastry cloth or lightly floured work surface, roll the dough with a floured rolling pin (preferably covered with a rolling pin sleeve) into a 13-inch circle that’s about 1/8 inch thick. Roll the dough around the rolling pin, unroll it over the pie plate, and gently fit it into the plate without stretching.

Trim the dough with scissors to a 3/4- to 1-inch overhang. (Reserve the dough scraps, without pressing them into a ball, in case you need to patch the shell later.) Roll the overhang under itself and flatten it slightly to cover the rim of the pie plate completely. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Bake the crust:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the crust at 1-inch intervals (without going all the way through the crust). Fit a buttered 12-inch piece of aluminum foil over the crust, buttered side down. Fill 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep with dried beans or pie weights—do not overfill.

Bake the crust on a rimmed baking sheet until the edges begin to brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Let stand on a cooling rack for about 30 seconds, and then carefully remove the foil and beans. If the foil doesn’t release easily, don’t force it—bake for a few minutes more and try again. If any holes or tears appear, patch them by placing small pieces of the reserved dough scraps over the holes, let stand for a few seconds, and then gently tap them with your finger until they adhere. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake the crust until deep golden-brown all over, 16 to 20 minutes more. Cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes. (Keep the oven on.)

Make the filling:

In a heavy-duty 3-quart nonreactive saucepan, whisk together (preferably with a tapered sauce whisk) the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in 1/4 cup cold water until the mixture is smooth. Then whisk in another 1-1/4 cups cold water until combined. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally at first with a heatproof spatula, then continuously as the mixture comes to a boil (you will see a few large bubbles pop), turns glossy, and thickens into a semi-translucent gel, 4 to 6 minutes. Whisk briefly to smooth out the mixture; then reduce the heat to low and cook 1 minute more, gently pulling the mixture from the sides to the center with the spatula to prevent scorching. Remove the pot from the heat.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks. Gently whisk about 1/2 cup of the gel into the egg yolks; repeat with another 1/2 cup gel. Pour the yolk mixture into the pot and gently whisk to combine. Over low to medium-low heat, cook the filling, gently pulling it from the sides to the center with the spatula, until it begins to boil (you will see a few large bubbles pop), 4 to 6 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring as before, until the mixture thickens further(don’t worry if it clumps at this point), about 1 minute more. Remove the pot from the heat and dot the filling with the butter, pushing it under the surface; let stand for a minute to melt. Gently whisk in the lemon juice and zest until smooth.

Sprinkle the ground gingersnaps over the bottom of the pie crust; pour the filling over the crumbs and smooth the top with the spatula. Let cool to room temperature before making the meringue, at least 30 minutes.

Make the meringue:

Bring 1/2 inch of water to a simmer in a pot that will hold the bowl of a stand mixer without letting it touch the water. Reduce the heat to low. Put the egg whites in the bowl off the heat and whisk (preferably with a balloon whisk) until frothy. Add the sugar about 2 Tbs. at a time, whisking for about 5 seconds between additions.

Put the bowl over the pot and whisk gently but constantly (you are not trying to incorporate air, but to keep the whites moving so they don’t cook) until the whites are very warm to the touch (they will register 115°F to 120°F on an instant-read thermometer) and the sugar is thoroughly dissolved (lift a ribbon of whites from the bowl with the whisk and rub the whites between your fingertips—you should feel no grit), 2 to 4 minutes.

Add the vanilla and cream of tartar, transfer the bowl to the stand mixer, fit with the whisk attachment, and beat, gradually increasing the speed from low to medium high over the course of 1 minute, until the egg whites form thick, glossy medium-firm peaks (they should hold their shape but curl at their tips), 3 to 5 minutes total.

Using a soup spoon, drop some of the meringue in mounds in a ring around the edge of the filling. With the back of the spoon, gently spread the dollops of meringue over the entire surface of the filling and all the way to the crust’s edge. It is essential that all of the filling be completely covered by the meringue, without any air pockets, and that the edge of the meringue be anchored to the rim of the crust. Mound the remaining meringue on top and press with the back of the spoon to eliminate any air pockets without deflating the meringue. Make decorative peaks with the back of the spoon.

Bake the pie until the meringue peaks brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool the pie on a rack away from drafts to prevent the meringue from shrinking. Let stand at least 1 hour before serving.

To slice, rinse a sharp, thin-bladed knife in hot water and shake off the excess before making each cut.

Make Ahead Tips

Lemon meringue pie is best eaten the day it’s made, but leftovers will keep, loosely tented with aluminum foil and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Never cover with plastic wrap—too much condensation will form under the wrapping. Do not freeze.

Caramel Cadbury Egg Martini  (I know the Lemon Meringue will take a lot, so perhaps you can have this for dessert instead.

Skip dessert and head straight for this chocolaty martini. You’ll feel like you bit into a Caramel Cadbury Egg.


  • 1-1/2 ounces Baileys Irish Cream with Caramel
  • 1/2 ounce crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce caramel syrup
  • 1 ounce cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon Hershey’s chocolate syrup, plus extra for rim


Drizzle chocolate syrup around inside rim of glass. Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chocolate syrup is completely incorporated.

Strain into glass.


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