Logically, a shopping list would be the next step after creating a menu, but I don't want to send you out shopping without knowing what you're shopping for. So, before we do the shopping list, here are some of the recipes from my Easter menu:
Egg & Cheese Strata (or "Ghetto Breakfast for a Million People")
This looks like a real recipe, because I got it from one of my husband Anthony's aunts, the second wife/non-Italian. That's why there's so much butter in it, which is not a bad thing where your tastebuds are concerned. This stuff is easy, it's cheap, it feeds a lot of people, and it tastes good. What's not to love? You can prep the strata the night before, cover it with foil, and put it in the fridge. Then, just throw it in the oven on Easter Day.
2 loaves of cheap white bread, like Wonder Bread, crusts trimmed
2 sticks of butter, softened
8 eggs, slightly beaten
5 cups of milk
4 cups (2 big packages) of shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp dry mustard (I don't know if this makes any difference or not)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large baking pan with butter. I like the huge cheap aluminum disposable roaster pans you can get at the grocery store, and they can be washed and re-used if you're careful with them. Place a layer of buttered bread at the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Stagger a second layer of buttered bread and sprinkle with another 1/3 of the cheese. Stagger a third layer of buttered bread. Combine eggs, milk, and mustard in a big bowl and pour over everything, BEFORE you top with cheese. Press everything down with a fork. Now you can top it with the rest of the cheese. Bake about 50 minutes to an hour, or until browned and fluffy. Cut into squares. Die happy.
Roast Potatoes & Onions
Peel some potatoes and cut them into pieces. As many potatoes as will fit in your pan, however big you like your pieces, the recipe's the same. Spray one of those big disposable aluminum roaster pans with some non-stick spray and put the potato pieces in it. Drizzle the potatoes with about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Now, pay attention because here's the secret: rub the olive oil on the potato pieces with your clean, bare hands. I don't know why this makes a difference, but it does. I'm giving credit where it's due: I learned this trick from Anthony. And that just the kind of person I am.
Peel and cut up a big onion, however you want. Add the onion to the potatoes (with a spoon, for Chrissake, we're talking onions here). Salt and pepper to taste. You can sprinkle with a little dried rosemary, if you like it. Put the pan in a 350 degree oven. Stir the potatoes after they've been in the oven for 5 minutes, then occasionally after that. Bake about an hour to an hour-and-a-half, or until brown and a little crispy.
Asparagus with Brown Butter
This one is from Anthony's dad, the famous ristorante owner. Whatever his faults, and they were few, the man could cook.
Wash and break the ends off of some asparagus and steam it, or boil it in salted water but don't let it get too soft. In the meantime, put two sticks of butter in a small frying pan. Turn the heat on low under the butter and let it melt. After it's melted, keep cooking it and skim off the white milk solids, until you're left with a (mostly) clear liquid. Then keep cooking the butter until it turns brown. Pour it over the asparagus when you serve it. You won't believe how good this is.
Mrs. D's Fruit Salad
For the first seven years of Anthony's and mine various marital situations - dating, living in sin (sorry, Sister Arnoldine), married (but not in "the church") - we had a roommate. No kidding. His name was Giuglio DiVincenzo and he was divorced (from a nice Italian girl, an infamia). He was like the uncle who moved back home to save money, and he eventually got rich on the stock market and became a Republican. He was from Boston, and his sainted Italian mother was a genius in cucina. This is her recipe.
Take some fruit. Whatever you like. I do canned pineapple chunks and mandarin orange slices, fresh green grapes, and maraschino cherries (because I freaking love them), but you can use what you want. Wash the fruit, if it's fresh, and put it all together into a colander (or squolabasta, for you "in" people) in the sink to drain out the liquid. In a big bowl whip 3 small containers of heavy whipping cream. It takes a little time for it to turn into real whipped cream, so don't give up (or make one of the kids do it) and I recommend an electric mixer, though I used to do it myself by hand, back in the days when I was still stupid. Once it's whipped, fold in (with a rubber scraper) the smallest container of sour cream you can find. That's it. Mix with the fruit and chill, in both senses of the word.
The ham is the ham. Don't fuss with it. Put it in a big pan, make a foil "tent" over it, cook it 20 minutes to the pound (if it's big) or 35 minutes to the pound (if it's little). Take the tent off during the last half hour. Everything else on The Menu, you can buy. Or have somebody bring it. If you trust them.
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I'm a little annoyed today since, last night, Anthony (my soon-to-be-ex, if he doesn't get off my back) dared to question my cooking. For the record, I have never served food in this house that Anthony didn't have a "little suggestion" about. This time it was about mushrooms.
"Is there a way you can cook them where they don't get smaller?"
"I'm just asking. Maybe if you didn't overcook them?"
Now I ask you, what jury would convict me?