A HINT OF ORTHODOX EASTER
April 9, 2012
My daughter and her husband both love to cook. Cedric is Greek, Russian and English. His maternal grandparents were Orthodox Christians and practiced the ritual 40 days of self examination and strict fasting before Pascha, (Easter) to cleanse themselves in preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. After 40 days of doing without eggs, cream, milk, leavening, and meat, it was a joy and relief to prepare and taste, rich foods again.
Cedric separated the whites from eight eggs for the special Russian cake, kulich. The symmetry and color of the eggs as they were set aside made an eye-catching sight. We noticed that the organic eggs from their own chickens have dark, yellow yolks. The store-bought organic eggs, the three centered, have a lighter color. The back yard eggs taste better I can attest.
While the yeast worked its magic on the cake batter, Virginia prepared the creamy cheese topping made with part yoghurt, cottage, ricotta, and feta cheeses; sugar lemon juice and egg yolks, mixed, mashed and then wrapped in a cheese cloth, and weighted with a couple of bricks to drain the whey. Nuts and other fruits can be added to the topping. Virginia added brandied white raisins.
Two halved lemons and eight dried figs were placed in the cavity; the goose sits on a low rack over enough boxed white wine to steam the bird for an hour, or just until the meat begins to pull away from the leg bone. Then the rendered fat is removed and the bird is browned to crisp the skin in the oven.
The best tasting part of the dinner, was the gravy made by removing the bird to cover and rest in a warm oven while the giblets and neck were simmered for 30 minutes with a handful of dried apricots and a 1/4 standard size can of orange juice concentrate and 1/3 cup of honey. Boil down to make a thin gravy. The goose is sliced thinly, even the leg meat, and served with the gravy over the meat and baked sweet potatoes. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. This recipe is Cedric and Virginia’s own, straying from Cedric’s grandmother’s recipe which is boiled for three hours covered in a wine and water mixture, then finished in the oven.
Cedric sliced the cake, or Easter bread, to be eaten while still warm with the creamy cheese concoction. (We had it for dessert.) While the gravy covered goose meat and sweet potatoes was the best tasting part of the meal, the best part of Easter dinner was listening to Cedric tell stories of his childhood where he participated and learned to cook traditional family dishes from his grandmother and mother.
In keeping with family traditions, Theo is learning from his dad as he butters the baking dish and coats it with crumbs for the kulich.