There were two holidays in my house growing up where we went full on Polish – Christmas and Easter, the later much more so than the former. Easter was when we had a table groaning under the weight of food – several kinds of pierogies, sausage, sauerkraut, a butter lamb, potato casseroles, and always kolacky and a lamb cake for dessert. Sour cream usually featured heavily in there too. A Chicago-Polish friend once told me that it wasn’t a proper meal at her house unless someone was passing the tub of sour cream. For my clan, it wasn’t a proper Easter without three things: pierogies, garlicky sausage and kolacky. Wait. Four things. Pierogies, garlicky sausage, kolacky AND polka music. The night just cannot end without a rousing rendition or six of “Who Stole the Kiska”. You should try it.
Since I’ve moved far from my immediate family, I’ve missed these crazy Easter extravaganzas and it’s difficult to get to my aunt’s suburban house with our busy schedules. But I have a sort of family here in the city too, a group of amazing friends that I have over once a month for Sunday Lunch. So over the last few years I’ve started celebrating Polish Easter with them. In fact, I have a feeling they think “Polish Easter” is a real holiday, along the lines of Greek Easter, and that’s just fine by me. It’s been great fun. I trot out all the traditions – the pierogies (four kinds!), the garlicky sausage (two kinds!), the kolacky (three kinds!), the butter lamb with it’s ritual beheading and various other things I either get the urge to make or think will be good.
Polish Easter Sunday Lunch Menu:
– Cora Sue Collins cocktails – citron vodka, St. Germain liqueur, fresh mint, lemon, lime, sparkling lemon soda. I decided I needed a “house cocktail.” Because I’m fancy like that. It was fantastic, by the way.
– Cheese, Olives & Various Nibbles to start
– Polish Sausage – both fresh and smoked
– Pierogies – sweet cheese, potato, sauerkraut and mushroom
– Herb Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb with White Beans & Rosemary and Lamb Jus
– Garlic Roasted Mushrooms
– Sauteed Sugar Snap Peas with Mint
– Rye Bread
– Butter Lamb
– Cucumber Dill Salad – which I completely forgot to serve
– Kolacky – apricot, raspberry and cheese
– Classic Lemon Tarts with Fresh Blackberries
This meal, like a lot of Eastern European food, can lean toward the heavy side so I put a lot of thought into dessert. Kolacky, those delicate little fruit filled cookies were a given but I needed something else. Something light, bright and refreshing. I spun my mental rolodex of recipes and landed on lemon. A classic lemon tart seemed perfect. And it was.
I haven’t made this in a long while and now I wonder why. Halfway through, waving a forkful in the air, I said out loud to no one in particular “Why don’t I make this more often? This is delicious.” To which my friend replied “I love it when she’s surprised by her awesomeness.” This is completely ridiculous but made me laugh anyway. But seriously, why don’t I make this more often? I don’t have a good answer but let me tell you, that’s going to change. Starting right now.
It was a great Sunday Lunch full of good friends, great food, lots of laughter and punctuated with a good polka tune. I’m a little afraid to sort through the recycling crate and know exactly how many bottles of wine we went through. But I know it’s a good party when every single glass I own is on the table and there’s a leopard print fez amongst the refuse. Now that’s a party.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: SOMEONE CALL THE COPS! HEY! If there’s every a time to trot out an old, perhaps forgotton, favorite this is it. There’s nothing too over the top or overly fancy about this one. It’s a well executed classic – bright, comforting and silky smooth. Lemon tarts don’t get much better than this. You can make individual tarts like I did (recipe makes about 10 3” tarts) or one large one. Doesn’t matter; there will be no leftovers no matter which direction you choose. By the way, it’s not known who stole the kishka but Yusef found it. You’re welcome.
On this blog three years ago: Oatmeal Jam Bars
On this blog two years ago: Blogger Breakfast with David Lebovitz
On this blog one year ago: Chocolate Banoffee Tart
Other great Easter dishes: Kolacky (of course), Hot Cross Buns, Homemade Chocolate Crème Eggs, Quiche Lorraine, Pretzel Rolls (great with that Easter ham), Stovetop Smoked Salmon, Sweet Orange Rolls, Asparagus Puff Pastry Spears, Garlic Roasted Potatoes, Popovers & Strawberry Butter, Almond Tea Cake, Buttermilk Biscuits, Ricotta Cheesecake, Sticky Bun Bread
CLASSIC LEMON TART
Makes one 9” tart – serves 8
This recipe is straight from NYC’s City Bakery. When you stumble upon perfection, you don’t fuss with it.
For the tart pastry:
13 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 large egg yolk
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
for the lemon curd:
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
pinch of kosher salt
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces
- For the tart crust: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg yolk and mix on medium-low until blended.
- Add half the flour and mix until blended.
- Add the remaining flour and cream; mix until blended.
- Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill until ready to use; at least 30 minutes. (Note: dough may be frozen, tightly wrapped, up to 2 months at this point. Defrost in the fridge overnight.)
- On a lightly floured surface, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll – from the center out – to an 11” circle.
- Roll dough up on rolling pin and carefully unroll over a 9” tart pan with removable bottom. Carefully ease the dough into the flutes and pinch or roll off excess. Reinforce the sides with excess dough where needed.
- Freeze at least 30 minutes until firm. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Place the frozen tart shell on a sheet pan and bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool slightly while making the lemon curd.
- For the lemon curd: Place a strainer over a bowl and set aside until needed.
- Place sugar in a medium saucepan with the lemon zest. Rub together to infuse the sugar and release some of the oils from the zest.
- Add the lemon juice, eggs/yolk to the pot and whisk to combine then add the butter.
- Over medium heat, whisk 3-5 minutes making sure to get into the corners.
- At first sign of a boil, the curd will begin to thicken. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl.
- Pour warm lemon curd into the baked tart crust and return to the oven for 6 minutes until the edges are just set but the center jiggles slightly when shaken.
- Allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack then refrigerate. Tart will keep, refrigerated, for 1 day but is best on the day it’s made.