Jennifer is a traditional woman when it comes to the holidays. For untold generations in her family, specific traditions have developed for each special day. Days in advance, labeled boxes come down from the attic. The box includes decorations, recipes and schedules for making the special day perfect. Jennifer unpacks the box with traditional complaints about how much work there is to do, and hands out assignments. The independently minded gang in the Stoned Soup kitchen grumbles but turns to. No one wants a repeat of the 2003 Labor Day fiasco.
There are strong forces of conventionality in these boxes, but there is room for evolution. Old items that have lost their appeal occasionally get dropped, while new things get slipped into the box from time to time. This Easter, Frank made the case for adding Deviled Eggs to the hors d'oeuvres list and Cook offer to modify the Hot Crossed Buns recipe. Jennifer only accepted these offers after she got a promise from Cook to bake the traditional ham and from Frank to not sing any of his dirty songs. Not even if he sings them in Danish.
I ended up on egg dying detail so I missed some of the details of what went on in the kitchen, but based on the irreverent Danish songs and the non-traditional but delicious smells, I'd say the new recipes were very effective in providing a good time.
Frank grabbed eggs from my work table every time he thought I wasn't looking. He peeled most of the eggs, and brought back a few that he dyed with a tie-dye pattern. I was amazed and asked him how he did it, but he refused to reveal his secret. He just laughed and went back to the kitchen where he cut the eggs in half and scooped the yolks into a mixing bowl. When he got all the eggs prepped, he chopped up some garlic, onion, pickles and celery. Judging from how long the knife clattered, I'd say he chopped them into tiny pieces. He also added some mustard and Marinaisse to the mixing bowl. Cook's latest batch of Marinaisse was very strong, so I hoped that Frank cut it with regular mayonnaise, but you never know with Frank. I made a mental note to pace myself on the hor d'oeuvres. Frank mixed up the egg yolks and stuffed the mixture into a pastry bag so he could pipe the filling back into the egg halves. He got into the holiday spirit and decorated the eggs with chives and paprika.
Cook started his buns by mixing a packet of yeast with some warm water and sugar. The earthy smell of working yeast wafted out of the kitchen letting everyone know that it was alive and ready to puff up some dough. He added some raw eggs to the liquid and used the mixer on medium for a whole minute to make sure the liquid was well mixed. I heard the mixer drop to a slower setting to signal that Cook was adding the flour. As always with flour, Cook tossed in a bit of salt. Soon, the mixer was struggling as the dough came together. For a long time, Cook worked on other dishes while the dough rested in the refrigerator.
When the dough was rested, we all went into the kitchen to take turns kneading knobs of softened Buerre Vert into the dough. There is something meditative about kneading dough and it was nice of Cook to share the bliss. Cook took the kneaded dough and divided it up into buns that he let rise for a couple of hours. I noticed that the oven was set to 350 degrees for the ham that was baking. When the ham was cooked through, Cook pulled it out and shoved in a tray full of buns. He reminded me later that he brushed the tops of the rolls with an egg wash to make them come out nice and brown.
The rolls took about 20 minutes to cook and came out smelling like grandma's house. Cook let them cool before piping out cinnamon icing in little crosses.
Jennifer was quite pleased with the way Easter turned out. Pastel decorations were tastefully displayed, candy and eggs were hidden in clever places and the food was fantastic. We were full and feeling happy, when Leslie reminded us that we hadn't had the egg hunt yet. I can't tell you the horror I felt when I realized that I had eaten too many of Frank's eggs and could not remember a single hiding place for the decorated eggs. My fears increased when I couldn't even remember how many eggs were tucked away around the house. We searched for hours, but I am still not convinced that we got them all. It may be a very smelly Spring.
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