Prepping for Easter Dinner 2010

I do the family Easter and July 4th, with my brother Steve and sister-in-law Lorraine  hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I am expecting the number of folks, that being 14-16.  I think 12 if the least amount we’ve had at the Easter table and 18 was the most.  Not that I do the china, silver, and sit around the table.  We do it buffet style.  Although, I do have a beautiful dining room table and sideboard, now.  But, I am NOT up to unpacking my Mom’s china and crystal, most of which is in the attic.  Someday….

I’ve been doing the same menu each year – makes it easier.  Now I just have a to do list that I follow.

Guests bring a variety of side dishes, appetizers, and desserts, and I provide the ham, chicken tarragon, baked mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus, as well as modest array of beverages.  Wine is a favorite.  🙂  Merlot in particular.

Today, the day before the holiday, I have the asparagus keeping fresh in water in the fridge:

9 pounds of asparagus in water.
asparagus covered
gotta love Farm Land bags. 🙂

That’s the asparagus, loosely covered before being put in the fridge.  I will prep them tomorrow with olive oil, salt and freshly grated parm reggiano around 2:30 p.m. and pop them in the oven to roast right before we plan to eat dinner.

I also have chicken tarragon in the oven all day at 200 degrees to mimic a slow cooker.  My crock pot is too small for 6.5 pounds of chicken breasts and thighs! Tonight, once the chicken is cooked and cooled, I will de-bone and de-skin it (I left the skin on the breasts to keep them from getting dry while cooking), save the liquid, and finish up the gravy tomorrow after church.

Here is the recipe, with the title linked to the original as I found it online:

Chicken Taragon

  • 1 (3 to 4 pound) frying chicken
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar (or white wine)

[Note: I used 6.5 lbs with bone-in, three breasts and the rest thighs, removing excessive fat and the skin from the thighs. I also increased spice amounts by 50%. And, I used my dutch oven, with foil under the lid to increase the tightness of the lid fit, in a 200 degree oven.]

Rub chicken with butter; place in slow cooker (crock pot). Combine seasoning and herbs and sprinkle evenly over chicken. Add vinegar or white wine.

Cover and cook on low about 8 hours. Do not remove lid during this time. Remove chicken, place on a large platter.


  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup accumulated cooking liquid (if necessary, add chicken broth to make one cup)

Combine 2 tablespoons corn starch in two tablespoons cold water, stir until smooth. In a saucepan, combine the corn starch mixture with one cup of accumulated liquid. Heat and stir until mixture boils and becomes thickened. Serve over hot chicken. Yields 4 servings.

My least favorite cooking task is peeling potatoes. But, peel I must.  I am actually quite fond of this baked mashed potato recipe, though.  NOT a low-fat dish, by any means.  But, it is a great way to prepared potatoes for a holiday meal because you boil and mash the day before and then baked them the next day.  And, all the extra fat means that they don’t dry out on the warming tray when serving.

Here is the recipe, with the title linking back to the original as I found it online:

Mashed Baked Potatoes

Use greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Serves 12. 5 pounds potatoes; boil, drain and mash. Add: 4 tbsp. butter 1 1/2 c. half & half 1/4 tsp. garlic salt 1 (8 oz.) pkg. Philadelphia cream cheese

Mix well and spread in pan. Cover with foil paper and refrigerate overnight. Drizzle 3 tablespoons melted butter over potatoes and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, check at 30 minutes, to light brown.

[Note: I used 6.5 pounds of potatoes – 1/2 Idaho and 1/2 Yukon Gold.  I used the same amount of cream cheese, but added an extra Tbsp of butter and about another 1/3 cup half and half.

BIG NOTE:  Upon reading the recipe as I posted it, I realized that I forgot to grease the Pyrex pan in which I put the potatoes…  Well, I guess we will find out the consequences of this tomorrow.  <wry grin>  ]

raw potatoes
6.5 lbs of potatoes. ARRRRGGGH!

I used two big pots to boil the potatoes, then put half back in the bigger pot, added all the other ingredients, then put the other half of the potatoes in – then I mashed.  And mashed, and mashed…

from the pot... the pan!

See that spatula/spoon?  It totally rocks.  I recommend it highly!  It is a Rubbermaid Professional 13-1/2 Inch Heat Resistant Spoonula.  Click HERE and look for the link to it on I have other recommendations there, as well.

Once all the taters were in the pan, (that I forgot to grease….) I wanted to cool it all off quickly before covering and putting in the fridge overnight.  Ice bath time.

An ice bath helps bring the temperature down quickly.

I’ve always been paranoid about food safety, and discovered that I have been following ServSafe protocol for years before I took the course this past November. NEVER put hot food directly  into the fridge!  Cool as quickly as possible to room temperature, first. The best way is to use an ice bath.

cool sink
I have a very cool sink. 🙂
sink again
It is old and chipped, and seldom looks this clean.

Steve was going to throw this sink away when he bought the house.  Silly man!

Anyway…  The potatoes are safely covered and in the downstairs fridge. (Okay, so I am REALLY lucky and also have an extra fridge.  It is 74 years old but works fine.  Really.  I’ll take a picture on these days.  An old GE.

On to the Chicken Tarragon.  The chicken was done in the 8 hours.  I actually put it up to 250 degrees for an hour in the afternoon and then back to 200 degrees.  Next time, I think I will start it at 250 for the first hour and then lower to 200 for the duration and check it after 7 hours.  I don’t have time to explain the details right now, but the latest Cook’s Illustrated Magazine has a chicken recipe that entails braising and talks about cooking at too high a temperature can cause the chicken to get tough.

dutch oven with foil under lid
dutch oven with foil to mimic crock pot

Crock pots/slow cookers have a tight seal and don’t let much moisture out.  To increase the seal on my dutch oven, I put a piece of foil under the lid.

Here are the results, after straining out the broth from the cooked chicken:

cooked chicken and broth
cooked chicken and 3 cups of broth
chicken and broth cooling
Just cooling things off 🙂

Once the chicken was cool enough to handle, I picked the meat off the bones and also discarded any skin and extraneous fat.

about 2 and 2/3 lb of meat from 3 1/2 pounds bone in

So, all is in the fridge.  In the morning, before I head out at 9:30 a.m. for choir practice,  I will prep the ham and put it in the oven and program my oven to come on at 11:30 a.m.  I’ll do a new blog entry for the Sunday activity.  But, suffice to say, I have an easy “to do “list to follow.  Except for the final house cleaning….well, no one if perfect!