Ham or lamb both winners on Easter table

  • This March 14, 2011 photo shows five-hour leg of lamb in Concord, N.H. This flavorful, slowly roasted leg of lamb is a wonderful example of the wonders you can work when youíre not even in the kitchen. Combine the marinade, add the meat, refrigerate and walk away for 24, even 48 hours. When youíre ready to cook, dump everything in a roasting pan, walk away for 4 1/2 hours and you are good to go.

    This March 14, 2011 photo shows five-hour leg of lamb in Concord, N.H. This flavorful, slowly roasted leg of lamb is a wonderful example of the wonders you can work when youíre not even in the kitchen. Combine the marinade, add the meat, refrigerate and walk away for 24, even 48 hours. When youíre ready to cook, dump everything in a roasting pan, walk away for 4 1/2 hours and you are good to go.

 
By Deborah Pankey
Updated 4/19/2011 8:20 AM

It's certainly not the culinary conundrum of the century or a debate that rivals evolution v. creation, but whether you choose ham or lamb for Easter dinner. you'd better be prepared to defend your position.

Online polls show the camps divided pretty equally between the two. If you're still on the fence about what meat to feature at your holiday feast, or if you're looking for ammunition to back up your decision, here are some things to consider.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lamb

The Bible refers to Jesus as the lamb of God, so the connection on this level is pretty obvious.

The tradition of lamb on Easter started among Europeans who saw Easter as the time to start eating the season's young lamb just coming to market.

Easter dinner isn't meant to be a rushed affair, so the meat you serve shouldn't be rushed either, according to The Associated Press. A slowly roasted leg of lamb can take center stage without a whole lot of effort on your part.

In her new cookbook "Fresh From the Garden," Sarah Raven shares a recipe that requires little day-of prep, leaving you time to spend with family and hunt for Easter eggs.

Combine the marinade, add the meat, refrigerate and walk away for 24, even 48 hours. When you're ready to cook, dump everything in a roasting pan over cutup vegetables, put the pan in the oven and walk away for 4½ hours and you are good to go. The only real effort involves simmering the gravy to serve with the lamb.

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When it comes to leftovers, dice lamb and reheat it with mint-flecked couscous and sliced artichoke hearts, or slice it onto pita bread smeared with garlicky hummus and shredded carrots.

Ham

Early Christians embraced ham, in part, to proclaim their religious beliefs. In early America, when there was no refrigeration, fresh pork was consumed in the winter after the slaughter and what was left was cured for the spring.

In the Midwest, especially, we've come to associate ham with something honey baked and spiral cut. Convenient? Yes. Creative? Not so much.

"To be sure, cured and smoked pork legs are tasty as is, but there's little reason not to give it an exotic treatment," says Associated Press food writer Jim Romanoff.

He developed an apricot-peach and gingersnap crusted baked ham. The bright flavors of apricot-peach jam spiked with some Dijon mustard and brown sugar provide the "glue," for a spicy crust of gingersnap cookie crumbs, all of which combine to create a perfect balance to the salty ham.

When it comes to leftovers, I think ham gets the edge. Slice it for sandwiches or fry it up for breakfast, dice it and add to creamy pastas, veggie quiche or tossed salad.