The available evidence suggests that over the past month or so, when my awareness of the natural world has mostly been limited to my office mate saying to me, "I hear it's a gorgeous day out there today" and me replying, "I guess we'll never know" and then both of us sighing deeply until he puts Folsom Prison Blues on the CD player (We listen to it every day; the Man in Black is responsible for many a tax return. Sometimes we also listen to The Legend of Johnny Cash, and last week the office mate bet me that if he put "I Walk the Line" on repeat, I would get sick of it before he did. As if; he caved after only four times through; amateur.) that spring has arrived. I actually left the office just after noon on Saturday and picked up the girls. We headed over to our favorite miniature golf course (I shot two under par; fear me!) and then to Costco and then to Ikea. In the course of driving all over the county, mostly on back roads, I was able to take full advantage of the restorative effects of flowering trees.
I am still deeply weary (you can tell from the prose, I reckon) from tax season, and the girls, understandably, were more interested in spending time with me than in having a fancy Easter dinner, so time that in other years might have been spent cooking was spent dyeing eggs. And hiding eggs. And finding eggs. And hiding eggs again. And finding eggs again.
I did get to spend Saturday evening making bunny cookies (pictured above) for L.'s Easter basket. They were a lot of fun to make, and they were a big hit with L. For Easter dinner, I made a very simple ham steak: melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet, put over medium high heat, plop in the ham steak, pour half a cup or so of pineapple juice over top, and cook until the pineapple juice cooks down into a glaze. I also made a wilted spinach salad, and for dessert, I made (I kid you not) Jell-O Jiggler eggs. The girls thought they were nearly the best thing ever, and they appear not to have killed anyone. You may think that I'm setting the bar a little low, but I've learned that at least half of the secret of happiness is managing expectations.
Anyway. I did want to make at least one thing that required a bit of labor and skill, so I made Bunny Potatoes. Bunny Potatoes are really nothing more than a layer of scalloped potatoes topped with a thin layer of Potatoes Anna, but they are both fun for the kids and entirely delicious, not that it's easy to go wrong with potatoes, milk, and butter. You need a bunny-shaped cookie cutter to make Bunny Potatoes, but the recipe is very flexible in that you can use any seasonally appropriate cutter to transform this dish into one appropriate for whatever holiday you happen to be celebrating at the moment. Christmas Trees for Christmas (or Arbor Day); pumpkins for Thanksgiving; stars for Independence Day; hatchets or liquor bottles for Repeal of Prohibition Day; the possibilities are nearly endless.
It is also very helpful to have a mandoline or a V-Slicer, or some other way of making very thin slices of potato. The recipe uses both thick and thin slices of potato, and with the V-Slicer, you can make the thick slices, reverse the insert, and make the thin slices. You could pretty easily make the thick slices with a knife, though.
Two very large baking potatoes
4 T. butter
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a large saucepan of salted water on the stove to boil.
Cut the clove of garlic in half. Put it in a small saucepan along with the butter and set the saucepan over a very low flame. The butter should melt and cook while you're cutting the potatoes, but it should not brown.
Peel the potatoes. Cut off either end of each potato, leaving a piece (from each potato) just a bit larger than the cookie cutter you're using. Cut the remaining piece (the piece that you're going to use the cookie cutter on) in half, horizontally, so that it is no thicker than your cookie cutter.
Push the cookie cutter through the appropriate potato pieces, pulling away the bits outside the cookie cutter.
Take all of the pieces that are not bunny shaped and slice them about a quarter-inch thick. Put them in the boiling water for five minutes. Drain.
Remove the cut garlic clove from the butter and discard. In a shallow baking dish (I used a deep baking dish, which is acceptable, but the result is not as attractive as it ought to be) put about a tablespoon of the melted butter and run it around to coat the bottom. Put the thick-sliced, boiled potatoes in the baking dish and tamp them down to level them. Add the milk and then add salt and pepper.
Slice your bunny-shaped pieces of potato very thin. Put a layer of bunny slices over top the thick slices. Brush with melted butter, and add more salt and pepper. Continue layering on the bunny slices until they are all used. Brush butter and add salt and pepper to each layer. You can omit the pepper on the top layer if you think it looks better that way.
Bake at 375 for about thirty minutes, or until the bunny slices are tender. Let cool very slightly before serving.
I think that, in addition to a shallower pan, this dish would have benefited from a short sojourn under the broiler or the judicious application of a blow torch. But it was very good all the same, and it's a lot of fun. I am not sure how the vegetarians feel about eating animal-shaped potatoes, but presumably it is better than eating the rabbits themselves.
I briefly considered taking the bunny cookie cutter to the ham steak, but I forbore. A wise decision, I think.