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A Taste of Spring Menu

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Seasonal favorites—lamb, asparagus, and peas—star in this simple but elegant country French menu.

This menu serves 6-8 people, with generous side dish portions

Soon after my husband and I moved into our first house, we invited friends and family over for a dinner party. The snow was finally melting in Vermont, and we wanted to celebrate both our move and the new season. As we all squeezed together around the kitchen table, my heart nearly burst with happiness at being able to share a meal with guests in our new home. In the years since, it’s become our annual tradition to host a spring get-together, whether for Easter, to celebrate the lengthening days, or just because.

To me, spring means lamb, so the menu centers around a rolled and roasted boneless leg of lamb stuffed with bright herbs and apricots. Once rolled and tied, the lamb goes right into the oven and, when done, is about as easy to slice as a loaf of bread.

I also like to feature as many fresh spring vegetables in the meal as possible. Asparagus and pea shoots get tossed together for a gorgeous first-course salad. To accompany the lamb are two classic, elegantly simple French-inspired sides: a buttery ragoût of peas, radishes, turnips, and spinach; and a creamy potato gratin, flavored with caramelized onions.

For dessert, I serve a multi-layer carrot cake topped with a creamy mascarpone frosting. It’s a stunner, practically foolproof, and make-ahead. Come to think of it, the whole meal fits that description. And that, along with the warmer weather, is something to celebrate.

Menu Timeline

Up to 1 day ahead

  • Cook and peel the eggs.
  • Make the vinaigrette.
  • Bake the gratin.
  • Stuff and roll the lamb.
  • Bake the cake.
  • Candy the nuts and carrot curls.

8 to 12 hours ahead

  • Blanch the vegetables for the salad and ragoût.
  • Assemble and frost the cake.

A few hours before dinner

  • Take the lamb out of the refrigerator.

1-1/2 hours before dinner

  • Take the potato gratin out of the refrigerator.
  • Roast the lamb.

Just before dinner

  • Make the ragoût.
  • Reheat the gratin.
  • Make the pan sauce for the lamb.

After dinner

  • Garnish and serve the cake.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 2 lb. asparagus, preferably thick
  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes (about 5 large)
  • 7 medium carrots
  • 1 lb. yellow onions
  • 1 lb. radishes, preferably small
  • 1 lb. turnips, preferably baby turnips
  • 12 oz. sugar snap peas
  • 8 oz. baby spinach leaves
  • 4 oz. pea shoots or mâche
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1 medium bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 medium bunch fresh mint
  • 1 small bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme

Meat, Eggs, & Dairy

  • 1 3-1/2- to 4-1/2-lb. boneless leg of lamb
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 18 oz. mascarpone (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 oz. Comté cheese
  • 6 Tbs. unsalted butter

Other Groceries

  • 2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

Pantry Staples

  • 3-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6-3/4 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour (1-1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup safflower or other neutral oil
  • 4 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • Whole nutmeg
  • Cooking spray
  • Kosher salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Flaky sea salt

The Menu

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