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Entertaining : A holiday for two

April 25, 2012

Easter, for me, is a strange holiday. It has never been particularly meaningful to my non-religious family, and despite the ubiquitous baskets, Easter has usually come and gone without much remark. In recent years, however, I have begun to pay more attention. It’s hard to ignore the special feeling the arrival of Spring brings with itself, and I have begun to see Easter as a celebration of the change of seasons (which, of course, it has always really been) rather than a Christian holiday.

I had planned to celebrate this Easter like I had the ones from the last two years: with a ham roast, a carrot cake, and friends around my dining room table. A week before the day, it became clear that K was working a late Saturday night and then again Sunday afternoon, and we decided hosting would be too stressful. Determined to never to waste an occasion for a feast, we still wanted to celebrate, and decided on a decadent brunch for two.

We used what we had: a bundle of my mother’s parsnips from a recent trip north to visit my family; a bottle of homemade orange wine we had brewed from satsuma seconds; three special cheeses from Rubiner’s Cheesemongers in Great Barrington. The day before we had bought a 5 lb duckling from the local co-op, and I had spent the evening mixing up a too-large batch of ginger currant hot cross buns while K was at work.

On Sunday morning, we breakfasted on buns as we rubbed the duckling in a vanilla-orange marmalade, which had come out too bitter for spreading but just right for rubbing on meat. Roasting the duckling in our cast iron skillet, we prepared sides of parsnip/celeriac mash with cinnamon, a baguette from a bakery up the road, and those awesome cheeses from Rubiner’s.

When the duckling was a beautiful, crackling brown, we laid it upon a bed of fresh kale and collards, letting the heat and fat it exuded wilt the greens. The skin was crispy and sweet with the marmalade, and the meat was tender, moist, and dark.

It can be hard to plan a celebratory feast for two. While a duck offers very little meat and is therefore perfect for two-person meal, many roasts, whether chicken, ham, or rib, are meant for a larger crowd (or for left overs), and it’s a tricky balance to stay circumspect and serve a reasonable amount of food while remaining festive and maintain an air of abundance. And it’s hard to shake the idea that a celebration or a feast necessitates a crowd—the more the merrier, as the saying goes.

But I recommend trying it. Two is something a crowd can never be: intimate. Somethings can be best shared by a pair, such as the few hours between work, rest, and work again; the sound of your own wine uncapped and poured into a glass; the aromatic steam rising from a fresh meal into the afternoon sunlight. And, of course, the few pounds of meat a Long Island duckling offers.

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