Il Meringone di Sant'Ambrogio
Easter is my favorite holiday. I love Halloween to dress up, and Christmas and New Years for spending time with my family, but it is Easter that I cherish the most on a personal level. I think that part of it has to do with the fact that Easter falls at the coming of Spring, when the weather is still crisp and chilly, but flowers are starting to bud, and green is starting to show. It is right when we start to feel alive again and spend more time outdoors. And of course, I love the Easter dinner that my family makes. We always make a roasted leg of lamb with mustard, garlic, and rosemary, with the marinade being made by my mother, and the lamb roasted by my father. My mother always makes an old Gourmet recipe of spring vegetables, with scallions, morels, asparagus, and snap peas. It is officially on our unofficial "Easter Menu". The hors d'oeuvres and side dishes come and go each year, as we like to find new recipes to bring to the table. Recently, they have been a lot of Kitchen Caravan recipes that are being tested on a larger audience. This year we are adding roasted fingerling potatoes, tossed with olive paste, which was a hit when I hosted book club. I am also going to push for a fennel salad with a nice nut oil and sprouts. But I often take the back seat in the main course. My role in this whole ordeal is making dessert, which I take extremely seriously. So seriously that I plan what I will make at least one month in advance, and spend a lot of time poring over old cookbooks and magazines to find my recipes.
Last year I fell in love with the Coffee Chocolate Layer Cake with Mocha Mascarpone Frosting from Bon Appetit, and I am definitely repeating it this year. It was rich and delicious, and great for an Easter Sunday chocolate treat. But my second recipe is something that I am really looking forward to trying. When I was 14, I went to Florence with my family. One day, my parents took us to a great steak house that serves the best Bistecca alla Fiorentina you will find anywhere. Even though it was a steak house, I fell in love with the dessert. My sister and mom ordered a dessert made of merengue discs layered with chocolate-studded cream, while I ordered a bowl of fresh berries. But after trying one bite of their dessert, I had to order my own. It was something out of this world. Years later, I went back to that restaurant with my friend who was living in Florence at the time. She ordered the berries and did the same thing that I did, she ordered that special merengue cake after trying just one bite. This past Summer I was in the library doing research for some new recipes. I came across a book about cooking with the Saints. I don't remember why I picked up that book and flipped through it, but it was a serendipitous coincidence. I came across "Il Meringone di Sant' Ambrogio", and when I read the ingredients, it sounded exactly like the dessert from Florence, which I have never seen outside of that one steak house. I saved the photocopy of that recipe and have been waiting for the right occasion to prepare it. This Easter is going to be its inauguration, and I can't wait to see if it is the real thing. I will be sure to take photographs and relate back what happens with this Meringone, but I am hoping it is as heavenly as it appears.