Happy Easter everybody. Christ has risen.
How are you "celebrating" the day? Traditionally there are two primary meals to choose from. FoodAndWine.com breaks down your options:
Leg of Lamb: A traditional bone-in leg of lamb is the most dramatic Easter centerpiece and serves quite a few people (about 8 to 12).
Whole Fresh Ham: A fresh ham is a commitment, because it needs to be marinated or brined and takes several hours to cook. But having a ham in the house is like having money in the bank.
I figured this was a good day to break down the two main options (and a couple non-main options) for your Easter dinner.
Winner: Ham: Ham is cheaper than lamb. Like, a lot cheaper. Safeway currently has ham shanks on sale for $2.47/lb. By contrast, the cheapest lamb is leg of lamb for $7.99/lb. And if you want to splurge for rack of lamb you're paying a ridiculous $19.99/lb. So if you're trying to save money because you're being told you're going on an expensive summer vacation, it's a great choice.
Winner: Lamb: Lamb is special and exotic. Most people don't eat lamb on a regular basis, so having it on Easter helps make your Easter dinner something special. By contrast, unless you're Catholic you've probably had ham in the past 10 days, and you almost certainly have had pork in the past 5. It's just another day you have ham.
Winner: Ham: When it comes to leftovers, ham is hard to beat. A good roasted bone-in ham can be used for ham sandwiches, for reheated ham and honey mustard sauce days later, and shredded ham with a homemade chef's salad. I can do some great stuff with leftover ham. Leftover lamb, assuming you even have any, can be used in pitas with tzatziki sauce to make lamb gyros †. That's it. And that doesn't even factor in the ham bone which crazy people can use to make soup. I don't make soup. I don't have any urge to have a giant pot on my stove for 6 days with leftovers in it.
† If you're American, this isn't the gyro you think it is
Winner: Ham: This year, I'm doing ham. As always, you should aim to mirror my life in every possible way. So that's a win. Tune in next year where I delete this post and then repost it with "lamb" in the winner column for this section.
Loser: Turkey: Most members of my family insist on doing turkey for Easter. Turkey for Thanksgiving. Turkey for Christmas. Only one of these three holidays is supposed to be turkey (though I grant a lot of people like turkey for Christmas because it cheaply feeds a lot of people which goose or duck doesn't do). This is a message to most of my relatives. Turkey is wrong. Do not do this.
Winner: Lamb: If you value religious significance, lamb is the choice for you. There's a good pamphlet available from Don Johnson Ministries that goes into a lot of biblical and allegorical detail into why Christ and Christians are the "lamb of God". So when commemorating [yes, that's the one. We commemorate Christ's death and resurrection, we don't "celebrate" it. -ed] Easter, it's your best choice for religious importance and symbolism. If I was doing a dinner with a lot of young children whose parents may not be the best at explaining biblical concepts, I would definitely serve lamb and then be able to teach them a little about the early history of the Christian church.
Winner: Lamb: Lamb is traditionally the British dish for Easter. Between the mother country and Brexit and offending Quebecers, we should strive to be more British.
Winner: Ham: Ham is traditionally the American dish for Easter. Trump is President now, so we should strive to be more like America.
Winner: Ham: Roasted ham can be basted in a variety of different glazes so that you can mix it up for individual tastes and styles. You can glaze it in Chinese hoisin, or honey and brown sugar if you want something to celebrate not having diabetes, or what I'm doing this year: apple and maple glaze. Lamb, on the other hand, is more restrictive. You can't do very many different styles of lamb. Usually you just put some mint jelly on it. There are a few things you can do with lamb, but it's not nearly as versatile.
Loser: Salmon: I know somebody who is having a salmon dinner today. This is wrong. This is even more wrong than turkey. There are a couple excuses for salmon, such as having Jews over for your Easter dinner (in which case, serve lamb), or having vegetarians or almost-vegetarians over for your Easter dinner (in which case, serve both lamb and ham and tell them if they are still vegetarian next year you'll kill five animals next year). What I'm saying is you don't sacrifice a great tradition just because a person with a bad lifestyle choice knocks on your door. The other problem is that salmon, for those who don't already know, is a fish. If you're a hardcore Catholic you've just gone six weeks only eating fish for most of your meals. The whole point of an elaborate fish dinner on Good Friday is a "final fish party". You don't go and eat it again "three" days later.
Winner: Ham: Ham can be served with a larger number of side dishes than lamb. Lamb you're stuck with garlic roasted potatoes or spring greens or leeks. Who eats leaks? Ham works with a larger number of potato dishes, along with pasta salad and spaetzle.
Winner: Lamb: Remember when I said you can really only do lamb with mint? There's a plus side to that (but only years like 2017 when Easter is in late April and not in early March), because in two weeks is the Kentucky Derby. Which means you'll need to be picking up mint so you can make yourself mint juleps in silver cups to enjoy the Kentucky Derby.
Winner: Ham: Lamb isn't a meat that goes particularly well with alcohol. You can have red wines with lamb but not much else. It doesn't go particularly well with beer or whiskey either. Ham isn't an amazing meal to go with beer either, but you can have white wine (which is easier to go with beer than red wine) or whiskey (ditto) with your dinner. And then have beer later, which is important during an Oilers playoff run.
Winner: Lamb: Roasted lamb is faster and easier. FoodAndWine.com covers the faster, but the thing with a roasted lamb is that you don't need to devote a large amount of effort in constantly re-glazing the meat like you do with a roasted ham. If you want to do more entertaining and less cooking, your two options are make your woman stay in the kitchen and put in the effort (only an option if she's better at this than you are), or go with the roasted lamb. The side dishes for lamb, being more simple, also take less time.
Winner: Ham: Finally, the smell of roast ham filling your home is a better smell than roast lamb. I like the taste of lamb but I'm not a huge fan of the smell of lamb as its roasting. It just doesn't fill your senses with the sense of magical cooking that a good roast lamb does.