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Easter Smackdown: Ham vs. Lamb

“Most people serve lamb or ham at the Easter meal,” says Food & Wine’s Tina Ujlaki. “Sure you can have both, but Easter is always on Sunday, and the next day is always a school day, so you don’t want to have a very heavy meal that’s going to send you straight to bed afterward.” Decisions, decisions. Here, Tina weighs the options so you can plan the perfect menu.

Team Lamb

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). It can be cooked low and slow or at a superhigh temperature. It can be a bit of a challenge to carve, so if you’re concerned about being able to slice it, opt for a boneless leg of lamb. Butterflying the leg can help it cook more quickly.

Rack of Lamb: If you’re really crunched for time, a rack of lamb is the best choice. It cooks in 20 minutes, it’s the tenderest piece of meat and it’s the easiest to carve—there’s nothing to it. One drawback is that a rack of lamb can be a little pricey, so it might be best for a small number of guests.

Team Ham

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. It serves 18 to 20 people and guarantees delicious leftovers. A bone-in ham can be tricky to carve, but the advantage is that the bone keeps the ham moist and the ham bone can be used to make a delicious pea soup.

Smoked Ham: The lowest maintenance choice is a smoked ham, because it comes precooked. Simply add a glaze (shortcut: combine apricot jam with Dijon mustard) or a crust to the ham, cover it and stick it in the oven to warm. You can also make a side sauce—madeira and mushrooms go very well with ham. A boneless ham is the easiest to carve, but if you still have a fear of slicing, buy a spiral-cut ham.

Wild card

Veal: Not a lamb or ham lover? Make a classic French veal stew with an amazing silky sauce and lots of seasonal baby vegetables and herbs.

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