Today I'm planning you a perfect Passover meal complete with matzo, haroset, and all of the traditional fixings. During the first 2 nights of the 8 day celebration, the religious Seder dinner is typically practiced by the Jews to commemorate the Israelites escape from Egypt. Usually the dinner begins with a telling of this story, a reading from the Haggadah that is long and allows the guests to build up an appetite for the main course. When the narration is finished reward guests for their patience with hearty braised lamb shanks and a mixed lettuce salad with hard boiled eggs (to represent the symbol of mourning for the destroyed Temple). For these succulent recipes,

Braised Lamb Shanks With Green Olives And Apricots
From Tyler Florence

4 lamb shanks, about 8 ounces each
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 sprigs
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 lemon, zested in big strips
2 garlic cloves, halved
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, plus 2 sticks
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bottle full-bodied red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 cup crushed matzo (ground in a food processor)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups lamb or chicken stock
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
12 large green Spanish olives
12 dried apricots

  1. First off, you want to marinate the lamb shanks for a few hours to really penetrate the deep flavor; the wine also tenderizes the meat. Put the shanks in a large glass bowl and season with salt and pepper. Break up the thyme and rosemary with your hands to release the oils and toss them on top of the lamb. Add the lemon peel, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, bay leaves, and sugar. Pour in the bottle of wine, cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
  2. Line a few layers of paper towels on the counter. Pull the lamb shanks out of the wine marinade (reserving it for later), and lay them out on the paper towels, cover with more paper towels and pat the meat dry really well.
  3. Put the crushed matzo in a large shallow platter and season it with a fair amount of salt and pepper. Dredge the lamb shanks in the seasoned matzo; tapping off the excess.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Place a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. Sear the lamb shanks, turning carefully with tongs, so all sides are a brown caramel color. Drizzle with a little more oil if needed. Do this in batches if the shanks are big and look crowded in the pot.
  6. Strain marinade reserving the wine. Add the wine, remaining 2 sticks of cinnamon, remaining 2 sprigs of thyme and the stuff from the marinade. Cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
  7. Pour in the stock and add the onions, carrots, olives, and apricots; bring to a boil. Cover the pot. Place in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  8. Transfer the lamb shanks to a large platter. Spoon the onions, olives, and apricots over them. Strain the braising juices and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the platter and serve.

Serves 4.

Mixed Lettuces with Orange Vinaigrette and Candied Pecans
From Food & Wine magazine

1 1/2 cups pecan halves (6 ounces)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
1 head each of butter and red leaf lettuces, torn into bite-size pieces
Seeds from 1 large pomegranate
3 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

  1. In a nonstick skillet, toast the pecans over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden, 8 minutes. Add the sugar, maple syrup, cayenne and a pinch of salt and stir until coated, 2 minutes; let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the lettuces with the pomegranate seeds.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and orange zest. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad with the dressing, add the pecans and serve.

Serves 8.

Wondering what's for dessert? Stay tuned because the final chapter of this Passover dinner is sure to put a show-stopping finish to your night.