April is a busy month for butchers. Our Passover and Easter orders start coming in early, and we’re restocking the vending machines frequently. We even set up an entire machine devoted just to holiday cuts in our Stone Ridge shop. But it’s also a time when customers seek out our retail window hours, to ask our staff questions about cooking brisket, how many pounds of lamb shanks they need for ten guests who eat a lot and like leftovers, and more. We pulled a few questions you wanted to ask the butcher this month and had Josh Applestone answer. Read on.

Q: My fiancé and I are celebrating our first Passover together in a new city away from our families. How can we plan a rookie Seder dinner?

A: You’re free! Go to a deli get some matzo ball soup! That’s what I would do. If you insist on cooking, and you’re working and don’t have time to do a brisket, try one in crockpot with prunes and apples, maybe like what your mom made. Enjoy the leftovers. Or forget the brisket entirely, and try a small amount of short ribs, which are easier to cook than brisket. If you want lamb, go with shanks. You can slowly braise them whole or slow cook a cross-cut shank – like osso buco.

If you’re really looking to start your own traditions and are inviting new friends to cram around your table, pick up the phone now and call your parents. Ask them for recipes for the dishes you always liked at your own Passover meals. You like your aunt’s haroset? Call her and ask her how she does it. If you’re lucky, someone in the family wrote down how your grandmother made that chewy and rich matzo farfel with unborn chicken eggs, chopped liver, or even gefilte fish from carp that were stored in the bathtub. Matzo balls can be hard to make, but it’s worth trying, including making the chicken stock from a whole bird. But really, you can just make a simple beef stew, then go to the movies.

Q: I serve ham every Easter and I’m bored with it! What’s a good alternative?

A: I’d start by taking your cooking outside. It’s spring and is a great time for grilling and smoking. You could do a roast loin and glaze it. Or slow cook a pork shoulder over charcoal or wood. Cover the shoulder with cracked pepper and smoke it for 10 hours. Take it out, pull it apart, and serve it with sauces—spicy for people who like spicy. If you’re new to smoking, here’s a quick primer. I’m admittedly not a big recipe person, but if you need one to follow, check out Franklin BBQ: A Meat Smoking Manifesto.

Happy holidays! If you have a question for Josh Applestone, get in touch.