We've made these recipes doable, and they're sure to be the center of attention at your next gathering.

Four Special Entres
Ralph Anderson / Styling Lisa Powell Bailey

Get ready for a feast. These ham, chicken, beef, and lamb recipes are good-looking and easy. They're ideal for a Sunday lunch, Easter dinner, or casual weekend gathering.

Each one is home-cook friendly: Three are baked in the oven, while the fourth is quick to grill. Take your pick based on the flavors you crave. We've seasoned, sauced, and spiced with fresh herbs, citrus, plum preserves, ginger, and even barbecue sauce. Must-know tips for success and simple garnish ideas are included too. Serve any one of our impressive entrées to your friends and family, and you'll want to try the others soon.

How To Cook a Juicy Chicken

  • Don't just pop the tops on the ginger ale cans; rather, remove the entire lid with a can opener. Pour about one-fourth of the ginger ale out of each can before sliding chickens onto cans. In the hot oven, the ginger ale steams, keeping the chicken moist.
  • This vertical roasting method allows fat to drip through and around chicken, giving it rich roasted flavor and beautiful browning.

Plan for Ham

  • Clear space in the fridge to store this large cut of meat.
  • To cook, move one oven rack to the lowest position; remove the second rack. If you don't have a double oven, plan side dishes that are served cold or prepared on the cooktop or in the microwave. Pop rolls in the oven while the baked ham rests before slicing.
  • Store leftovers tightly covered or sealed in zip-top plastic bags up to three days. Well-wrapped ham can be frozen up to one month. The meat may dry out, so use it in casseroles or our Ham-and-Tomato Pie on page 174.
  • If you're watching your salt intake, buy a reduced-sodium ham. A serving will have one-fourth to one-third less sodium, depending on the brand, than traditional ham. You'll prep and bake both types the same way.

Brisket Basics

  • Call your grocer or butcher, and order ahead if this cut of beef is new to you or not commonly sold in your part of the South.
  • Buy brisket packaged fresh (in a clear plastic-wrapped meat tray) or in vacuum-sealed packaging.
  • Determine the number of lb. to buy based on the thickness of the fat. We call for a 3- to 4-lb. brisket to serve eight. Press on the package into the fat. The firmer it feels, the thicker the fat layer; therefore, you should buy the higher weight because excess fat will be trimmed and discarded.
  • "Trim" means to remove excess fat. Use a long, thin knife in a sawing motion, and leave 1⁄8-inch of fat covering the brisket.

Get To Know Lamb

  • Excellent quality lamb is available year-round now, not just in the spring. It's produced in America and also imported from Australia and New Zealand.
  • Our recipe calls for loin chops (pictured on the left), but rib chops (on the right) may be substituted. Both are very tender cuts of meat. Expect to pay anywhere from $6 per lb. from a wholesale club to $13 from a butcher.
  • Lamb is sold packaged fresh in a meat tray with a plastic overwrap. Use within two days of purchase, or freeze up to two months. It is also sold vacuum-sealed in heavy plastic wrapping. Store in the fridge up to two weeks, or freeze. When you open a vacuum-sealed package you may detect a slight, unusual smell. This is normal and will dissipate in a few minutes.
  • Thaw lamb as you would other frozen meats―overnight in the fridge. This method preserves juiciness, texture, and flavor.

"Four Special Entrees" is from the April 2007 issue of Southern Living.