Spring is a time of rebirth and new growth, a time to celebrate budding trees and blooming flowers. Easter dishes traditionally reflect the mood of the season with eggs, lamb, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Whether you choose traditional or innovative Easter fare, or serve your celebratory meal for brunch or dinner, plan a menu with bright colors and wide array of textures and tastes.
Instead of preparing individual drinks for everyone, opt for a fresh fruit punch or even a big bowl of eggnog. Although eggnog is conventionally served during the Christmas season, it fits in perfectly with the egg themes so prevalent in Easter celebrations. Have a few decanters of rum, vodka, and brandy on the table so adults have the option of spiking the non-alcoholic punches and nogs or serve vibrantly colored cocktails in pitchers.
While your guests mingle and imbibe before the meal is served, offer them a selection of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres to whet their appetites. Deviled eggs add color to the table, and their bright yellow hues are accented by displaying vibrant purple pickled eggs in the center of the serving platter. Grilled or steamed asparagus wrapped in prosciutto or chunks of melon, strawberries, and pineapple threaded on small skewers are easy to eat out-of-hand while anticipating the meal to come.
During the Easter season, every imaginable cut of ham and lamb fill supermarket cases but you can buck tradition with a standing crown pork rib roast, beef tenderloin roast or roast turkey. If you opt for ham, step it up with a unique glaze. Instead of leg of lamb, braise some shanks, grill racks of lamb, or prepare tender lamb chops. For large gatherings, serve one or more meat or poultry entrees on an Easter buffet table.
Sides and Salads
Easter breads and muffins made with fresh and dried fruit and studded with nuts and seeds are traditional sides. Bake your own or pick up a freshly baked assortment at your favorite bakery. Serve crocks of honey butter, chutney, fruit compotes, jams, and chunky preserves with the bread, flavors that accent the seasonings and spices of meats and poultry.
Reflect the bounty of spring vegetables and fruits in Easter salads and side dishes. Peruse your local farmers’ market, choose the ripest most succulent fruit, and create a centerpiece salad in an oversized crystal bowl. Make it several hours ahead so the natural juices can mingle before serving. Lightly steam fresh baby sugar peas or snow peas and baby carrots – the full-flavored kind with the green ends still attached, not the bagged kind that are just regular carrots cut small – and serve them at room temperature, lightly seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spring beets roasted, sliced, and tossed with melted butter pair nicely with either meat or poultry entrees. Serve potato salad made from a favorite family recipe or surprise guests with an updated version.
After all the colored eggs have been hidden and hopefully found, Easter baskets have been ravaged, and the day fades into the sunset, it’s time for the grand finale: dessert. Keep the spring theme alive with sweets that reflect the gifts of the season. Carrot cake or banana nut cake with cream cheese frosting is filling and a superb companion to after-dinner coffee. Make a creamy trifle with your favorite fruits, prepared in a traditional trifle dish lined with ladyfingers. For guests who have overindulged a bit in appetizer and dinner fare and desire a lighter last course, offer a selection of light sorbets in assorted fruit flavors, served in ramekins and garnished with fresh mint leaves.
Tips and Hints
- If you find yourself at odds over what to serve for your Easter meal, ask family members and friends for their favorite recipes and intersperse them with yours. Don’t try to make everything from scratch. Buy high quality breads, muffins, jams, preserves, and sorbets and concentrate on homemade entrees, sides, salads, and desserts.
- Make a prep schedule so you can start the process several days ahead of time and ease the stress of meal preparation on Easter. Vegetables and some fruits can be peeled and refrigerated in advance. Flavored butters, fruit compotes, glazes, and sauces benefit from advance preparation to let their tastes develop. Hard-boiled eggs are easier to peel if you refrigerate them for a day or so after cooking.
- Check dinnerware and glassware for chips and make necessary substitutions. Make sure you have appropriately sized baking and roasting pans and casserole dishes for your menu.
- Confirm availability of fresh flowers and centerpieces with your florist. Create edible centerpieces and favors with colored eggs, jellybeans, marshmallow peeps, and chocolate rabbits in large and individually sized baskets lined with Easter grass, available at craft stores.
The more you can do ahead of time, the more time you will have to relax, celebrate the rites of spring, and enjoy your guests and food on Easter Day.
by BigOven team and Steve Murch
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