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How To Serve Traditional Easter Food

Easter food is one of the main ways people celebrate the Easter holidays, particularly Easter Sunday—also called “Resurrection Day” by some. Like most holidays, meals and even snacks can play a big role in adding to seasonal festivities. Traditional Easter food centers on a main Sunday meal and Easter basket treats. While some families enjoy a sunrise breakfast or Sunday brunch during this special springtime celebration, the midday dinner of delicious Easter food receives much of the cook’s focus and diners’ appreciation. Whether you plan, cook, or eat Easter food, don’t be afraid to try new ways of preparing your family’s holiday favorites.

Easter Brunch

Like most brunches, Easter brunch can be variegated. If you are a guest who is invited to a restaurant brunch or the home of an ambitious cook, expect to enjoy a feast. French toast casserole, pancakes drenched with fresh-fruit toppings and delectable egg dishes are likely to be found among the many traditional favorites. You also can look for sausage, bacon and even ham or Canadian bacon to appear on the table. Specially decorated Easter breads, nut rolls, cakes and pastries often play a prominent role among the breakfast entrees.

Easter Dinner Meat Options

Traditional meat platters can vary from family to family. Some serve roast leg of lamb (often with mint jelly), while others cook a glazed ham or a turkey with stuffing. In addition to these, baked chicken, roast beef and even rabbit (hare) or goose provide other Easter dinner options. Any of these can be prepared in a variety of ways based on long-held family recipes or new cooking methods, such as deep-frying a turkey or chicken. Fish is a less-common option, but it commemorates the last meal Jesus was said to eat with his disciples on the seashore after his resurrection.

For vegans, a well-rounded platter of fresh veggies and legumes (or egg dishes) will nicely substitute for red or white meat.

Side Dishes for Easter Dinner

Besides the traditional meat platter for the meal, side dishes help to make a meal unique and distinctive to the families that enjoy them. Food for Easter will complement the main meat course. For example, lamb typically is served with mint jelly, often accompanied by parsley potatoes. Early spring greens and seasonal mushrooms, if available, provide ingredients for a fresh salad. Celery can be found on many Easter dinner tables, sliced and filled with cream cheese or peanut butter. Asparagus is another spring-time favorite that often graces the Easter table.

Those who color eggs for Easter often prepare deviled eggs for the meal. Fresh herbs and spices along with light oils add a special holiday touch to many dishes and salads. Vinaigrette and chutney are two additional favorites at the table.

When serving ham, which can be baked, grilled or smoked for a variety of tastes, scalloped potatoes make a nice side dish as a traditional Easter food in many homes. Dilled potatoes or spuds and cheese are more great options. Green beans (or green bean casserole), along with tender baby braised carrots, add to the colors and textures that can be found on the table. Cabbage served in Cole slaw for salad or fried with noodles adds to the delicious tastes of the Easter table.

Roast chicken or turkey usually comes with stuffing and gravy, just like at Thanksgiving or Christmas. But the other side dishes might include sweet potatoes (flavored from ham drippings), new peas with baby onions and perhaps the common mashed potatoes, to which caramelized onions or garlic has been added.

Roast beef could be served with buttered noodles, cooked and seasoned spinach (suggestive of fresh spring grass), and perhaps creamed potatoes or a light vegetable soup.

Fish, when served in remembrance of Jesus’ breakfast by the sea, can be served as an austere meal that includes fresh greens, sliced hard-boiled eggs and other new vegetables. It just depends on the mood the meal is designed to invoke.

Most American meals are served with warm or fresh bread or rolls, along with beverages of choice, typically coffee, soft drinks or tea.

Easter Party Food

If you are invited to an Easter meal, chances are it will be for Sunday brunch or dinner. Depending on what is being served as the main course, you may want to ask the hostess what you can bring as part of the pot-luck experience. Popular options include the following:

Garnishes and snacks like chopped veggies with dipping sauce, olives, cheese cubes and snack chips with dip or salsa, many of which have a Mediterranean flavor that denotes the origins of the Easter holiday.

Side dishes made from fresh-bought or frozen vegetables are always popular, including those originating from other countries, like Russian borscht or Spanish paella. Since spring represents new growth and fruitfulness after a long winter that caused many people to rely on canned or preserved vegetables, fresh vegetables are welcome at most tables.

Easter party food can include Easter basket goodies, such as jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, or it can consist of baked specialties, like the Old World pasca bread, often shaped like a crown to represent Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Because Easter is celebrated close to (or in association with) the Jewish Passover, and Jesus—the focus of Easter—commemorated Passover with the disciples, some people follow his example and serve a Seder. This includes the foods served to remember the Jews’ flight from Egypt under Moses’ leadership, such as lamb, unleavened bread, salt, bitter herbs and eggs. Since some of these foods are not particularly tasty in themselves, they may become the token foods at the meal, while up-to-date, more flavorful versions also are provided to go with the roast lamb, along with wine and fruit.

Easter Food Ideas

When planning an Easter brunch or dinner, try to include as many fresh new vegetables as possible. Look for interesting light seasonings and exciting ways to experiment with the seasonal fruits and produce in your area.

Update your old favorites with innovations like adding berries to pound cake toppings, chives to potato salad,, feta cheese and spinach salad to the menu.

If your family loves pizza, have a pizza Easter brunch buffet! Or make Chinese food recipes with Easter favorites, like lamb kebab instead of pork, or fried rice in place of potatoes. These unusual substitutes will make every member of the family happy, which is the main reason that people gather around the table—to celebrate the holiday and enjoy each other’s company.

Enjoying Easter food is a wonderful way to savor the holiday and welcome spring to the table. The next time you are planning an Easter menu or if you are invited to a special breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, take along a traditional Easter food that will delight your hosts and enhance the festivities. No matter how you cook it, Easter food fills an important niche of American traditions that make our culture special. Don’t be limited by the usual menu expectations. Get creative and explore new ways of serving common Easter food when you get the opportunity to cook or serve at this meaningful holiday celebration.

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