For centuries, and still today, Easter food traditions, such as rich, tender spring lamb and cured or smoked ham, marked the end of a Lenten fast — 40 days before Easter, when people ate smaller and lighter meat-free meals.
Traditions from pre-Christianity, which celebrated the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, found their way into Easter holiday celebrations, and spring flowers, decorated eggs, and bounding bunnies came to symbolize the joy, warmth, and renewal of the Easter season.
Here, we offer dishes with spring’s bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and sweet selections for gathering with loved ones over a joyful Easter brunch. From easy-to-prepare yet plentiful egg dishes and nutrient-rich veggie sides to accompany a brunch spread or traditional holiday main course, to treats that satisfy a sweet tooth during one of the sweetest times of the year, these recipes are sure to become mainstays at all your future Easter gatherings.
Eggs are associated with rebirth and fertility, and symbolize Easter and spring's renewal. Culinarily speaking, they are versatile and can feed a crowd. For Easter morn, create a beautiful veggie-filled frittata — an open-faced, thick Italian omelet that starts on the stove and finishes in the oven. Save time and order an assortment of irresistible quiches. And we love this mushroom, bacon egg strata, a slow-baked bread and egg casserole. Try a new cheese combination to make even a simple omelet eggs-tra celebratory!
Prep this scrumptious French toast bake the night before, and then pop it in the oven for your Easter brunch — you'll save time and maximize flavor. The base of Wolferman's English muffins offers the thick texture you crave, but the light crumb is the secret to absorbing the rich milk and egg custard. It puffs up golden and fluffy in the oven for a gorgeous presentation. Top it with whipped cream, fresh berries, and pure maple syrup for a sweet start to your Easter feasting.
Ham it up
Easter ham is a tradition to welcome spring, and harkens back to a time when families enjoyed the last preserved meats that gave sustenance through winter. Follow these ham cooking tips, and get creative by using one of these sweet ham glazes — blood orange marmalade and mustard combined for a spicy kick, or sweet apricot and dried fruit for a sweet touch. Or just order a perfectly cooked, hardwood smoked sliced spiral ham — tender, juicy, and delicious, whether served hot or cold.
A crown roast of lamb comprises 16 ribs cut perpendicular to the spine, and, rather than cut them into separate lamb chops, the ribs are left intact in one long row. When trussed — tied with twine to create a compact crown shape while cooking — a crown roast makes an impressive Easter centerpiece. The unparalleled, rich lamb flavor of this cut comes from the fact that the rib is served attached to the robustly flavorful loin meat. Pair your roasted lamb with a cabernet sauvignon. The cassis and black fruit flavors perfectly complement your rich lamb, as well as chocolate.
We love carrots eaten out of hand, gently roasted to concentrate their natural sweetness, and, of course, baked into cakes, cookies, and muffins! The Ultimate Carrot Cake makes the, well, ultimate last bite to your Easter feast, with its moist, tender crumb, warm spices, and just the right balance of earthy-sweet carrots, crunchy walnuts, raisins, and cream cheese frosting.
Theresa Gambacorta is a food writer and 25-year veteran of New York City's restaurant industry. Her writing has appeared in such titles as La Cucina Italiana, Men's Fitness, Muscle and Fitness, and Centennial's special interest publications. She is the co-author of chef Joey Campanaro's Big Love Cooking (Chronicle) and is currently working on a cookbook about Persian cuisine to be published by Knopf.