Easter is this very Sunday and, like most days, you’ll probably want to eat that day. You might even want that meal to feel a little special, and that’s valid. In these chaotic yet surprisingly dull times, a little specialness is required, and that specialness might as well take the form of a ham- or lamb-centric meal.
Grocery shopping, however, has become an activity fraught with physical danger and ethical pitfalls, so a menu that can be made with as few ingredients as possible is key. Here are some of my favourite simple, yet special, dishes to make Easter feel at least a little normal.
Start with canned croquettes
If you have a can of salmon, an egg, and an onion or shallot, you can make salmon croquettes, an hors d’oeuvres that punches outside of its class in a major way.
You can fry them in pretty much any oil, but they’re particularly good when cooked in leftover bacon grease, and they’d really sing in the fancy oil from a fancy can of tinned fish. The croquettes are ideally topped with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of chives, but sour cream or a simple (two-ingredient) aioli would obviously be allowable, as would a smattering of your window-sill green onions. (If you have mayo, some sort of cultured cream, and a little vermouth or wine, canned salmon also makes a very nice spread.)
Use stale bread to your advantage
While there is certainly a time and place for elaborate, multi-component salads, the time is not now. (Elaborate salads?? In this economy?) Luckily, you can make any pile of leaves taste really freaking good with the right salad dressing and handfuls of browned butter breadcrumbs. (The recipes for which can be found here.)
The crumbs can be made from any crumbled bread—even the dull heels of a white sandwich loaf—and transformed into something sexy with nothing more than butter that has been cooked for a while. If you don’t have fresh herbs for the dressing, dried is totally fine, just use about a third of the amounts given. As far as the leaves, you can choose your own adventure here, but I’m a big fan or radicchio; its bitter, palate cleansing properties are particularly welcome at a rich holiday meal.
Devil some eggs
I mean, obviously you need some deviled eggs. They’re on-theme, delicious, and can be made with stuff you probably already have (eggs, mayo, mustard). You can also “elevate” them with whatever crap you have hanging out in your fridge.
Got a beet? Pickle the eggs with that beet for vibrant, festive eggs. (Just toss a peeled and quartered beet in the brine while it’s hot, then pickle as usual.) Got a little bit of bacon? Crisp it into little lardons and sprinkle it on there. Got some scallions on your windowsill? (I know you do! Everyone does!) You know what to do. Those French’s fried onions you have leftover also work as a topping, just FYI.
Make ham or lamb (with jam)
Luckily, a spiral ham is already very easy to prepare. Just sous-vide it. Make a glaze with either pepper jelly or Coca-Cola (depending on your preference), brush that on, and move on (to eating it). If you don’t have an immersion circulator, don’t fret; there are plenty of other ways to heat the beast.
If you’re feeling more of a lamb vibe, you’re in luck, because so am I. You can marinate chops in labneh and sear them in a pan, or precision cook some necks or shanks (possibly with some fresh grapes), then brush them with a simple jam and mustard glaze. Heck, you can even do lamb two ways; chops and necks sounds quite decadent, if a little macabre.
Simplify your spuds
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you do not need cheese to make potatoes au gratin—you just need potatoes (duh), cream, and salt. Slice the tubers thin, layer them with the other two ingredients, and bake in a 190-degree Celsius oven until the the cream is browned and bubbling in an aggressive fashion. That’s it. You’re done.
If you cream feels a bit heavy—or you simply don’t have any—you can swap cream for melted butter and make the visually stunning pommes Anna (this video will show you how).
Raid your bar cart
I just know you have one or two dusty bottles of amaro that you never drink, and now is the time to drink them. You can stretch them out into a full cocktail with supplemental vodka, or you can set them out with soda water and citrus for a little DIY amaro bar. If none of that sounds appealing, just drink wine.
Set some candy on fire
Easter candy is the best seasonal candy, and you would be fool to not take advantage of that fact. Grab multiple packages of Reese’s eggs, Cadbury eggs, and whatever jelly beans or rabbit-shaped gummies catch your eye, and serve it in a mountain-like formation on a platter. If you feel like setting something on fire—and who doesn’t right now?—brûlée one of those Cadbury boys. A charred Easter egg not only feels appropriately ominous—it also tastes delicious.