Family holiday feast? A cherished tradition, to be sure, but it also can be stressful. Cut the frazzle, serve up a fabulous meal and make it all (mostly) seamless. Follow these six simple tips from the pros to ensure you host an Easter holiday get-together that’s as relaxed as it is delicious. Here’s how.
1. Make it ahead.
You don’t want to be scrambling to cook an entrée for 14 at 8 am when guests are arriving for brunch at 10:30. Choose as many dishes as possible for your menu that you can make ahead, then reheat and serve the day of. Popular Easter brunch favorites include quiche, which you can serve warm or at room temperature, scones, which you can bake in advance, and smoked ham, which needs hardly any day-of attention—just reheat.
Here are a few other tasty traditional dishes that you can make in advance: Easy Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes (slightly undercook, then finish cooking as you reheat before serving), Deviled Eggs with Classic Potato Salad and frittata (Loaded Baked Potato Breakfast Casserole).
2. Make it once before.
You want to avoid attempting a recipe for the very first time when entertaining a large group. It’s just added stress you don’t need. Either serve a tried-and-true dish you’ve made a hundred times—Boursin Cheese Mashed Potatoes, for instance—or test out the recipe on trusted friends or family two or three weeks ahead of party time. That way you know what to expect, how long it actually takes to prepare, and if it’s a winner. If it isn’t, discard it and choose a proven dish.
3. Do all prep the week, or day, before.
If you’re making a strata with sausage, for example, chop up all the mushrooms and grate the cheese in advance. With Potato Latkes, you can grate the potatoes and measure out ingredients the day before. If you’re serving roasted veggies, chop and blanch them beforehand, then finish roasting right before the meal. You can hard boil eggs two days in advance and make the filling. Store in an airtight container, then stuff the Deviled Eggs the night before and cover with plastic wrap. Garnish with fresh parsley just before you set them on the table.
4. Uncover any special needs in advance.
There’s nothing more awkward then passing the roasted lamb to your new sister-in-law only to find out she’s a vegetarian. Confirm any allergies or special dietary needs from your guests well in advance and make note. Then be sure to include a dish or two on your menu that he/she can enjoy, or ask them to bring along a side dish catering to their special needs.
5. Tweak the format.
Simplify as much as you can: a few pretty, easy-to-make decorations, for example, will look just as lovely as high-maintenance ones. Enlist Uncle Bob to serve the drinks and ask your children or nieces and nephews to set the table. They’ll feel proud to be tapped and you can cross that chore off your list. Also, consider a buffet-style feast versus sit-down service to reduce your workload.
6. Write it out.
Put down your menu and game plan in writing. Include everything on the menu: appetizers, drinks, the main event, dessert, and even post-meal tea and coffee. That way you’ve got a list of everything you’ll need to buy and nothing will fall through the cracks. Once your menu is set, create a detailed agenda for the day. That should capture what time you’ll get up, when you’ll get ready, what dish needs time to come up to room temp when, which go into the oven when when you’ll set the table, and so on. The more details the better! Then all you have to do on the Big Day is follow the plan.
If putting together your own menu is too daunting, just try this:
Easter brunch menu
Charcuterie, fruit and cheese plate
Maple-glazed, spiral cut (pre-cooked) holiday ham
Roasted carrots and root vegetables
Potatoes au Gratin with cauliflower and ham
Blueberry-lemon cake (in cupcake format for easy buffet self-serve)
Relax! And happy Easter.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR PULLING OFF A SEAMLESS FAMILY FEAST?