Traditions are great, and traditions around special occasion meals are especially important to our lives. Situations can change, though, and having a large ham or a turkey might not be appropriate for a dinner for 4 or 6 people, and sometimes as your family dynamics change, so to do the preferences and eating requirements of family members.
It’s ok to not serve a ham. There are plenty of other options for Easter you may not have thought about.
When talking about Easter proteins, there are 3 big options all the magazines cover: Ham, Turkey, and Lamb. If you’re not familiar with lamb, it might be daunting to try (and expensive to get wrong.) Lamb is also not to everyone’s taste, as it’s rare on Canadian plates, and not everyone wants to try something first at a big dinner.
Consider these ideas for proteins for Easter:
Yes, you may have a family with a tradition of going to the Chippy on Good Friday, but don’t let that stop you from considering cooking an entire fish. A whole rainbow trout has incredible color and is offset nicely by dill and lemon. You can grill this on a grill, smoke it with apple wood on a smoker, cook it en papillote in the oven, or even encase it in salt and bake it in the oven (don’t worry, the salt doesn’t make the fish really salty.
For Adventuresome Palates: Piri Piri Chicken
A whole chicken is always a great idea when people come over. It’s rare someone doesn’t like chicken, and it can feed a small group all the way up to a crowd. Piri Piri Chicken is rotisserie chicken (you can also cook this just on the barbecue by spatchcocking it, or even cook pieces) that has been marinated in a mixture of salt, chilies, lemon and garlic that is popular in Portugal and all around the world thanks to a famous chain that makes this style chicken. The best part is that most of the work is making the marinade and soaking the chicken, which means on the day, you don’t have to worry about your chicken too much.
For Beginner Chefs: Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is an unsung hero in the kitchen. You can marinade this cut of meat in an endless combination of flavors, and cook it off in a pan, in the oven, or on the grill. The major advantage of this is that pork tenderloin recipes (unless involving a crock pot) often take less than an hour to complete. If you’re nervous about getting the dinner out, consider this option.
Simple, Seasonal Sides
Easter is an ushering in of spring, so think about light side dishes that respect the crispness and freshness of vegetables. Consider stir frying different colors of zucchini in butter, lemon juice, and herbs.
Instead of scalloped potatoes, add some color and nutrition to your plate by making mashed sweet potatoes with garlic and sour cream
Switch the vegetable course up by serving asparagus soup at the beginning of the meal. It helps your dinner feel more formal (but you can prep the soup ahead!)
Don’t overthink your dessert course
It’s pretty hard to make an objectionable dessert, but consider color and the season when deciding on a dessert course. Blueberry cheesecake has the colors of the Easter season and a taste everyone will love. Pavlova (a layered dessert with dry meringues, lemon curd/fruit, and whipped cream is easy to make, is always a show stopper, and can be made with any fruit or preserves you can easily source.
If your traditional Easter dinner isn’t going to work this season, you’re a new cook, or your guest list has changed, consider trying something non traditional with a big wow factor, but lower effort to help make dinner planning and execution easier.