Planning an Easter dinner takes work. You’ll want to determine your menu, head out to buy the food and decorate in time for the big day. These tips and ideas will help get you on your way.
First, get an accurate count of how many people are going to be at the dinner. You should do this at least a couple weeks before the event. Knowing how many you’re cooking for will help determine your menu. Some things are easier to prepare for a large group, and some dishes are more suitable to a smaller party. Ask family and friends to RSVP so you know who’s coming.
Then, once you know how many people you’re feeding, determine your menu. Ham and lamb are two traditional Easter main courses. Ham was the meat left from the winter, since it was salted or smoked to preserve it. Lamb was the new meat, just coming to market. A large ham can easily feed many people. A half-pound to one-third pound portion of ham per adults is standard. This is why it’s important to have a headcount before food shopping! A ten-pound ham should easily serve 15 to 20 people. You can order a ham from specialty stores, at your local grocer’s or online. But you don’t want to be the person doing this at the last minute before a popular holiday. Make sure you plan ahead and order your ham in advance. For smaller parties, consider preparing leg of lamb: or multiple legs, for a big party – but this means more work. A six-pound leg should serve about eight to ten people. Lamb will need to roast for over an hour, so prepare your schedule accordingly. Of course, you don’t need to limit yourself to either of these two dishes. A turkey is another Easter dinner favorite that can easily serve a large crowd.
Pore over cookbooks, scour the internet or crack open the recipe box to determine what side dishes you want to serve. Look for vegetables and dishes that are colorful, fresh and delicious. You especially want some of the vegetables that are in season, like new potatoes, turnips or mini-carrots. These are perfect to roast alongside your lamb. Asparagus, sautéed spinach and green peas are all delicious choices. Bright orange sweet potatoes and red beets add color as well. Try planning a menu around a theme. Lamb is extremely popular in Greece – make your Easter menu Mediterranean. For ham, try a Southern home cooking theme to set the menu.
And since this joyful holiday marks the end of Lenten sacrifice for many, don’t forget the sweets! Look to European cultures for inspiration when it comes to cakes and breads. There is the traditional Italian cake, made with ricotta cheese and orange rind. The Poles celebrate with a bread-like babka cake. Swedes have a small bread called the semla. It’s made with almond, cardamom and whipped cream. Hot cross buns are a tradition throughout the English-speaking world. They are sweet-spiced buns made with raisins. The top of the bun is marked with a cross to symbolize the crucifixion.
Once your menu is decided, head out to shop. Don’t leave this until the last minute or you might not find the supplies you need. And don’t forget to pick up plenty of eggs for dying.
Lastly, it’s time to decorate for the dinner. Easter is the season of rebirth and renewal. The earth is awakening from winter, and people celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Since it’s spring, flowers are a prevalent decorating element. Their lovely pastel hues and green leaves are everywhere. Celebrate with decorations that are inspired by and part of nature. Use vases of fresh flowers to decorate your home and table. Avoid lilies and other overly fragrant blooms that could interfere with the delicious smells from the kitchen. Make a centerpiece of freshly cut tulips arranged in a basket. Make small bouquets of miniature daffodils in eggcups at each place. Use dyed eggs as name cards. Dye them in colors to match your chosen flowers and then glue the person’s name to the front of each egg.
You could also express the exuberance of the season with bright and bold colors. Use dark vibrant hues of pink, green and blue. Scatter the classic plastic Easter eggs across the table along with curled ribbons and handfuls of jellybeans. Use a tray of live wheatgrass as your centerpiece and fill the miniature field with marshmallow birds and chocolate bunnies.
Go in the opposite direction and make it an elegant affair. Hand paint blown-out eggshells in the European style and hang them from ribbons. Use them to festoon several bare branches arranged in a vase. Fold rich cloth napkins into different shapes. For a floral centerpiece, use delicate orchids in crisp and clean colors.