Just as varied as the selection of sweets that typically come stuffed in an Easter basket are the food-centric customs that have sprung up around the holiday. Sunday brunch is one such beloved way to celebrate the occasion, with families sitting down to a special late-morning meal steeped in tradition. Here, several chefs divulge their favorite Easter brunch classics.
Green Bean Casserole
European eats are central to Chef Josh Sauer’s childhood memories of Easter. “I grew up in a Polish family in New Jersey, so on Easter we would get together with my grandparents, cousins and friends to have traditional items like pierogis, kielbasa and stuffed cabbage,” says Sauer, who is executive chef at Avenue in Long Branch, New Jersey. However, one family dish that remains an Easter tradition for Sauer has a distinctly American flair: baked green bean casserole. “With the perfectly cooked green beans, the overall bold flavors, and crunchy onions on the top you can’t go wrong,” the chef says.
Save time on your Easter brunch prep with this make-ahead version from Food Network Kitchen.
While Easter conjures up visions of baked goods and eggs for many, Chef Michael Isolani and his family skip the classic brunch fare in favor of hearty Italian entrees. “Growing up in an Italian family, brunch on Easter or ‘Pasqua’ has always been a big food fest,” says Isolani, who is executive chef of Trinity in New Orleans. “We spend all week preparing tons of Italian dishes, but without a doubt, I can’t wait for my grandmother’s lasagna.” And why is this dish so integral to the family feast? “Everything from the noodles to sauce and herbs is just out of this world. I couldn’t imagine Easter Sunday without it.”
Dreaming of nonna’s lasagna? Make your own noodle dish like this lasagna from Anne Burrell.
Truffled Egg Tartine
Dakota Weiss, who is partner and executive chef of Los Angeles restaurants Sweetfin Poke and Estrella, elevates her holiday brunch with an elegant, egg-centric riff on toast. Her go-to bite? Truffled egg tartine with arugula, bacon lardons and whole grain mustard. Weiss describes her take on the traditional open-faced sandwich as “simple yet full of flavor.”
To make the tartine, Weiss starts with a top-quality sourdough baguette, which she slices in half lengthwise and slathers with whole grain mustard. The chef then takes six hard-boiled eggs and slices them lengthwise, as well, resulting in six oblong segments per egg. The sliced eggs are piled atop the bread, then adorned with arugula. Next comes a layer of bacon lardons, which Weiss makes by slowly cooking thick strips of bacon until they turn crisp. Once the tartine is assembled, the chef adds a drizzle of her homemade vinaigrette (to make this condiment, she whisks together 1/2 cup Champagne vinegar, one cup truffle oil, one teaspoon Dijon mustard, one brunoise shallot, one tablespoon lemon juice, one minced garlic clove, salt and white pepper). The final step? “Slice the baguette into three-inch pieces and eat,” Weiss says.
For another springtime take on the tartine, try Ina’s version that pairs arugula with goat cheese.
Ham and Grits
Growing up in a small country town in the middle of Texas, Chef Tony Street was a fan of farm-to-table cuisine years before it was cool. His grandfather grew his own vegetables and raised hogs when Street was a kid. While most families head to the grocery store to pick up a ham in the days leading up to Easter, Street’s grandfather would pick out the hog whole months in advance. This holiday hog would then be transformed into a special Easter dish: ham and grits with redeye gravy. Street’s grandfather brewed extremely strong coffee a week ahead of the brunch, then would smoke the coffee for a bit while smoking the ham. “This is a dish that took my grandfather days to make but it’s well worth it,” says Street, who owns Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse and Street’s Fine Chicken in Dallas. “The ham was cured for three to four days and the grits were ground by hand in a coffee grinder. I remember him hiding Easter eggs in the garden and as soon as we found them all, it was time to eat!”
Craving grandpa’s delectable Southern-style dish? Create your own version with this recipe for country ham from Virginia Willis.
Baker Elisa Marshall is sweet on bunny cake for Easter brunch. The lemon coconut version that her mom would make is Marshall’s all-time favorite. “She would always make these for us for Easter brunch, cover them with cream cheese icing and shredded coconut, then let my sister and I decorate them like bunnies with candy and make paper ears, cotton tails, etcetera,” says Marshall. Not only did the cakes make for a decadent brunch treat, but they also doubled as centerpieces for the family’s holiday feast. This year, for a limited time around Easter, Marshall will feature bunny cakes on her menu at New York City’s Maman, where she serves as event planner and baker (in addition to being a founding partner). You can also create your own with her recipe below.
Lemon Coconut Loaf
Yield: 1 (9×4-inch) loaf
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup yogurt (coconut yogurt is ideal for extra flavor)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Icing (recipe follows)
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350°F and prep/grease your loaf pan. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and shredded coconut. Stir until combined.
In an electric mixer, combine sugar, eggs, yogurt, lemon juice, zest, oil and extract. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined.
Pour batter into loaf pan and bake 45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and allow to cool before icing.
Place cake on small sheet pan or on a platter with sides. Trim to make rounded, or leave in rectangle shape.
Fully ice all sides of the cake, and using your hands, sprinkle coconut to cover. Decorate as desired.
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup of icing sugar
Place cream cheese and butter in electric mixer on low until combined and well blended. Slowly add in icing sugar (use more or less for desired taste).
Bunny Cake photo courtesy of Chef Elisa Marshall