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5 Essential Elements of Easter Brunch

Delicious dishes that make the holiday meal a treat

spinner image Easter brunch dishes on a decorated table
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For Michele Boone, Easter traditions enjoyed around the table are important because they honor moments in time, both past and present. So when the 58-year-old from Tampa, Florida, prepares to host Easter brunch for her family each year, Boone says she makes “all the familiar comforting regulars,” while rolling out a new item or two for her family to try.

Always on the buffet table, she says, is some version of a potato-based casserole, an Easter ham with chutneys and mustards and a dessert she’s been making for her son since he was a baby.

"It's a one-layer cake that looks like a bunny face," Boone says. "It never looks professional, but every time we serve it I feel like I honor the magic of the first time."

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In addition to honoring your family’s special traditions for Easter brunch, says Jamie Kline, corporate chef for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, “it’s important to balance your menu with sweet and savory items to satisfy the taste buds of all who are in attendance.”

As with most holiday meals, he says, preparing one main dish with accompanying sides is a good way to approach feeding just your family or a crowd. But be mindful of who’s on the guest list.

As Jim Pastor, a chef with the Rusty Pelican in Miami, points out, "Some people are breakfast lovers while others are looking for more lunch dishes or salads.” Still others, he adds, “just want to drink and graze."

Read on for five essential categories you might consider for the perfect Easter brunch.

1. Beverages

Get creative by offering your family and guests of all ages a mix of classic and unusual non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages — alongside ample carafes of hot coffee and tea, of course.

Easter is a great occasion for dusting off those champagne flutes for mimosas (a blend of sparkling wine and orange juice) or Bellinis (sparkling wine and peach puree), which work well as a welcome aperitif or alongside the main meal.

Maxence Bonnamain, hotel manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe suggests considering spritzers for something on the lighter side—just add ice and soda water to your favorite sparkling wine, he says. Make them even more festive by topping off with a splash of fresh juice, herb-infused simple syrup (lavender or thyme are lovely), vermouth or a fruit liqueur.

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For a refreshing and healthy mocktail, Bonnamain’s team suggests mixing a berry kombucha with ginger ale, soda water, fresh lime and mint. “Its light acidity pairs well with food, and the additional effervescence makes it a great palate cleanser,” he says.

2. Fruit platters and crudités

For many people, Easter is the essence of spring, and your brunch spread is a prime place for showcasing the season’s bounty. Be sure to use whatever fruits and vegetables are freshest and most colorful, and serve them with a sweet or savory dip as a complement, Kline says. Blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, artichokes, peas, wild mushrooms and heirloom carrots are among the seasonal produce items to seek out during the Northern Hemisphere’s springtime.

Boone says she likes to serve multicolored fruit on skewers when entertaining—they look beautiful and can be a handheld treat or be plated alongside a range of small-bite desserts.

3. Casserole-style dishes (sweet or savory)

Kline says dishes served in casseroles are often overlooked even though they can typically be prepared in advance — saving the host precious time. A favorite among sweet casserole items, he says, is praline baked French toast—a recipe that has many iterations and is easily assembled with bread cubes or slices soaked in buttermilk, beaten eggs, sugar and spices, layered in a pan, and topped with a crunchy swirl of brown sugar and candied pecans.

Savory casseroles that work well for Easter brunch use ingredients like potatoes, eggs, bread, rice and pasta as a base.

For something easy and tasty, try making a cheesy baked pasta casserole, Bonnamain says. Brighten it with spring peas, carrots or broccoli and top it with a gremolata of fresh herbs, he says.

4. Meat or Fish

The type of meat or fish you decide to serve as the centerpiece of your brunch menu should align with your family’s traditions and tastes.

Rack of lamb, Bonnamain says, is the classic Easter staple that advanced home cooks might consider preparing. If, however, you’re looking for something simpler that goes the distance and tastes great, he suggests cooking a rosemary-encrusted prime rib. “The higher fat content makes it difficult to overcook,” he says.

Salmon always looks pretty set out on a white or silver platter, garnished with fresh herbs and lemon slices. Try glazing roast salmon with red wine vinegar, maple syrup and mustard, or serving poached salmon with dill-spiked mayo on the side.

Kline says to consider serving salmon smoked and sliced or simply pan-seared. And don’t forget sliced spiral-cut ham as another go-to Easter dish that is always popular and can feed large groups (leaving you plenty of leftovers too).

5. Desserts

A sweet finish is an Easter must. And one way to approach desserts is to turn to tried-and-true recipes you love that work well in mini portions (think mini muffins, mini cheesecakes, brownie bites and the like). That way, your guests can try a bit of everything.

Boone says that in addition to her Easter bunny cake, she likes to serve mini lemon or key lime cheesecakes topped with lemon or lime zest for a pretty presentation.

It’s always a good idea to have a chocolate dessert in the mix too, suggests Bonnamain, who says chocolate mousse can’t be beat for its “elegant simplicity, minimum time commitment and wow factor.”

But don’t be afraid, he says, to swing by your favorite pastry shop and pick up a selection of petit fours. “Even the most accomplished chef can struggle when faced with preparing desserts,” he says.

Happy Easter! And happy eating.

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