11 Easter Hacks To Make Your Big Meal A Success
11 Easter Hacks To Make Your Big Meal A Success
So you’ve decided to helm the big Easter dinner this year, have you? And now you’ve realized that you’ve bitten off more glazed ham than you can chew?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to the big holiday meal, simply because there’s so much stress to get it right. But quite often we’re our own worst critics; chances are your guests are just happy someone else offered to do the cooking this year. So take a deep breath and relax.
Here are 11 tips to help get your through the big day.
Prep, Prep, Prep
You study for an exam, right? So make sure that you’ve read and triple-checked your recipes before plunging in.
Then, you’re going to want to make sure that everything that can be done in advance (we’re talking about the peeling, chopping, shopping and saucing) is done and out of the way. That way on game day, you can focus on the main meal stuff. And on actually hanging out with your guests.
Brine The Meat
Unless you’re serving a vegetarian or vegan meal, the meat is going to be your piece de resistance. So why not treat it as such?
Most of us know that one of the keys to making a succulent turkey is to brine it for at least 24 hours before cooking. Not all of us realize that other meats can be brined in advance to inject moisture and break down the toughness too. Ham benefits from a little salty bath before cooking, as does lamb.
Just remember that each meat has its own unique flavour profile, so be sure to match your brining spices accordingly.
When we say dinner at five, dinner rarely happens at five. This is a known fact. If your guests are coming around 2 or 3 o’clock, that means tummies might be a rumblin’ by the time everyone sits down to eat.
Avoid hanger by laying out a couple of communal snacks in advance. Veggie trays tend to be full of fibre, but who doesn’t love an easy-to-prepare but oh-so-elegant charcuterie board? Here are all the basics you’ll need to know when creating yours.
Have Booze At The Ready
This is as much for you as it is for your guests. Have a cocktail (or two) while preparing your meal to help you relax and enjoy the actual cooking process. As for your guests? Set out a table of booze, mixers and garnishes and let everyone help themselves, or designate someone to be on drink duty for you.
Having a signature drink to offer guests when they arrive always helps set the festive mood, so consider one in advance. And if anyone brings wine for dinner, it’s always polite to offer to open it so your guests can enjoy too.
Set The Mood...
…and the table before anyone even gets there.
One less thing for you to do while your guests are over, right?
It all goes back to Step 1: prep, prep, prep. Plus it’s easier to inject some spring into your table than you think.
Fresh flowers (bonus points if you put fresh lemon slices in the water for effect), little Easter baskets at each place setting filled with goodies, or creatively folded napkins all up your host or hostess game.
Elevate Your Potatoes
Most of us rock at mashed potatoes. Boil the potatoes, drain the water, add cream, salt and butter and voila! Yumminess in a pot. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to this tried-and-true method, but don’t you want to add a little zip to everyone’s favourite side dish?
Chicken stock and milk instead of cream helps lower the fat content, while the addition of cheese boosts the flavour even more. Cottage cheese adds thickness while smoked cheddar adds a whole new layer of complexity. Goat cheese, brie cheese, Parmesan cheese (leftover charcuterie board cheese?) or most anything else works.
Just pick one kind and stick to it.
Want to really knock it out of the park? While your potatoes are boiling, roast an entire bulb of garlic in the oven. Slice off the top, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper overtop, then seal it in a piece of tin foil and cook until soft.
Adding those little pieces of cooked heaven to your potatoes before you mash beats garlic powder or salt any day.
Get Fresh Veggies
This should go without saying, but stay away from canned or frozen veggies on the day of. A crisp salad with seasonal greens goes a long way (plus it looks pretty on the table), while spring veggies like asparagus remind people that warmer weather is coming.
Want to pick fresh asparagus? Opt for bright green and firm spears. Then, lightly squeeze them together—they should make a slight squeaking noise.
When it comes to veggies, nuts add another layer of flavour and texture that will have your guests oohing and ahhing.
Asparagus is boosted by the addition of toasted slivered almonds. Brussels sprouts are suddenly yummier with candied pecans or walnuts. And who doesn’t love lightly toasted pine nuts in a salad with goat cheese? Roast these suckers up ahead of time, and store in a tightly sealed container.
When it doubt, add bacon. It’s the one meat pretty much everyone can agree on, and it makes everything taste better.
Throw it over your meat before roasting it in the oven, add it to salads or side dishes, or garnish those aforementioned mashed potatoes with a little bacon crumble. It’s OK, science says it’s good for you.
Do A Pot Luck
If someone offers to bring something, the answer is always yes.
The more people contribute to the meal, the easier it is on you—especially when it comes to dessert. Or, make it a good old-fashioned pot luck in the first place.
You do the mains and everyone else can contribute the sides, apps and dessert.
Order A Pizza
If all else fails, everyone loves a pizza. Hey, it’s about spending time with friends and family anyway, right?