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Save space to savor Easter Lunch

Left to right, ham and broccoli casserole, bacon-wrapped green beans. Bottom, deviled eggs.

An Easter staple: the deviled egg dish

A common sight at the Easter meal is an heirloom deviled egg dish. Some Southern women believe you just can’t entertain properly without one. They may be round or oval. They may be cut crystal. They may be white milk glass with gilded edges. They may have 12 or even up to 24 shallow, egg-shaped indentions designed to perfectly cradle this egg-stremely popular stuffed-egg standard.

And because the platters come in different colors, style and sizes, consider a variation on the classic deviled egg recipe to fill yours.

Try these add-ins:

  • cooked and crumbled bacon
  • a vinegary buffalo sauce
  • spicy pickle relish (like Alabama-made Wickles Pickles’ version) instead of your usual choice
  • fresh-chopped herbs (like chives or tarragon)

If your childhood was anything like mine, Easter morning meant a plastic-grass-lined basket packed with a diverse array of candy: a rainbow of jelly beans, foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies and more. Maybe you still get a basket like that or you dip into the sweets received by your kids or grandkids. While it can be tempting to over-indulge in these delights, don’t.

The roster for a traditional Southern Easter lunch includes some of our region’s most iconic and delicious foods, so you’ll want to have ample stomach space to savor it all.

The main event is probably some form of pig, maybe a pork roast or most likely, a ham (brown-sugar or molasses glazed). According to some food historians, the custom of eating ham on Easter is not restricted to the South, and dating back to the days before refrigeration, was more a choice of necessity than preference. Hogs were often slaughtered in the winter and then preserved by smoking. The resulting hams were available to enjoy in the early spring, before fresh meat was available.

While it may take a backseat to pork in Alabama, lamb also has a place on the Easter lunch menu, and in other parts of the world, it is one of the most popular proteins for the holiday. Its ties to “the lamb of God,” a reference to Jesus, imbue it with significance, especially on Easter.

No matter how succulent the ham or moist the lamb, the Easter sides can often outshine the entrée with their familiar tastes. There’s usually a potato dish (maybe creamy, starchy layers of au gratin or the oozing cheesy comfort of the hash browns, butter and cheddar in a potato casserole). And eggs almost always make an appearance, whether deviled, in a rich quiche or in an egg-heavy bread pudding for dessert. Eggs’ starring role in the event pre-dates Christianity, as the orbs have long been a rite of the season as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. After Christ’s resurrection on the first Easter and as Christianity spread, eggs took on even deeper meaning.

Finally, a few green veggies, possibly embellished with even more pork, round out the selections. Some usual suspects include soft, salty lima beans cooked with ham hocks or bundles of green beans swaddled in bacon and baked.

No matter what sweet Easter treats you find yourself faced with on the special morning, save them for after lunch (although just one handful of jelly beans or a bunny ear before probably won’t hurt). You’ll want plenty of room and a blank palate to truly enjoy every bite of your Easter meal. Not sure what you’re serving yet? Try one of this month’s reader-submitted recipes that offer some different spins on most of the requisite categories for a successful holiday feast.

BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY | FOOD PREPARED AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY BROOKE ECHOLS

Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.


Cook of the Month!

Kirk Vantrease,
Cullman EC

Kirk Vantrease was looking for a way to ensure his grilled pork stayed tender, and after playing around with a few ingredient combos and techniques, he settled on the Grilled Stuffed Pork Chops he submitted. “I call the stuffing ‘spi-garlic,’ a mashup of spinach and garlic, and my family really loves it,” he said. The flavor has spinach’s earthy green notes along with the zest of garlic and parmesan cheese. His family likes its taste so much, they enjoy this dish a lot more often than on Easter. “It’s great for that meal, a nice departure from ham, but I end up making it often all year round,” he said. And there’s a bonus for busy cooks: The stuffing can be made ahead. “Just pop it in freezer bags and pull it out any time you want to make the chops,” he said.

Grilled Stuffed Pork Chops

  • 2 thick cut boneless pork chops

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 cup spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Heat olive oil in skillet on medium high heat. Add onions and stir until caramelized. Add garlic, salt, pepper and spinach. Cook until the spinach cooks down, about 5 minutes. Add parmesan cheese and stir all ingredients until cheese is melted. Butterfly pork chops cutting them half way through but leaving one side connected. Stuff the pork chops with the spinach mixture. Hold in place with toothpicks. Grill on a preheated grill for ten minutes a side to cook all the way through. Remove toothpicks, cool and slice for several to enjoy.


Sweet n’ Sour Cabbage and Dumplings

For the cabbage:

  • 1 head cabbage, chopped into 1-inch cubes (green works fine, but red is pretty)
  • 2 cups low sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bruised caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease (or coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup cooked bacon (optional)

Directions for cabbage:

Place all the ingredients in a large pot and stir gently. Cook on medium till cabbage is fork tender. Or, place all ingredients in a large crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours or high for 3 hours depending on your crockpot.

  • For the dumplings:
  • 1 pound loaf day-old French-type bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup scalded canned milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, coconut oil or bacon grease
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1 /2 cup all-purpose flour (or as needed)

In a large bowl, pour the hot milk over the bread cubes. Let soak and cool for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and in a separate skillet, melt the butter/oil/bacon grease in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion; saute till caramelized. Stir in the parsley, and remove from the heat. Combine onions, eggs, salt, pepper. Pour over bread mixture. Add flour and knead dough with your hands. Squish and squeeze till all combined. Dough should be slightly lumpy and sticky. However not too sticky to form into soft balls. Test one ball first. Gently drop it into the pot of boiling water. If it falls apart, add more flour to your remaining dough. Continue dropping the dough balls into the boiling water, but be careful not to crowd them. Simmer over a low-almost boil for 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. They should be spongy. Depending on size, slice or serve whole alongside the sweet and sour cabbage. Then eat your heart out!

Kimberly Chapman, Wiregrass EC


Ham and Broccoli Casserole

  • 1 package frozen broccoli, thawed and drained (do not cook, I prefer fresh broccoli slightly blanched and drained and cooled)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 11/2 cups diced ham
  • 3/4 cup Bisquick
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Lightly grease casserole dish. Combine broccoli, onion, green pepper, ham, and cheese in casserole dish. In a bowl, mix Bisquick, milk, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour over other items in casserole dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes until done.

Naaman Ivey, Pea River EC


Eggs a la Goldenrod

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, approximately
  • 4-5 boiled eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Toast

Make a basic cream sauce: melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat, stir in flour until blended and then slowly stir in milk until thick and bubbly. Stir in chopped boiled egg whites and a little salt and pepper. Pour over toast slices. Force yolks through a strainer with a spoon to top the sauce. Add another dash of salt and pepper and serve with bacon, sausage or fried spam.

Evelyn Milner, Wiregrass EC


Pizza Giena (Italian Easter Pie)

Favorite pie dough recipe (need 2)

Filling:

  • 1 pound ham, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound Farmer cheese, cut up
  • 16 ounces Ricotta cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 pound shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten (to be used on pastry crust)
  • Large pie plate

Roll out bottom pastry; place in pie plate. Beat Ricotta cheese. Add 6 whole eggs, then remaining ingredients, except separate egg yolks. Mix well. Brush pastry bottom with beaten egg yolks before filling. Cover with second pie dough; brush with egg yolks. Make slits on crust. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Test with knife. Pie is done when knife comes out clean.

Cook’s note: I grew up in an Italian household and watched my grandmother make this pie every Easter. The tradition was carried on by my mother and aunts. Then my cousins and I continued the tradition after we married. To this day, my sons and their families expect me to make this pie as part of our Easter dinner.

Janice Bracewell, Covington EC


Eggnog Rice Pudding

  • 1/4 cup rice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 cups scalded eggnog

Combine all ingredients. Pour into greased baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours. Stir about 4 times while baking. Serves 6, hot or cold.

Carol Fiedler, North Alabama EC


Bread Pudding

  • 12-14 cups cubed stale French bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 cups milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Whiskey Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup bourbon or rum
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and raisins. Whisk, pour over bread, let sit 30 minutes. Pour in buttered casserole dish and bake 50-60 minutes.

Whiskey Sauce:

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and sugar. Pour ¼ cup bourbon (or rum) and cornstarch into a small bowl. Whisk to create a slurry, pour the slurry into the sauce. Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes. Stir in butter, salt and remaining bourbon or rum. Drizzle over bread pudding.

Angela Bradley, Clarke-Washington EMC


Bacon Green Beans with Brown Sugar Glaze

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans
  • 12 strips bacon
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil green beans until slightly tender. Fry bacon until it is almost done, soft, but not crisp. Wrap a section of bacon around 4-5 beans and lay on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Heat butter, garlic, and brown sugar in saucepan on medium heat. Drizzle over green bean wraps before serving.

Pamela Martin, Arab EC