A Scaled-Down Easter Menu for Small Celebrations

Treat yourself to an Easter dinner that's relatively easy to make yet still feels like a celebration.

An Easter celebration? In this economy?

Yes! Even though we're all trying to stay at home and away from people outside of our immediate families, that doesn't mean those who celebrate Easter have to eat canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches to mark the occasion. On the other hand, since your Easter dinner is going to be a smaller affair than it would be were it not for the pandemic and because there's a freaking pandemic and no one needs any added stress, you're not going to want to put on a many-course feast for just a few people (unless you want to, in which case, have at it).

With those considerations in mind, here's an Easter menu that splits the difference between an all-out feast and a very modest celebration, focused both on the relative ease of preparation and a little bit of luxury, since you might as well treat yourself even if you can't celebrate with the whole family in person. We did away with appetizers and snacks—you're going to have more than enough food for your family anyway, and who needs the extra hassle. We've got two options, "brass and gold," for your centerpiece roast—one traditional and one for the possibility that you only have chicken on hand—a couple of options for simple vegetable sides, and an easy dessert. But the mashed potatoes are non-negotiable. This is a celebration of life conquering death, after all, and there is nothing that screams "life is amazing" like well-made mashed potatoes.

The Sides

Braised Asparagus

J. Kenji López-Alt

It is, after all, asparagus season, even if you wouldn't know it from staring at the walls of your house. But if you happened to pick up a bundle of stalks on your last trip to the grocery store, braised asparagus is the perfect seasonally appropriate side for your meal. The best part about this recipe, other than how tasty it is, is that it all gets cooked on the stovetop in a matter of minutes, so you don't have to juggle cooking times for things that need to go into the oven.

Roasted Cabbage

Vicky Wasik

If you aren't already stockpiling cabbage on your few grocery trips, start now. For one thing, cabbage is pretty hardy and keeps, if left whole, for a nice long while in your crisper drawer. It also happens to be delicious and can be prepared in any number of ways. (Feel like your cabbage is on its last legs? Make 'kraut! Or just stir-fry it and incorporate it into soups or fried rice).

This recipe happens to be easy and quick, and since it only takes about 20 minutes in a ripping hot oven, you can make this while whatever meat you've roasted rests, which streamlines the process of putting the feast on the table.

The Main Event

Ultra-Fluffy Mashed Potatoes

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Maybe this is just us (maybe!), but the most comforting thing we can imagine to eat, whether it's for a celebratory meal or Monday's lunch, is a towering pile of mashed potatoes. We don't even need gravy. All we need is a fluffy suspension of dairy fat in potato mash.

As the video above demonstrates, you don't have to make your mashed potatoes right at the last minute. So not only are mashed potatoes delicious and comforting and a balm for the anxious, but they are also convenient to make, particularly if you find yourself stressing out about whether it really was wise to try to put out a big feast while the world is in turmoil (listen, it was wise).

Make extra, too, so you can eat some waffles in the days to come.

The Roast

Slow-Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb With Garlic, Rosemary, and Lemon

J. Kenji López-Alt

There are so few holidays that elevate the humble lamb that it seems silly to eat anything else on Easter unless you didn't pick up some lamb on your last run to the grocery store or you literally cannot find lamb. (Sorry, ham, you're celebrated all the dang time, and anyway you're better for big groups of people.)

And while a rack or two of lamb is great for small groups, whether cooked sous vide or roasted in a pan, it can be pricey, and you're not really going to benefit from one of the best parts of big-occasion meals: leftovers.

So if you want to pan roast or sous vide a rack, go ahead, but we suggest getting a boneless, butterflied leg of lamb and slow-roasting it. Sure, you could sous vide it, too, if you have the setup, but there's something beautiful about pulling a burnished roast hunk of beast from the oven, and also the final sear is the same temp at which you'd cook the cabbage, which further streamlines this menu.

Butterflied Roast Chicken With Quick Jus

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J. Kenji López-Alt

Okay, so they didn't have lamb at your grocery store, or you forgot Easter was coming up, or maybe you just didn't know if you had it in you to make a big meal. But now you think you do, yet you're limited to the supplies you bought on your last trip, and you have a chicken. Fear not: A whole roasted chicken is a perfectly acceptable centerpiece in a meal that, circumstances being what they are, is actually more about the mashed potatoes than anything else. Fear not, part two: A whole roasted chicken is also invariably delicious, provided you cook it right, and by that, we mean you spatchcock it, throw it on a rack set in a sheet pan, and crank the oven.

Tender meat, perfectly cooked breasts and legs, a very good gravy: It's a celebration all on its own, but never forget that you have those mashed potatoes.

If you go the chicken route, roast the cabbage first then do the chicken. While the chicken rests and you make the gravy, you can throw the cabbage back in the oven to warm it up if you like.

A Sweet (and Easy) Finish

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

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Vicky Wasik

You're already doing a ton to make a nice spread to accompany the mashed potatoes, so you shouldn't have to feel like you need a cake or a pie or anything that requires a lot of different steps and ingredients to finish off the meal. But seeing as you're going as all out as is reasonable, making panna cotta earlier in the day will be like your past self giving your future self a big sweet and creamy hug.

You literally have to make this dessert in advance, and all you have to do to serve it is pull it out of the fridge, so it's the perfect end to a meal that has both tastiness and a relatively relaxed workflow as its goals.