“Modern Traditional” – seems like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? While that may be, the phrase in this case refers to planning an element of both in this year’s Easter dinner. After such a difficult year for all, the traditional helps us to remember childhood holidays and warm family gatherings past, while injecting a modern element reminds us of the hope for a bright future right over the horizon.
I know I have so many happy childhood memories of Easter.
It always began with an egg hunt, and then, we threw quarters at the eggs. Our table was filled with sautéed shrimp & red peppers, handmade pastas, kielbasa & kraut and stuffed artichokes. The adults drank grappa while the kids played hide and seek. My favorite place to hide was behind the tools near the trevisano garden. My Nonna would chase you with her rolling pin if you damaged even one head.
This was Easter Sunday in Staten Island New York. The house was full of laughter from generations of family and the smell of the food is as memorable today as it was back in 1985. I would be surprised if it sounds exactly like yours, but that’s the point, it’s not supposed to. Easter Sunday is one of the major food holidays of the year and yet, unlike say Thanksgiving, everyone’s table is unique.
It’s a special day as we celebrate new beginnings and relive our old traditions. You only get so many times a year to break out the good china, and while this year may be different for so many reasons it’s still a perfect day to gather in the name of food and family, two things that are easy to agree upon.
This year I’m embracing my roots while continuing to expand on my family’s heritage. As the son of a Croatian immigrant, my meal will consist of the foods of my youth, keeping the old flavors and stories alive but also creating those same food memories for my children as my family created for me. One more traditional, center of the plate item I’ll be serving is lamb.
Lamb, much like ham, is often the main dish and typically appears in the form of leg, rack, shoulder or shank. I’ll be using the latter and will be braising it with garlic, leeks, tomatoes and red wine. Once finished, I’ll be pairing with gnocchi, truffles and fresh herbs. The hearty, tender braised lamb matches flawlessly with old-world flavor and textures from the handmade pasta. Get the recipe here.
When I was young I rolled pasta by hand with my grandmother on Easter morning and her gnocchi was always the main attraction. Though she served hers with a thin red sauce that she stewed for hours with bones and vegetables, this pasta course has a more rustic brown gravy and creamy earthiness from the fresh black truffles.
All great dishes begin with a great product and Rhode Island happens to be home to Hopkins Southdowns Farm, a small family-run sheep farm located in North Scituate that breeds some of the most flavorful grass-fed lamb you will ever experience.
Side dishes can often steal the show and are a fun way to experiment and get you out of your comfort zone. I’m a huge fan of potatoes and love their versatility. This year’s new offering is Gruyere tater tots with chives and prosciutto. This is “do the dishes and take a nap” food at its finest. Get the recipe here.
Crispy, cheesy tots that are laced with the salted, cured ham. Daniele Inc, located in Pascoag Rhode Island, is a world-renowned charcuterie producer and their prosciutto is the crown jewel of their repertoire. Its readily available at your local grocery store and easy to find online.
Warming the prosciutto slightly before serving releases the flavors and is the perfect sidekick to the unexpected tater tots. It’s a dish all ages can get behind and breaks the norm of Easter Sunday expectations.
Regardless of what you’re serving, Easter Sunday is a day to be savored. We’ve learned a lot in the past year about what’s truly important in life. Creating memories should never be taken for granted and some of our fondest spawn from time spent around the table with the people we love.
Food is the ultimate catalyst to do just that. So whether it’s an old recipe card from the cupboard, or something that caught your eye on Tiktok, enjoy the moments of it every step of the way. From one cook to another I wish you all a Happy and food-filled Easter and don’t forget to “Keep On Cooking!”
Chef Nick Rabar and wife Tracy are the founders of two Avenue N American Kitchen restaurants and The Pantry, a small market locally grown and produced products and hand-crafted prepared foods. In his 25+ year culinary career, he has received many honors including two James Beard award nominations. Among other media endeavors, Nick is a contributor to the YurView television program Simply Southern New England and to YurView.com.