If family is gathering at your house Sunday for Easter dinner, you want to spend time with loved ones, not the oven.
With some planning - making a menu, then grocery list and shopping ahead of Saturday's grocery-store blitz - you can do just that.
We asked chefs at three area restaurants for their favorite side dishes that may either be made ahead or with minimal fuss on Sunday. All three restaurants are known for their use of fresh vegetables, which is reflected in their recipes.
Each dish pairs well with Easter ham. Chef John Lopopolo also offers a recipe for Easter Italian Meat and Spinach Pie, perfect as the centerpiece of any Easter brunch.
CHEF JOHN LOPOPOLO
• Restaurant: Mount Vernon, 3535 Broad St.
• Side dish: White cheddar macaroni and cheese with crimini mushrooms and andouille sausage.
• Reason for choice: "I grew up in New Orleans, and we always added andouille sausage to dishes. My mother made white cheddar mac and cheese when I was a kid, and I've updated her recipe with crimini mushrooms."
• Prep time: 45 minutes (including time to cook macaroni)
White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese
16 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
6 tablespoons flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
4 cups milk, heated
4 cups shredded Cabot sharp white cheddar cheese
4 ounces sliced crimini mush-rooms, sautéed and drained
6 ounces andouille sausage, cooked and diced
One sleeve Ritz crackers
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In medium saucepan, make a roux by whisking together flour with 6 tablespoons of butter. Cook and stir with a wire whisk over medium heat until mixture boils. Simmer one minute, stirring constantly with a wire whisk; gradually add milk.
Gradually mix in cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta, mushrooms and sausage. Mix together lightly. Pour into a 4-quart, buttered casserole dish.
Combine four tablespoons of melted butter with the crackers. Season with paprika for color. Top noodles with cracker crumbs. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and crisp on top.
May be made the day before. Mix ingredients and pour into casserole dish, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake Sunday.
Easter Italian Meat & Spinach Pie
2 9-inch unbaked pie crusts
1 pound ricotta cheese
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 pound cooked ham, chopped
1/4 pound Italian sausage, chopped
1/2 pound spinach cooked, chopped and drained
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ounce fresh chopped basil
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Place ricotta in a large mixing bowl, and add eggs one at a time while mixing on low speed. Stir in mozzarella, ham, sausage, basil and spinach until all ingredients are well combined.
Line a 9-inch pan with pastry. Spoon mixture into pan. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over pie, then cover with top pastry. Crimp edges and cut steam vents in top.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until crust is golden brown. Cool on rack, cut and serve.
• Restaurant: GollyWhoppers Sandwich Shoppe, 6337 East Brainerd Road.
• Side dish: Fresh broccoli salad.
• Reason for choice: "It's quick, easy and delicious."
• Prep time: 10-15 minutes.
2 pounds fresh broccoli florets
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped, cooked bacon
1/2 cup cran-raisins
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
11/2 cups mayonnaise
Mix dressing and set aside. Combine broccoli, onion, bacon and cran-raisins in large serving bowl, then add dressing.
Best if chilled and used within 24 hours of preparation. If made the night before, Hendrix suggests not adding dressing until just before serving. Yields 10-15 servings.
JAN COX AND SANDY OWENS
• Restaurant: Countryside Cafe, 8223 Mahan Gap Road.
• Side dishes: Potato salad and creamed corn.
• Reasons for choice: "Potato salad pairs well with ham. The creamed corn can be made with fresh corn grown locally," Cox said. The Countryside cook said that the corn recipe can be made in winter with 3 cups frozen corn plus one tube of frozen creamed corn, which is found in groceries.
• Prep Time: 15 minutes for corn recipe.
6-8 small potatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 small cucumbers, chopped
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Small amount of mustard for color as desired
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil potatoes until tender. Cool, then dice. Add to all other ingredients. Sprinkle with paprika to garnish. Cover and refrigerate until served. Yields about 10 servings.
12 medium ears corn
1/2 stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons self-rising flour
1/4 cup water
Make roux by whisking together flour and water in small mixing bowl until all lumps are gone. Set aside.
Shuck corn, cleaning off all silks (children will enjoy helping with this task). Cut corn off cobs into frying pan, raking cobs with small knife to get all milk as well. Add butter, salt and pepper to pan. Cook over medium heat 10-15 minutes (or until corn is tender). Stir in roux a little at a time until mixture reaches desired thickness.