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My husband, Joe, and I have pretty much paved our own way as far as the cooking in our home goes. But when it comes to holidays, the traditional meals we grew up with take over. I have to admit that recipes from my childhood tend to make the most appearances. It could be argued this is because I feel more strongly about the situation, but I’m sure is mostly thanks to him wanting to make me happy. Whatever the reason may be, when a day like Easter comes around, you can bet we’ll be serving a Midwestern feast.
Don’t get me wrong, we don’t completely abandon our entertaining habits. Aside from the pies on Thanksgiving, neither of us really have anything in the pre or post meal slots to replicate (except for his mother’s holiday pumpkin roll, we’re still working up the courage to give that one a go). So, we fill in the gaps with what we normally serve when we’re hosting. The end result is usually a motley assortment, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Our Easter Menu
- Manchego & goat brie
- Raspberry preserves
- Olive oil with lemon and Italian spices
- Italian loaf & baguette
- Pineapple ham
- Penne and cheese
- Green bean casserole
- Corn casserole
- Pink stuff
- Sicilian Cuddura
As you can see, I wasn’t kidding. Still, everything was amazing. My one complaint about meals like this is that some parts can be a little difficult to pair with wine (lookin’ at you, main meal). This might not be a horrible issue for some but we’re big wine fans so…yeah. Non buono. Luckily, we have the internet to help us out in these times of need.
Pro tip: Googling “ham and cheese wine pairing” doesn’t really yield the most helpful results. After Plan A didn’t work out, I decided to explore my options using a different approach of asking three questions.
- How light or heavy is the meal?
- What are the main flavors?
- How can they all be brought together?
Obviously, lunch was on the rich side. The only greens you could find on the table were the beans, and those had been smothered in cream of mushroom soup and french fried onions. Unfortunately, the main flavors were about as varied as the day’s menu. The ham would be sweet and smokey, the penne full of liquified hard cheeses, one casserole bready, the other creamy, and the pink stuff was basically dessert before dessert. In the end—probably after way too much time—I had a list of my pairings.
Antipasto Wine Pairing
- Sauvignon Blanc – French; wide range of potential pairings including certain cheeses, olives, and Mediterranean-style meats
Easter Lunch Wine Pairing
- Semisecco Lambrusco – Italian, frizzante style; pairs well with ham, hearty creamy dishes, fruits and lighter sweets
- Zinfandel – Californian; pairs well with ham and rich hard cheeses (ours was on the sweet side so it would work well with the sweeter elements of the meal)
Dessert Wine Pairing
- Chardonnay – Californian; (desserts) creamy textures, subtle sweetness
Looking at the list above, you can see that no single wine is a 100% match for absolutely everything (I’m far from a sommelier). But when the three questions were considered, it all came together pretty well. That’s what I love about this technique. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, a short list and a couple of internet searches can definitely get you there, whether you’re serving tacos or pâté. And if it doesn’t, you’ll still get to enjoy some great wines with your guests.
Making it Affordable
Once the challenge of the menu and wine pairings is out of the way, there’s just one thing left to address: cost. Hosting a holiday meal can be expensive on its own, even if your guests are bringing along sides. Throw in wine pairings and you could be looking at a hefty bill. Personally, I’ve found my workaround by starting at Grocery Outlet. If you’re not familiar, it’s exactly what the name sounds like. They acquire brand-name groceries opportunistically, i.e. when packaging changes or there’s a surplus inventory, and then sell it at up to 40-70% less than what you would normally pay. It’s amazing. This year I super lucked out and caught them during their wine sale. That meant an additional 20% off of any wine, and they had literally hundreds to choose from. Honestly, I don’t know how I ever got by before.
The sale actually doesn’t end until April 3rd, so I’ll definitely be going back to stock up on more for later. As for you, you can find your nearest location here. Enjoy!