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Easter table

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A dining table ready for Easter eats


Try these 7 "saved" Southern recipes this Easter weekend

In our series Saving Southern Recipes, Associate Editor Kate Williams explores the deep heritage of Southern cooking through the lens of passed-down family recipes.

Growing up, my family's Easter tradition went a little something like this: The night before, we headed to bed as early as possible so we could wake up at close to five in the morning. We'd stumble to church for the sunrise mega-service, called in the Episcopal church "The Great Vigil," which lasts hours, and seems much longer when you're 12 years old. Afterward, we'd head to our church family friends' houses for an afternoon of brunching and television-watching, before all heading home for a nap. We'd binge on Easter candy later.

While we never had signature "Easter-y" dishes, beyond the requisite deviled eggs and giant chocolate bunnies, Southern classics like those I've been cooking for this column since last fall have always played a part in brunch.

To help you (and frankly, me) plan out what feels like an ultra-early Easter (Seriously, how is it this weekend?), I've rounded up my top seven best "saved" recipes to add to your brunch table. Make one, or make them all — each can help wake you back up after that early morning church service. 
Rufus Estes' Fried Chicken
For your main dish, take inspiration from the 1911 cookbook, "Good Things to Eat," by Rufus Estes. Estes' fried chicken is deeply flavorful and juicy with a thin, golden crust. A browned butter and vinegar marinade gives the chicken the same kind of richness and tang you'd get from a fulI-fat buttermilk brine, without having to make an extra trip to the store. For a final, old-fashioned touch, garnish with fried parsley. You can even serve it at room temperature if you need to make it ahead of time.
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Rice and Vidalia Onion Casserole
This onion-loaded rice casserole makes for an easy and satisfying side dish. Vidalia onions, a Southern speciality, are recommended, and they cook down slowly in a heap of butter until they begin to melt and caramelize. A little more than a cup of Swiss cheese is added for a hint of seasoning and just a bit of binding power — this is not a cheesy rice casserole by any means — and a modest cup of cream does the work of softening parboiled white rice. You'll end up with a crisp crust and tender center, and the whole thing will go perfectly with just about any other mains and sides you can dream up.
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Old-Fashioned Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
If you prefer a cheesier side, try instead this macaroni and cheese casserole, made of slick and tender egg noodles that are mixed with sharp cheddar and butter before they're draped with a simple custard of eggs, milk, salt and pepper. A thick layer of sliced cheese melts over the top to create a melty neon-orange top hat for each serving.
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Touch of Grace Biscuits, Southern Kitchen-Style
Even if you're serving a carb-loaded casserole, you'll still want to add homemade bread to your table. Look no further than Touch of Grace bisucits. Buttery, tender and sweet, these are the hand-held breads you dream about for weeks to come. They're perfect on their own — no need for butter or jam, or anything else, although it's not like they suffer from the addition of toppings. These biscuits seem made from magic, or at least a very skilled baker, out of reach for the average home cook. But trust us, they're not.
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Cream Cheese Kolaches
These hand-held treats are a specialty of the central Texas "Czech Belt," which spans the area between Houston, Austin and Dallas, and is centralized in the small town of West. A typical kolache (pronounced koh-la-chee) is made from a tender, enriched brioche dough, shaped into a dimpled circle and filled with some kind of sweet filling, often made from dried fruit and/or cheese. Our favorite for Easter is this easy-to-make cream cheese filling that evokes a classic Danish.
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Emerald Salad
Known variously as emerald salad, lime Jell-O salad and (at least in one family) "green squares," this tangy-sweet congealed salad is a Southern entertaining classic. Its green color is perfect for a springtime Easter meal, especially when garnished with fresh lemon and lime zest, and can be served as a side dish or a dessert, or both! We've also made a few other improvements to the standard Jell-O salad: We stirred in a cup of sweetened condensed milk for creamy texture, upped the citrus flavor with fresh lime and lemon juice, and bloomed the Jell-O in pineapple juice for needed acidity. Haters may hate, but this congealed salad is actually delicious.
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Angel Berry Pie
For dessert, try a twist on strawberry shortcake — angel berry pie. Also know as heavenly pie or the admitedly less-seductive upside-down meringue pie, this dessert is simply a meringue base, filled with cream and fruit. When it inevitably falls apart into a delicous jumble, it is almost an Eton Mess, or Lanton Mess, depending on what fruit is on top. But best of all, it's a pantry-ingredient showstopper that is just as good for breakfast as it is before your evening nightcap. Make it the night before and you'll have dessert ready before the Easter bunny arrives.
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Do you have a beloved family recipe to share? We'd love to try it. If it's written on a recipe card, even better. Send a picture of the recipe card or a typed-out version of the recipe to kate@southernkitchen.com. If you can, please include any stories or memories you have about the dish — these will help make your recipe shine! Our goal is to build out a robust visual database of Southern recipe cards to share with you, our community.

We'd also love to see your Southern recipes on social media, so share with the hashtag #savingsouthernrecipes on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

Photos: Kate Williams

Author image

Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.