With Easter coming up and Passover just starting, many are trying to figure out how to still make these holidays feel special, and one way to ensure that is by having everyone sit down together for a meal. Whether you’re a pro in the kitchen, or maybe perhaps you’ve picked up the skill more recently and are ready to take on a challenge, tips to help cook a memorable dinner are always helpful, especially from someone who is a pro in the food industry.
Ray Rastelli Jr., founder of Rastelli Foods Group, opened his first butcher shop—The Meat Stop in Deptford, New Jersey—when he was just 19 years old. Fast forward over four decades later, and his gourmet domain has expanded to more than eight locations, as well as a large distribution facility in Swedesboro to supply restaurants, hotels, and U.S. troops around the world. Now, Rastelli Jr. has given Metro the scoop on some of the best tips and tricks to help make your Easter and Passover feast simple and delicious.
What are some essential items people should purchase to cook for Easter/ Passover?
Under ordinary circumstances, when you’re feeding a crowd, larger, easier-to-cook entrees are ideal like prime rib, a turkey breast roast, chuck roast or, for seafood lovers, a stuffed salmon roast. These “stick-it-in-the-oven-and-leave-it” style entrees allow you to satisfy a crowd without commanding all of your available prep time. In this current time when you’re likely only hosting your own family, it can still feel festive to serve one of these festive roasts.
What are some tricks for preparing?
Simplicity is the name of the game for these kinds of meals. Red meats like prime rib or chuck roast should be browned before roasting, and salt and pepper are all you need for seasoning. For stuffed entrees – like a turkey roast or a salmon roast, the only thing you need to do is pre-heat the oven.
What seasonings are essential?
The basics: Good sea salt (coarse) and peppercorns to grind fresh. If you’ve got those two things, you’re good. Rosemary and thyme are nice, particularly when roasting red meat.
Any other techniques that should be utilized?
The best way to gauge doneness for meat is a meat thermometer. Use a good insta-read thermometer and know your target temp in advance, you’ll never go wrong.
Are there any kitchen items that should be purchased?
A roasting pan, cast iron skillet for browning and an insta-read thermometer.
Can you alter some of the recipes to fit your needs?
Roasts can always be enhanced with a nice sauce or gravy. For red meats or turkey, whisk a tablespoon of flour into the pan drippings to form a basic roux, then add in that roux to a larger batch of the juices to make a gravy. For the salmon roast, just a little lemon juice will do.
Any other pieces of advice?
Anything that is done in advance is a lifesaver. Consider veggies that you can prep ahead of time—side dishes like green beans can be cooked half-way and shocked in ice water to stop the cooking process. Then, season and reheat when ready to serve. Sautéed spinach or other greens can also be done ahead of time. Sauté, then spread out on a sheet pan to quickly cool. Savory tarts are another good thing to cook ahead of time, just undercook by 10 minutes and then reheat until hot when ready.
All of the staple protein items mentioned above can also be purchased on Rastelli Foods Group’s direct-to-consumer site, rastellis.com. Everything is 100% antibiotic, steroid and hormone-free, vacuum-sealed and blast frozen, then delivered safely and directly to your door.