Easter Eggs and Easter Bonnets. Easter Mass and Easter Brunch. These are the memories I have of Easter as a child growing up in Chicago. Easter was a holiday my Mother cherished. I can say with confidence that Easter was her favorite holiday: She loved it because there was more than food to make this a special day. My Mother, being a devout Catholic, followed the religious traditions and guidelines which went along with this holiest time of the year. For the 40 days previous to Easter, we did not eat meat on Friday, attended Mass every morning before school, gave up something we loved for Lent (for me it was ice cream), did the Stations Of The Cross” on Friday afternoons, and practiced fasting, instead of feasting, for most meals. “We have to sacrifice something,” Mom would say, “since Christ sacrificed his life for us. It’s the least we can do.”
All through the 40 days, Mom would talk about Easter. It was Easter “this and that”. When Easter Week finally arrived, Mom would begin to prepare for the Big Day. First there were Easter dresses, pastel car coats, frilly hats, patent leather shoes and ruffled stockings to buy for me and my sister. A new suit for my little brother. A new outfit for Mom as well. And Dad. Well, Dad just got to sit back and watch the frenzy. After all of the Easter outfits were purchased, she would then concentrate on Easter Brunch and Dinner.
We would start Easter day with attending 9:00 Mass dressed in our Easter finery. Before Mass there were pictures to be taken of us, in our Easter pastel clothes, in front of the house, then we would walk the three blocks together to Mass, weather permitting (I remember snow one year). After Mass we would come home to a table set with our traditional Easter brunch. A brunch Mom would start to prepare on Friday. That Friday of preparation was a day of making Grandma Lucia’s Satoni (aka Calzone, Easter Pizza, Easter Pie) I’m still not sure of the spelling and we pronounced Satoni as Shatone. But the spelling doesn’t matter nor does the pronunciation. What did matter was the amount of time it took to make the Satoni (usually 6 pies) and the way they looked. We knew they would taste great but the look had to be just perfect. No cracked crust for my Mother.
On Saturday Mom would make the Frittata. The question always was “How many eggs?”. The answer, always, “24”. Twenty four eggs, one pound of ricotta, one pound of Italian sausage, one pound of ham. No salt, no pepper, no spices. The giant Frittata’s flavor came solely from the sausage and ham. The sausage always homemade by either Mom or Grandpa and the seasoning of the sausage with salt, pepper and fennel seed always perfect. In the picture below you will see the beauty of the Frittata. Cooking it today is so much easier than when Mom labored over it since the non-stick pans didn’t appear in our home until late in the 60’s. She would stand over that pan for what seemed like hours, stirring it to make sure it did not stick. It would cook over the lowest of heat. She timed it perfectly so it would not turn into scrambled eggs. What a job. Flipping it was another chore. It became a family project especially when my sister and I got a little older. Now, with today’s non-stick pans and my re-creation of the preparation using the stove top and the oven, this is no longer a huge ordeal.
The rest of the brunch would consist of a Baked Ham and Hot Cross Buns (the ham bone would make it’s way to the pot later in the week when Mom would make minestrone). Mom would buy the buns at a local bakery early on Easter morning. That was a time when bakeries were open on holiday mornings.
Along with the five of us, Grandpa, Uncle Dom, Aunt JiJie and her husband Epol where at the brunch table. Sometimes other relatives would join us but usually the rest of the family would gather later in the day for Easter Dinner: not always at our house. Dinner was another story, Pasta, “Gravy” Meat, Leg of Lamb, Potatoes, Vegetables………… On and On it went.
Dinner was always great but it’s the Easter Brunch I remember the most. Sometimes I re-create that wonderful brunch using only my Mother’s recipes. So here you go.
Grandma Lucia’s Satoni
Satoni Ready For The Oven
For the Dough
1 Package Active Dry Yeast (1/4 Ounce, Not Instant)
6 Large Eggs
8 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
4 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Drops Pure Anise Oil
1 Teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
6-7 Cups All-Purpose Unbleached Flour
For the Filling
4 Lbs. Whole Milk Ricotta, Drained
1.5 Lbs. Italian Sausage, Cooked and Cut into Small Dice
1.5 Lbs. Ham Steak, Cooked and Cut into Small Dice
4 Large Egg Yolks
6 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
For the Glaze
2 Large Eggs
1 Tablespoon Water
1 Cup Pastel Candy Jimmies
Make the Dough
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water (110 Degrees F). Set aside until yeast begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the sugar, vegetable oil, anise oil and salt to the eggs and add this to the yeast. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour one cup at a time. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. You may not need all seven cups. With the mixer still on low, knead the dough until smooth and soft. Transfer dough to a large bowl that has been lightly oiled with a small amount of vegetable oil, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm, draft free, place until double in volume, about 1½ to 2 hours. Punch down the dough, divide into 6 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into balls. Set aside on two trays lined with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Make the Filling
While the dough is rising, make the filling. Mix all of the filling ingredients together until well combined. Set a side at room temperature.
Forming and Baking the Satoni
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F (325 if using a convection oven).
On a lightly floured board, roll each piece of dough into a 10” to 12” Round.
Divide the filling between the six rounds, placing the filling on one side of the round. Leave at least a two inch boarder. Mix the 2 eggs with the water and brush a little of the egg wash on the boarder. Fold the dough over the filling and decoratively crimp the edges being sure to completely seal the filling. Brush the top of each of the Satonis with a little egg wash. Poke three small holes on top of the Satoni with a thinly bladed knife. This helps the steam escape and will prevent cracking. Transfer the Satonis to 3 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake each pan separately (unless you have a convection oven) until golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. Rotate the pans half way through the cooking time. (You can either roll out and fill two at a time and while one pan is baking you can roll out the next OR keep the filled waiting Satoni at room temperature until ready to bake.)
Cool on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, very lightly brush some of the egg wash onto each Satoni and sprinkle with the pastel jimmies. Be sure the Satonis are completely cooled through and through before sprinkling with the jimmies.
Store the Satonis overnight at room temperature.
Serves 15 Generously
24 Large Eggs
1 Lb. Whole Milk Ricotta, Drained
1 Lb. Italian Sausage, Cooked and Cut into Small Dice
1 Lb. Ham Steak, Cooked and Cut into Small Dice
1 Tablespoon XVOO
Preheat oven to 350º.
In a large bowl, gradually beat the eggs into the ricotta. Beating two or three eggs at a time into the ricotta will keep the lumps away. Add the sausage and the ham to the egg mixture and thoroughly combine.
Over medium low heat add the oil to a Non-Stick 10” skillet with 3” high sides. Heat the oil until warm and add the frittata mixture to the pan. With a heat-proof rubber spatula, gently begin pushing the sides of the frittata towards the center, flattening out the frittata as you go. Do this over and over until the frittata begins to set, about 15 minutes. After it is loosely set, transfer the frittata to the oven and bake until completely set and golden brown on top, about 20 – 30 minutes.
You will know it is done when a thinly bladed knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let rest in pan for 15 minutes. Invert frittata to a serving platter. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature before serving. Either way is wonderful.