For Steve Huff, Easter food means more than chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs.

Easter, and spring in general, provides a time for families and friends to gather for a good meal. And Easter is often associated with traditional meats such as lamb, ham and pork.

The Yankton man was originally going to focus on one meat but decided on the trifecta. Each meat carries a connection to the season.

Huff recalled his boyhood days growing up in Sioux City. Springtime brought with it a feeling of rebirth. The season also brought forth great food among different religions and ethnic groups found throughout the city.

“Lamb carries special meaning for Christians at Easter and Jews at Passover,” he said. “Lamb is also often used in Greek and other Mediterranean dishes.”

However, many people shy away from lamb when they shouldn’t, Huff said.

“Lamb can be expensive, and it’s not something you eat all the time. You may have it for special occasions at different times of the year,” he said.

“People also aren’t familiar with lamb. They think that lamb will be gamey, the same way they think of deer and pheasant. But it means they don’t know how to properly prepare it.”

Besides lamb, Huff considers the season as a time to ride high on the hog, so to speak.

“Ham is always associated with Easter dinner. Pork is also a popular choice,” he said. “Many people have eaten fish often (during Lent), and now they’re ready for a good meal with meat.”

Huff gave high praise to the meat selection in local supermarkets and shops. But for this meal, he made a deal with a local pork producer to purchase a hog and have it butchered.

“In this case, I like knowing where my meat comes from,” Huff said.

All Fired Up

Huff had already prepared the meat and fired up his smoker in the backyard before the “His Voice” reporter arrived. The winter evening contained a chilly bite, but the stillness of the backyard provided an almost spiritual feeling.

“It’s 10 degrees below zero, but it feels great standing next to the smoker fired up at 350 degrees,” Huff said.

Beams of light pierced the darkness, as a friend playfully shone a spotlight from his neighboring house toward Huff as a distraction. Huff shook a fist in mock defiance at the neighbor, who appeared to be laughing at the whole spectacle.

Huff returned to the task at hand. He opened the smoker lid, releasing flames as well as smoke. He showed a pail filled with special pellets, which he said played a key role in smoking the meat.

The lamb was smoked separately from the ham and pork chops. The choice not only allowed Huff to work with the different types of meat but also opened up space on the grill.

The sight and smell provided a carnivore’s delight. But Huff pointed out the grill can also be put to great use for vegetables.

Because the ham was pre-cooked, he opted to keep it on the smoker for less time. The pork chops and ham were thick and juicy, while the lamb was tender.

“The lamb would go really well with rice,” he said.

For that night, though, the sides included baked bread and a salad made of greens and topped with slivers of raw veggies.

Huff’s wife, Tracy, arrived home in time to chop up the slivers of veggies. She quickly and methodically cut up parsnip, carrots, red peppers and onions.

“This is my therapeutic salad,” she explained with a laugh.

Steve may have been the featured chef in the “His Voice” article, but Tracy talked about her similar love of culinary creativity.

“I like to bake, but baking is so precise. You have to have your measurements on point,” she said. “I have scores of recipes, but I sometimes improvise with a couple of ingredients. It’s so enjoyable.”

Steve agreed on the therapeutic aspect, particularly after working on demanding cases in his law practice.

“If I didn’t have this, I’d lose (it),” he said, clearly enjoying the kitchen and sharing his passion.

Taking The Call

As if on cue, the phone rang. He answered it in a quizzical tone, and it quickly became apparent he had been called by a political campaign.

He agreed to take the survey, turning on the speaker phone for all in the room to share.

The woman on the other end dutifully worked her way through the list of questions.

Huff showed his passion for politics as well as cooking. He offered strong opinions on candidates and issues that didn’t always fit neatly into the list of offered responses. The puzzled caller repeated the question, seeking a response that would fit one of the designated answers. Huff eventually picked an option, and the process continued for several minutes.

She politely thanked him for his time and patience.

“No, thank you for putting up with me,” he said sincerely.

He hung up and flashed a grin.

“I thought you would enjoy (listening to the call),” he told the reporter/dinner guest.

Enjoying A Fine Meal

But then it was back to the fine dining, which was spread out on his kitchen counter.

For this meal, Huff created a sauce that worked well either for dipping bread and vegetables or for pouring on the salad. When making sauces, he has used ingredients ranging from olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette to honey and mustard.

“It’s a super dressing, worthy of the gods,” he said, expressing approval of the finished product.

Huff believes in bringing out flavor without overpowering the meat or other main dish. He will often pair contrasting tastes, such as sweet and spicy, to give both a hot and cool kick.

He used a wide range of spices and toppings in his chef’s work: parsley, cilantro, yellow onion, blood oranges, cattleman’s rub and cayenne pepper. He also brought out mustard, sriracha, oregano and blended herbs.

And of course, olive oil plays a major role in his Mediterranean dishes. “I go to a Sioux Falls store that specializes in olive oil. I walk out of there with a load of things,” he said.

With so much spicy food, Huff made sure to provide drinks with a kick. He maintains a large liquor supply, and he pointed out a number of options.

“In the spring, you have the Kentucky Derby. So you could enjoy anything with bourbon,” he said. “Some people like wine, so red or white would depend on the food you’re pairing it with.”

The food provided a sumptuous feast, drawing quick and intense signs of approval from each diner. The lamb went quickly, followed by the ham and pork chops.

The salad and veggies provided a light, refreshing taste with plenty of color and crunch. The baked bread was addictive and, while melting in your mouth, not something for the low-carb and no-carb crowd.

Huff threw aside all modesty about the masterpieces before him. He had hit his mark on nearly all counts.

“This is awesome. You can really taste the synergy,” he said. “The ham is A-plus. There’s nothing like it on earth. The lamb was an A-minus, and I would give the pork a B.” And in the end, good food and good people are what makes any meal special, Huff said.

“You have fun things like Groundhog Day, and you have the spring holidays like St. Patrick’s Day,” he said. “But Easter is about rebirth and getting ready for summer. And the focus is on the family and the holiday itself. You enjoy and encourage each other, and you eat a delightful meal.”