Curtis Stone’s guide to Christmas

The superstar chef reveals his survival guide for the big day.
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He’s the Melbourne-born chef-turned-small-screen success story. A celebrity restaurateur who has conquered the US and built an enviable foodie empire.

Yet despite forging a culinary empire to rival celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, homegrown heavyweight Curtis Stone has to deal with the demands of catering to his large family on Christmas Day, just like the rest of us mere mortals.

Curtis and wife Lindsay are masters of the festive season.

(Image: Supplied)

Family focus

“Christmas is big in our family,” Curtis, 48, tells Woman’s Day. “It’s the time when you get together with people you’re closest to and I think, like most people, it ebbs and flows year-on-year.

“Sometimes we’ll do it at my mum’s place, my brother’s, or at ours. So, depending on who’s coming, it changes in size and style. My mum, for example, keeps it more formal than my brother and always cooks roast pork with crackling, alongside the essential ham, of course!”

Speaking of Christmas lunch staples, there are also traditions that Curtis, his wife Lindsay Price, 47, and his two young sons, Hudson, 12, and Emerson, nine, enjoy.

“In the Stone household it all kicks off the night before,” he explains. “The finishing touches on the tree, singing carols, and we always open one gift on Christmas Eve.

“My sons are still very much Santa believers – but we probably haven’t got much of that left! – so, before the Big Man comes, we lay out milk, cookies and mince pies, plus a bottle of beer – a tradition that started when I was growing up.”

Yes, Chef!

Accustomed to taking the helm of a busy kitchen, Curtis reverts to his head chef role with his family as his kitchen staff.

“It just naturally happens if it’s in my house!” he says of donning the chef’s hat. “If it’s at Mum’s, I’ll take the lead from her, but if it’s at ours then I’ll just naturally be the head chef. Saying that, on Christmas Day, everyone has a job and there’s something special about that – working together as a family for a meal.”

So how does Australia’s King of Christmas make it all work with a big family, two kids and a high-flying career? Take a read of his ultimate guide to the big day…

Sons Hudson and Emerson enjoy a family Christmas.

(Image: Supplied)

Plan ahead

Planning is boring but important. Imagine if you try to run a show or event without any planning or any organisation… it’d be a total disaster. In addition to the equipment you’ll need, make sure you plan the dishes you’re making ahead of time and have a schedule. I’m also a believer in setting the table a day before.

Prep in advance

Depending on what your menu looks like, there are certain appetisers that can be done a day in advance or in the morning. A seafood platter, for example, can be put in the fridge and left until it’s served. Same with desserts, which can be organised ahead of time.

If you’re making cocktails, pre-batching them is a great idea, and then you just shake it over some ice last minute.

Delegate, delegate, delegate

Give each guest a job – jobs could be as simple as being in charge of the music or the drinks.

Not only does this help you, but it also creates a sense of family and community, where everyone is pitching in.

Give the family jobs to do to lessen the pressure.

(Image: Getty)

Prawn perfection

With seafood, you want to buy it as close to serving as you can, so you might want to pre-order or make sure that wherever you’re picking up from has it fresh that morning.

Lastly, make sure you add a bowl to put prawn shells in, plus a finger bowl of water and lemon, and serve with a variety of dipping sauces – a traditional cocktail, a lighter vinaigrette and perhaps one with a bit of spice.

Turkey tip

The best thing to do with a turkey is to brine it. In Australia, it’s still a pretty new concept, but a brine is essentially a bath you submerge the turkey in overnight before you cook it. It allows the seasoning to get deeper into the protein, but it also keeps the moisture in the turkey. The other thing you can do is continue to baste it as it cooks.

Lastly, my tip with stuffing is to cook it separately. Cooking stuffing in the turkey means you need to make sure you cook both the turkey and the stuffing all the way through, which means you often end up overcooking the meat.

Leave salads till last

Leafy greens can get a little shrivelled and won’t taste as good if you prepare them too soon. The trick with salad is that the leaves need to be totally dry. So wash the salad leaves, spin them dry and don’t toss with the dressing until immediately before serving.

Take some time out

The best host always has the most fun – guests feel bad for a host who is stressed and frazzled. So share the responsibility and don’t be pressured or stressed – if you end up serving lunch a little late, who cares?

Just relax, take it easy and have a cheeky glass of wine… or two!

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