How To Make Holiday Entertaining Stress-Free This Year

Tips and tricks from cookbook authors and celebrities.

by
Guests gathered around Christmas feast.

Keep that festive feeling. Photo, Roberto Caruso.

Holiday entertaining can be a stressful endeavour, with all the cooking, cleaning and merry-making that goes into hosting a festive affair. To cope, we turned to our favourite chefs and cookbook authors for tips and tricks to make this December as stress-free as possible. Here’s what we learned.

How many hors d’doeuvres should I serve?

“Three pieces, per person, for every hour you expect them to stay. And for some reason with shrimp, double it,” says Canadian chef and master baker Anna Olson. She has beautiful a new cookbook out called Set for the Holidays that’s all about holiday entertaining. Best of all, every single recipe in the book contains make-ahead instructions because there’s no reason you should be doing everything on the day you’re having people over.

What can I keep on hand for unexpected guests?

“Always keep Parmigiano-Reggiano in your fridge. It pairs perfectly with bubbly and is magical on a cheeseboard, especially when drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar,” says cheese whiz Afrim Pristine. Pristine, who’s the maitre fromager, or certified cheese master at Toronto’s Cheese Boutique, brings his love of this dairy product to those outside of Toronto in his first-ever cookbook, For the Love of Cheese.

While Olson also advocates for cheese-filled affairs, she recommends keeping puff pastry in your freezer at all times. You can pull it out to make quick sweet or savoury tarts with whatever you have on hand — like tomatoes and goat cheese, or a banana sundae tart.

What is the secret for perfectly crispy latkes?

Don’t be afraid to make your latkes in advance. That way, you’re not standing over a fry-pan all night. Reheat your latkes in a 400F oven. And don’t flatten them too much when they’re sizzling in the pan. “They should crispy on the outside and kind of gushy on the inside,” Toronto’s comfort food king Anthony Rose, who’s cookbook The Last Schmaltz is out now.

What size turkey should I get?

Pick a turkey that’s between 13 and 15 pounds (it’ll serve about eight to 10 people). “Then you’re not burdened with weeks and weeks of leftovers,” says former Chatelaine food director Claire Tansey. Her approachable cookbook Uncomplicated: Taking the Stress out of Home Cooking, is on sale now and it has a whole chapter on fuss-free entertaining.

What’s the best way to self-care during the holidays?

It’s totally okay to wake and cake this time of year. “Nothing says ‘Happy Holidays’ like cake for breakfast!” says actor (and biscuit expert) Reese Witherspoon. Yes, the Oscar-winner has a cookbook (well, lifestyle) book out called Whiskey in a Teacup. In her chapter on Christmas, she reveals that she hosts carolling parties (where she serves biscuits and ham). Everyone jockeys for the coveted “five golden rings” solo in the Twelve Days of Christmas, but of course, Neil Patrick Harris gave the best-ever rendition.

How to brine a turkey