All-you-can-eat Christmas cookies, merry potlucks galore and more snacks that you can shake a candy cane at—the winter holidays are a veritable smorgasbord of sweet treats and festive eats.
Unfortunately, all of that holiday cooking can be stressful. So we talked to an expert—Edmonton-based Chef Shelley Robinson—to get the scoop on how to save time, stay organized in the kitchen and make Christmas cooking easier.
A renowned Canadian chef, Robinson won Food Network’s Chopped Canada in 2014 and competed on Top Chef Canada the same year. The co-author of four cookbooks, she’s owned and operated two restaurants, one café and an artisanal grocery store.
With all of that under her belt, it’s safe to say she doesn’t let a little thing like holiday cooking faze her. Lucky for you, she let the Edmonton Public Library in on a few of her secrets (and her favourite holiday recipe).
3 Holiday Cooking Tips from a Pro Chef
1. The holidays aren’t the time to try something new.
Robinson recommends sticking to tried-and-true recipes when entertaining. As she says, “Cooking during the holidays can be stressful enough without worrying about how an un-tested dish will turn out!”
2. Maximize your time by making things ahead
Robinson swears by make-ahead dishes and baked goods. According to her, the secret to low-stress holiday cooking is getting as much done ahead of the holiday rush as possible.
Her go-to? Tourtière, a Quebecois meat pie traditionally served on Christmas Eve. Robinson explains: “I usually make a big batch late in November and freeze them, then I have them on hand for easy entertaining.” She recommends pairing the dish with a jar of fancy chutney or relish for a meal that’s sure to impress.
Bonus: get Robinson's tourtière recipe below.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
One of the most important things, says Robinson, is asking for help when you need it.
Her recommendation: “Make a tradition of getting your loved ones involved. Even getting help with simple tasks will ease the stress. Open a bottle of wine, crank up the tunes and have fun!”
Chef Shelley Robinson’s Tourtière Recipe
Though she isn’t French Canadian, Robinson’s go-to holiday recipe is a traditional Quebecois meat pie. This recipe for her version of the classic dish yields three to four large pies, which can be made, frozen and then baked when needed.
Pie Dough Ingredients
- 1 lb. shortening, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 5.5 cups flour
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 egg, whisked
- 1 tbsp. vinegar
- 7/8 cup ice water
Pie Dough Directions
- Sift together the flour and salt
- Cut in shortening to resemble crumbs
- Combine egg and vinegar
- Add enough ice water to make 1 cup total
- Make a well in the flour shortening crumbs
- Stir in liquid and gently incorporate all the flour mixture
- Use your hands to bring dough together, but do not knead it
- Divide into 3 equal-size pieces
- Flatten and wrap with cling film
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours before using
Pie Filling Ingredients
- 2 lb. shredded pork shank meat (braised)
- 5 lb. fresh ground pork
- 8 cups unseasoned mashed potato (Robinson’s Pro Tip: leftovers work great for this)
- 1 tbsp. allspice
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tbsp. dry thyme leaves
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- ½ head celery, finely diced
- 2 tbsp. butter
- Salt and pepper
- 1 of the pie dough recipe
Pie Filling Directions
- In a large pot, sauté onion and celery with butter until soft
- Add ground pork and spices, continue stirring to break up meat
- Cook approximately 10 minutes
- Stir in the already-cooked and shredded pork shank meat and mashed potato
- Fold the mixture over until all the ingredients are evenly distributed
- Roll out the pie dough and line three pie pans
- Fill the shells with the meat mixture
- Roll out the pie shell tops and cover the pies
- Egg-wash the top of the pies or cut holes to allow steam to escape
Pies take 30 to 40 minutes to cook at 375°F or 1 to 1.5 hours if cooking from frozen. Serve with corn relish or mango chutney.
Discover more great recipes from countries around the globe (including dozens of uniquely Canadian dishes)—along with food facts you can use to impress your guests—on AtoZ World Food, available for free with your EPL card.