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Chef offers advice on cooking up a stress-free holiday meal

Nothing says the holiday season like friends and family coming together to share a home-cooked meal. If you're having people over during the festivities, look no further than this food writer's take on what to make.

Stick to what you know and prep as much as possible, food writer advises

It's better to make something you know will taste good then take a risk during the holidays, says Jacob Richler. (Matthew Mead/AP)

Nothing says the holiday season like friends and family coming together to share a home-cooked meal. 

If you're having people over during the festivities, look no further than this food writer's take on how to approach the sometimes stressful festive season.  

"The key is just to do as much as possible ahead of time," said Jacob Richler is a Toronto-based chef and the editor-in-chief of Canada's 100 Best magazine, which provides insight and stories from the world of food.

He spoke with CBC Radio's Metro Morning fill-in host Gill Deacon on Tuesday about how he and other chefs prepare for the holidays. Richler stressed the importance of time management when preparing to entertain guests. 

"If you do it all two days before, you have very little to do on the last day — totally manageable," he said. "Just don't leave it till the last minute."

For starters, amateur cooks should know their skill level and stay within it, Richler said. It's better to make something you know will taste good than take a risk — especially when guests are coming over.

Following a tried, tested and true recipe will make things easier, the chef advised. It also helps to prep as much as possible ahead of time so you're not burdened with tasks as the seconds tick closer to your guests arriving, he added. 

That's why he said it's important for people to be realistic and not try to overachieve in the kitchen.

What's better than butter?

Richler added chefs tend to keep things simple at home because elaborate meals require extra hands in the kitchen, including a sous chef.

Amateur cooks should know their skill level and stay within it, the food writer notes. (Ricardo Magazine/Canadian Press)
"Most chefs are on the opposite schedule, they've been doing something like that every day for the past month," he said, that's why when the holidays roll around, "they seriously take it easy."

But keeping things simple isn't the way Richler is approaching his home-cooked meal for friends and family.

"Christmas Eve, we get a little carried away at my house," he said. 

Richler's holiday feast will include wild-game terrine that includes Canada Goose, oysters, sauteed green beans, aged French cheese with truffles, smoked salmon, beef Wellington with Madeira sauce and truffles along with a rich, buttery serving of mashed potatoes.

"You actually weigh the potatoes before you get started and then you add half their mass in butter to the mix later on — they're pretty rich."

If you are looking for some last-minute suggestions, Richler said his magazine is full of "highly-approachable recipes."

But, like the food writer said, it's best to stick to what you know because experimenting with how to cook a Canada goose on Christmas Day may not be the wisest — or tastiest — idea for you or your guests.

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