Mastering the Basics

Holiday Edition

From perfect gravy to an unforgettable cheesecake, there are a few essential holiday dishes that every cook should have in her repertoire. These recipes—bolstered by the Chatelaine Kitchen’s indispensable tips—will deliver every time.

Photos by Erik Putz Food styling by David Grenier Prop styling Jen Evans

Baked French Toast

For the ultimate brunch, use day-old, rich bread like challah, and add a shot of brandy to the egg mixture. Bake covered at first, then uncovered to finish.


Prep | 15 min Total | 1 hour 15 min

Baked French toast is the easiest brunch for a crowd. Mincement gives this recipe a delightfully festive flavour.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups 35% cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 450-g loaf egg bread or challah, preferably day-old, cut into
  • 8 1-in.-thick slices
  • 1 cup mincemeat

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Whisk eggs with cream, milk, sugar, zest, brandy, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl, until smooth. Lightly spread each slice of bread with 2 tbsp mincemeat. Then dip each slice into egg mixture. Arrange bread slices in 2 rows, overlapping them slightly in a 9 × 13-in. baking dish. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Spray a large piece of foil with oil. Cover baking dish, oiled-side down.
  • Bake in centre of oven for 30 min. Remove foil. Continue baking until top is golden and toasted, and custard has set, 30 to 35 more min. Serve warm.

Serves 8 | Per serving 586 calories, 13 g protein, 66 g carbs, 31 g fat, 3 g fibre, 409 mg sodium. Excellent source of vitamin A.


Turkey Stuffing

For effortless, unforgettable stuffing, bake it in a dish (not in the turkey). Use day-old bread and season with lots of fresh herbs.

Best-ever STUFFING

Prep | 55 min Total | 1 hour 25 min

We asked readers whether stuffing is best with or without meat, and the overwhelming response was without. Just in case, we have also included a delicious sausage variation.

  • 675-g unsliced loaf white bread, preferably day old, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups no-salt chicken or vegetable broth

  • Position oven racks in top and bottom thirds of oven. Preheat to 350F. Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Toast in top and bottom thirds of oven, switching sheets halfway through and stirring occasionally, until golden and dry, 15 to 18 min. Transfer to a very large bowl. Stir in cranberries, parsley, sage and thyme. Reduce heat to 325F.
  • Melt butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium. Add celery, onions and salt. Season with fresh pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft, 5 min. Add to bread mixture. Toss until evenly mixed. Drizzle with broth, stirring to combine. Transfer to a 9 × 13-in. baking dish. Cover with foil.
  • Bake in bottom third of oven for 15 min. Remove foil and stir. Continue baking, uncovered, until hot, about 15 more min.

Sausage Stuffing:

After preparing bread, cook 375 g mild Italian sausages, casings removed, in 2 tsp canola oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high, using a wooden spoon to break up meat, until no pink remains, 3 to 5 min. Add celery and onions; omit butter and salt. Continue with recipe.

Serves 8 | Per serving 316 calories, 8 g protein, 56 g carbs, 8 g fat, 4 g fibre, 638 mg sodium. Excellent source of folate.


Mashed Potatoes

For a creamy, smooth mash, use Yukon Gold potatoes. Press them through a potato ricer and season with both cream and butter.


Prep | 20 min Total | 40 min

A potato ricer makes fluffy, smooth potatoes without any work. Look for one in kitchen supply shops. This simple gravy is made without using the drippings from a roast. It can be made ahead and reheated.

  • 1.5 kg Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups 18% cream
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • No-roast Gravy
  • 2 cups beef or chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • Boil potatoes in a large pot of water until very tender, 15 to 20 min. Drain potatoes, then press through a ricer back into pot. Stir in cream, butter and salt until potatoes are warmed through. Season with fresh pepper.
  • Combine broth with sherry and onion and garlic powders in a measuring cup.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Sprinkle with flour. Whisk constantly until mixture turns thick, 1 to 2 min. Reduce heat to low. Gradually whisk in broth mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, until smooth. Boil, then remove from heat. Serve with mashed potatoes.

Serves 6 | Per serving 524 calories, 7 g protein, 48 g carbs, 34 g fat, 3 g fibre, 920 mg sodium. Excellent source of vitamin A.


Brussels Sprouts

For tender-crisp sprouts, boil briefly, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. Heat them up in a frying pan with bacon and maple.


Prep | 15 min Total | 30 min

Step 1 can be done up to 6 hours in advance. Finish sprouts in the pan just before serving.

  • 1 kg brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 6 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp butter

  • Boil a large pot of water. Add brussels sprouts and cook until bright green, 1 to 3 min. Drain and transfer to a large bowl of ice water. Once cool, drain well and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  • Heat a very large non-stick frying pan over medium-high. Add bacon. Cook until bacon is crisp, about 5 min. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  • Discard all but 2 tbsp of fat in pan. Add brussels sprouts. Cook until golden-brown, stirring often, 6 to 8 min. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in maple syrup, butter and reserved bacon, until coated.

Serves 6 | Per serving 200 calories, 7 g protein, 21 g carbs, 12 g fat, 6 g fibre, 235 mg sodium. Excellent source of vitamin C.


Beef Tenderloin

For a golden-brown roast, dry the beef with paper towels before adding herb crust. Next, start roasting at a high heat, then reduce to low. Let the roast rest while making gravy.


Prep | 20 min Total | 1 hour 55 min

Tenderloin can be pricey, but its simplicity and tenderness make it unmatched as a holiday centrepiece.

  • 2-kg fillet or 2 1-kg fillets of beef tenderloin, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Gravy
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tbsp port
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp butter

  • Preheat oven to 500F. Set a rack in a large roasting pan. Pat meat dry with paper towels and set on rack.
  • Combine Dijon with thyme, peppercorns and 1 tsp salt in a small bowl. Brush mustard mixture over meat.
  • Roast in centre of oven for 20 min. Reduce heat to 300F. Continue roasting until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast reads 125F for medium-rare, 20 to 25 more min. Transfer meat to a cutting board and cover with foil. Remove rack from pan.
  • Set roasting pan over 2 burners on the stovetop over medium. Sprinkle with flour. Cook, whisking constantly, until flour starts to brown, about 5 min. Whisk in broth, port and 1/4 tsp salt, scraping up brown bits from pan bottom into the sauce. Boil until sauce is thickened, about 10 min. Stir in butter and any meat juices. Remove from heat. Strain before serving with tenderloin slices.

Serves 8 | Per serving 446 calories, 55 g protein, 3 g carbs, 22 g fat, 617 mg sodium. Excellent source of vitamin B12.


Cheese Straws

For crisp, savoury snacks, use all-butter puff pastry, thawed overnight in fridge. Press finely grated parmesan into the pastry with a rolling pin.


Prep | 15 min Total | 35 min

Look for all-butter puff pastry, which has the best flavour.

  • 450-g pkg puff pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan

  • Preheat oven to 425F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Unroll pastry sheets on a cutting board. Whisk egg with water and cayenne in a small bowl. Season with fresh pepper.
  • Brush pastry sheets with egg wash. Sprinkle evenly with parmesan. Press cheese into dough with a rolling pin. Cut pastry into 1/2-in. strips. Twist the 2 ends of each strip in opposite directions, then lay strips on prepared sheets.
  • Bake in centre of oven until golden, 8 to 10 min.

Makes 32 | Per straw 82 calories, 3 g protein, 5 g carbs, 5 g fat, 118 mg sodium.

Kitchen Tip: Thaw pastry overnight in the refrigerator.


Classic Cheesecake with Cranberry-Clementine Sauce

For an extraordinary cheesecake, line the pan with parchment and wrap the outside with foil to prevent leaks. Bake in a water bath. After baking, cool in panto room temperature, then chill before serving.


Active | 20 min Total | 5 hours 55 min

This rich and creamy dessert can be topped with any fruit sauce or simply melted chocolate.


  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup butter, at room temperature


  • 3 250-g blocks cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs


  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
  • 1/4 cup clementine juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp clementine zest, divided

  • Preheat oven to 325F. Insert the base of a 9-in. springform pan lip-side down. Lightly spray with oil, then line with parchment. Wrap outside of pan with a large square of heavy-duty foil, making sure all sides come up to the top edge. (This keeps water from leaking through during baking.) Double-wrap, if needed.
  • Stir graham cracker crumbs with butter in a medium bowl until moist. Press over bottom of prepared pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Boil a kettle of water. Beat cream cheese with sour cream in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, scraping down sides occasionally, until smooth. Beat in 1 1/4 cups sugar, flour and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, just until blended. Place prepared pan in the centre of a shallow-sided roasting pan. Pour cheese mixture over crust. Set roasting pan in centre of oven. Pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up side of pan.
  • Bake until filling is almost set when springform pan is jiggled, about 1 hour and 5 min. Remove roasting pan to a rack. Run a knife around inside of cake pan to help prevent cracking. Let stand until water cools, about 30 min. Remove pan from water. Discard foil. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours.
  • Stir cranberries with clementine juice, 1/3 cup sugar, water and 2 tsp zest in a small saucepan. Boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until berries are soft and sauce turns syrupy, 8 to 10 min. Cool and serve with cheesecake. Sprinkle remaining 1 tsp zest overtop.

Serves 8 | Per serving 717 calories, 12 g protein, 66 g carbs, 47 g fat, 2 g fibre, 527 mg sodium.