“For me, there are few things that are more relaxing than lingering at the table with good friends . . . But I know that for a lot of people, putting together a meal, especially for guests, is the opposite of relaxing . . . I’m here to tell you: It doesn’t have to be that way.” —from the IntroductionAussie Curtis Stone, host of TLC’s Take Home Chef, is best known for his laid-back approach to cooking. Though he’s worked as head chef in several Michelin-starred London restaurants, some of his most memorable meals are the ones he’s shared with friends at home. Now, Curtis shows you how to have as much fun in the kitchen as your guests are sure to have over a comfortable, unforgettable meal. In Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone, you’ll find everything from “First Thing in the Morning” bites and “Brunches to Blow Their Minds” to “Weekend Lunches” and “Something to Eat on the Sofa.” With the home cook in mind, Curtis avoids off-putting culinary lingo and hard-to-find ingredients. Instead, he picks what’s in season and just around the corner. This down-to-earth approach results in wonderfully interesting and flavorful taste combinations that are perfect for parties or just hanging out with a close friend or loved ones. Recipes include:• Caramelized Nectarines with Yogurt and Honey• Crispy Tortilla with Ham, Chile, Spinach, and Fried Eggs• Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad with Pepper-Crusted New York Steak• Pan-Fried Calamari with Roasted Asparagus Salad• Homemade Salted Caramel Popcorn• Baby Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives• Sticky Chicken Drumsticks• Red Curry with Lobster and Pineapple• Veal Cutlet Coated in an Aged Jack Cheese Crust• Slowly Cooked Brisket with a BBQ Bourbon Sauce• Creamy Mascarpone and Parsley Polenta• Brownie CupcakesThese delicious recipes and Curtis’s infectiously easygoing attitude are all it takes to end your entertaining stress and get you and your guests into a relaxing mood.From the Hardcover edition.
Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You in My Favorite Mood
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Recent User Reviews
"Curtis is a Cutie"
Pros - Simple recipes for a wide variety of foods.
Cons - Preparations are not particularly challenging or ground-breaking.
Reviewed by Sandra Bowens
Don't tell my husband, but if Curtis Stone approached me at the supermarket and asked to come home with me, I'd say, "Let's go!" That may seem like an odd fantasy unless you have seen the TV show Take Home Chef. Our adorable chef finds a shopper, helps her plan a menu, choose the ingredients and then follows her home and helps cook dinner.
With his cookbook, Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone, we don't need this "cute meet" to serve up the Australian chef's tasty dishes. They are all laid out in simple to prepare recipes with full page photos that make you want to make that right now. Oh, and some of the full page photographs are of Curtis, too.
The theme here, obviously, is to relax. The best and most memorable meals, Chef tells us, are served at home. His introduction offers suggestions for creating a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere for guests. We are encouraged to prepare locally-grown, high-quality foods simply. The message is, above all, have a good time.
Some folks may find these recipes a little too simple. Seasoned cooks can probably come up with similar dish just by going off the title. Portobello Mushrooms with Ricotta, Tomatoes and Basil or Baby Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives don't exactly break new ground, but a less experienced cook may learn a new technique or two.
Other times, he does add an interesting twist. In the Toasted Bagels with Crispy Prosciutto, Poached Eggs and Spinach the prosciutto is baked in a muffin tin to serve as a clever vehicle for the other ingredients. Pear and mustard chutney livens up a Honey-Glazed Ham Panini.
I prepared eight recipes from Relaxed Cooking with mixed results. My new favorite cookie is Curtis' Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks. These soft, rich treats go together in a snap and everyone who tried them sang their praises.
The Roasted Eggplant Dip with Crispy Pita Chips didn't work out as well. An entire head of garlic proved a bit much for four servings, roasted or not. It seemed redundant to grill the eggplants on the stovetop before roasting them in the oven. I'm guessing that, by now, we all know how to make pita chips, but Curtis tried to put a little twist on them with a sprinkling of parsley. Whatever.
Relaxed Cooking has fun chapter titles. Chapter Two is called Brunch That Will Blow Their Minds. Others include First Thing in the Morning, Crowd-Pleasers and Sides to Share.
I don't think I would want to take Sticky Chicken Drumsticks into the living room as the chapter title, Something to Eat on the Sofa, suggests. Nor did the visiting kids I fed them to become "instantly mesmerized" as Chef described in the notes. In fact, I'm not sure the children at my dinner table even knew chicken had bones until we prepared this delicious recipe that they didn't touch. One of them helped me make the simple marinade and kept saying, "Poor chicken" as we added the legs to the bag. The adults, however, enjoyed the drumsticks and they were a cinch to pull together for a group.
I would be happy to eat Lozza's Corn and Bacon Muffins on the sofa or anywhere else. So easy to make, and forgiving too, since I only had two of the three eggs called for in the recipe. It was difficult to use a 1/2 cup of bacon drippings, but I knew it would be scrumptious. We did skip the final slather of butter that Chef suggests. These rich, savory treasures were terrific for breakfast alongside some leftover salmon and sliced peaches. Everyone ate way more than they should have.
While the recipes in Relaxed Cooking are economically written (most fit onto one page with plenty of eye-pleasing white space), they can be a bit sketchy. The recipe for Chicken and Leek Pie calls for "3 whole corn-fed-chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)." My supermarket carried only the legs without the thigh so it would be helpful to know how many pounds of chicken I needed. Sometimes he specifies the size of the onion, other times he doesn't.
Cooking times don't seem very accurate either. The cookies need a full three minutes longer than the recipe specifies and I ended up making 30 instead of the recipe's yield of 20. Roasting the carrots in preparing Honey-Glazed Heirloom Carrots with Leek and Thyme took twice as long as the 15 minutes suggested. I know, not a big deal, unless you are new cook who assumes they are doing things wrong when adjustments must be made.
Overall, I like this book. The recipes cover a wide variety of foods. The Daily Dinners chapter is chock-full of seafood recipes and the Sides to Share chapter has vegetables as well as polenta and corn bread.
I made the Coconut Rice recipe from that chapter. The result was bizarre. Cooking basmati rice in a combination of chicken stock and coconut milk gave way to a creamy texture as if it were in a sauce. It was at once oddly bland and wildly delicious.
Curtis Stone is a trained chef, a television personality and seems to have a genuine desire to help people cook good food in a laidback manner. Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone reflects all of these attributes. His food is sophisticated yet accessible, and the book is peppered with ideas for entertaining or just enjoying the company of family and friends over the dinner table.
Even if I can't find Curtis at the supermarket, I'll be happy to tuck him away on the cookbook shelf. My husband would probably prefer that anyway.
Recipe: Lozza's Corn and Bacon Muffins
12 ounces hardwood-smoked bacon, coarsely chopped
1 ear yellow corn, husked
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives
Salted butter, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cook the bacon in a large heavy sauté pan over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until it is browned and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels. Brush 12 standard-size muffin cups generously with some of the bacon drippings from the pan, and set aside 1/2 cup of the remaining bacon drippings to cool slightly. Discard any remaining bacon fat.
Use a sharp knife to slice the corn kernels off the cob. You should have about 1 cup.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a large bowl to blend. Whisk the milk, eggs and reserved bacon drippings in another large bowl to blend; then stir in the bacon, 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, the corn kernels, and the chives. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture just until blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing it equally and mounding it generously. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until the muffins are golden and a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let the muffins cool slightly in the cups. Then run a small sharp knife around the muffins to loosen them from the cups, remove them, and serve them warm with salted butter.