Chef Curtis Stone Swears By This Secret Ingredient for Making Salad Dressing

Plus how cooking keeps him connected to his family.

Curtis Stone on a designed background
Photo: Getty Images / Frazer Harrison / Staff

When you ask Curtis Stone to share what he loves about being in the kitchen with his family, he lights up. "It's so fun cooking with them," says the Michelin-starred chef, TV personality and New York Times bestselling author.

According to a recent survey by Bosch home appliances, 64% of Americans still cook meals that their parents or grandparents once made for them as kids. So, we thought it would be fun to find out which dishes Stone makes that connect him to his family.

Of all the things we discussed with the chef, we were pretty excited to learn about a secret-weapon ingredient he uses to make homemade salad dressing. We here at EatingWell are big fans of all things veggies, and we know how a really good dressing can elevate a salad to the next level.

We've added many ingredients to salad dressings that you may not expect—from charred citrus and roasted garlic to fish sauce and red pepper jelly. But the one thing we haven't tried is Stone's go-to: the liquid from pickled vegetables. It's genius, really. The flavorful brine adds salty tanginess in one fell swoop. And with so many pickled veggies out there, the flavor combinations are endless.

That isn't the only thing we learned from Stone. Read on as he talks about his favorite things to cook and the way preparing multigenerational family recipes helps his family connect.

EatingWell: Do your wife and kids like to cook with you?

Stone: They do! They're in the kitchen with me a lot. I always joke that my wife does the heavy lifting since I'm in the restaurant quite late. My wife makes this vegetable lasagna which is pretty killer. We have a nice veggie garden and pick veggies from the garden to use in that dish. The kids love it. It's good to see them eating their veggies!

EatingWell: Are there recipes you love most that you learned from your grandmothers?

Stone: My grannies were such good cooks and bakers—I named my restaurants after them! I still like to look at my grandmothers' recipes. Some are so ancient they say "return to the fire" because they didn't have decent stoves. One of my grannies made this delicious sugary treat called a tablet. It comes from Scotland, and it's made with Majestic biscuits, graham crackers basically.

EatingWell: You're asked to bring a side or appetizer to a summer party—what do you make?

Stone: Since I have a butcher shop, I'm always asked to bring steak to a barbecue. But my wife makes an incredible salad with a little bit of everything. It can have peas, asparagus and watermelon radish in it. We make a nice dressing out of the juice from homemade pickled vegetables mixed with extra-virgin olive oil and some mustard.

EatingWell: Do you have any tricks up your sleeve that help you manage your eating since you're around food all day?

Stone: I try to eat a balanced diet. When you're around food all the time it's wonderful, and you get to taste things all day long, but you have to watch what you eat. For instance, I'll eat before I get to the restaurant or right when I get there, whether it's a salad or a plate of fruit. This way I'm not as hungry when I'm in service. It's a bit like "Don't go to the grocery store when you're hungry."

EatingWell: What do you cook for your kids?

Stone: I make brekkie for my kids every day. I either make them a breakfast burrito, scrambled eggs or avocado toast. For lunch, I'll send them with a crustless quiche, like a frittata with zucchini. They call it Z slice. I put carrots and onion through a grater, mix in eggs, zucchini and cream and bake it. It's a great way to use up leftover veggies.

EatingWell: What dishes do friends and family ask you to make again and again?

Stone: I make a mean roast chicken. It's a recipe that comes from my mom. I say to people all the time, "You've only got to cook the chicken right," but I know people can have trouble with this! Once I make it, I can turn it into chicken enchiladas or use the bones to make soup.

Make it: EatingWell's Basic Whole Roast Chicken

EatingWell: Even chefs have cooking disasters—have there been any recipes you've played around with recently that didn't go according to plan?

Stone: How long have you got! We're constantly developing recipes and, as a chef, you have to experiment and try things. Sometimes you think "this will never work" and try it anyway. Regardless you will learn something from it. For example, we did a tarte tatin, basically an upside-down apple tart. We thought let's spice it up and, instead of just cinnamon or vanilla, we put chile pepper in to see what would happen. It didn't work. When you have caramel and a flaky pastry, it was distracting having the spice there.

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