Summer Entertaining

Summer Entertaining with America's Test Kitchen: Dan Souza's Snack Attack Party

Dan's party will feature plenty of finger food, plenty of drinks to sip on, and a little Fleetwood Mac for good measure.

Published Aug. 29, 2017.

Summer is nearing its end, which means we have precious few more chances to take the party outdoors. Each week, cast members from our TV shows and editors from our magazines will be laying out the details for their ideal summer party, from the music played to the menu to—most importantly—the drinks available at the bar. Today, we party with Cook's Science executive editor Dan Souza


I keep things so casual when I have people over that to call it entertaining feels generous. My game plan is always the same: prep a bunch of stuff ahead of time and let everyone graze, sip, hang, repeat. My requirements for the food are that everything be bite-size, hand-holdable, and intensely flavored (to pair with the booze!), so I mix and match cultures and cuisines more than The Cheesecake Factory. (I promise it works.) (Ed's note: Recipes are free until September 14th, 2017.)  

The Menu

Illustrations by Emily Phares

Anything the Spanish (world-renowned summer entertainers) serve as a tapa is welcome at my party. I make two or three of these Spanish Tortillas the morning of and slice them into tender, eggy cubes that can be stabbed with a toothpick and plunked into a bowl of this alioli. I have a theory that Spanish cuisine is essentially an excuse to consume olive oil in different textures and forms. I give you these two recipes as support.

Bryan Roof (who, by the way, also knows how to summer entertain and consume lots of olive oil) developed this recipe for Pork Tinga when he was a test cook for Cook’s Illustrated. While I would never admit this to him, I’ll share with you that I think it’s one of the best recipes in our whole archive. The shredded pork manages to stay crispy-chewy under a blanket of smoky, spicy, tomatoey-sweet sauce. I let my friends scoop it straight from the skillet onto some freshly fried corn tortillas and top it with rough chopped cilantro leaves, crumbled queso fresco, and lime.

Cook's Illustrated test cook Andrew Janjigian is a pizza prodigy. You could make his Grilled Pizza or Thin-Crust Pizza and you’d have a party on your hands (and in your mouth), but for supereasy entertaining, I go for his Thick-Crust Sicilian-Style Pizza. Double the recipe and you’re looking at two crispy, plush, chewy, cheesy baking sheets of pizza fun. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll create a little pizza recrisping station in the “back yard” (an 8-foot-square of asphalt behind my apartment): I build a small fire in my charcoal grill, place my baking steel on top of the grates, and let folks crisp and char the bottom of their pizza to order. This gets more dangerous (exciting?) as the night progresses.

No recipe required: Plenty of oysters, charcuterie, and cheese. 

For Dessert: I’m not a big sweets guy, personally, but I’d be taking my life in my own hands if I didn’t have dessert for my crew. I love serving Butterscotch Pudding (topped with unsweetened whipped cream and flake sea salt) because it’s one of those desserts that everyone forgot about. But one caramel-y, buttery, slightly bitter spoonful and you feel like a little kid again. And isn’t that the whole point of a summer party?

Beer: I’ve got to have three “levels” of beer on offer. A crisp, refreshing pilsner or pilsner-style beer such as Pilsner Urquell or Victory Prima Pils; a medium-hoppy, medium-alcohol pale ale such as Lagunitas 12th of Never Ale (which comes in a fun purple can!); and a seriously hoppy New England-style IPA such as those from Alchemist in Vermont or Trillium here in Boston.

Wine: Lots of it, in a range of colors and temperatures.

Cocktails: The home bar is open to anyone looking to shake or stir something up, but I find most folks prefer a premixed option. For that I go for one of my supersmooth milk punches

The Playlist

How about a shuffle of anything by Robyn, Chance the Rapper’s latest, 1989 by Taylor Swift, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, and every Dr. Dog album since the beginning of time. Yep, that sounds good.

Other Details

Ice, ice baby. There’s nothing worse than an under-iced party, so I stock my coolers.

Baking Book

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What are your summer entertaining plans? Let us know in the comments! And for more party inspiration from our cast and editors, read these posts: 

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