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Thanksgiving Entertaining with Dan Souza

Dan plans to celebrate at his parents' house with new takes on Brussels sprouts and Duchess potatoes, and his very own recipe for Roast Heritage Turkey. (It's that good!)

Published Nov. 8, 2017.

We hope this Thanksgiving will find you and your loved ones sitting down to a perfectly cooked turkey, an array of favorite sides, and a pie or three. If you’re hosting dinner or making a side or dessert to take on the road, we’re here for you. After testing thousands of Thanksgiving recipes and cooking for our own families over the last 25 years, we know exactly what needs to happen between now and November 23rd—the planning, the shopping, the cooking. Find all of our Thanksgiving recipes and tips in our Thanksgiving Guide.

Each Thursday until the big day, one of our test kitchen experts will share their go-to recipes, which will be available free on our member websites for one week (until November 16). This week, Dan Souza shares the details of his holiday celebration.

Home or away?

Home, as in my parents’ house about an hour outside of Boston. It’s where I grew up, and it’s where Thanksgiving feels right.

When do your festivities kick off?

Late in the day! I’m a night owl and take every opportunity I can to sleep in on weekends and holidays. But I go to my folks’ house the night before Thanksgiving, do a ton of prep (and wine drinking) with my mom, and then stay over. My mom is up early the next day baking her pies, so I get to lazily wake to the finest smell in the world.

Any special diets to consider?

My mom has some dietary needs that would sink lesser cooks, but she’s so talented that she’s found ingenious work-arounds and recipe tweaks for pretty much every classic. If she weren’t happily retired, I’d try to recruit her as a test cook for our book team, which constantly tackles things such as gluten-free and low-sugar baking.

Dan Souza's Thanksgiving recipes

What’s your favorite recipe?

This is going to sound so self-aggrandizing, but outside of my mom’s whipped potatoes and apple pie (my true loves!), I have to say it’s my Roast Heritage Turkey recipe. I thought I didn’t like turkey until I started developing this recipe back in 2014 and realized that I just don’t like most turkey. Heritage birds, while seriously pricey, offer richness, depth of flavor, and texture that put them in their own (very delicious) league.

What’s your family’s consensus pick recipe?

Lots and lots of stuffing (okay, technically it’s dressing). Everyone in my family loves stuffing, so the table would feel mighty empty without it. And if you don’t make stuffing for Thanksgiving, you can’t pack leftover stuffing into rounds and griddle them in butter for lunch the next day. And if you can’t do that, what are you even thankful for?

Any new recipes this year?

I’m head over heels for [Cook's Illustrated test cook] Annie Petito’s new recipe for Skillet-Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Annie likes to say that give her 10 minutes and she’ll make you the best Brussels sprouts you’ve ever had. And she’s right.

And I’m going to double down on potatoes this year and add in [Cook's Illustrated test cook] Lan Lam’s Duchess Potato Casserole. I remember making and devouring fussy Duchess Potatoes in culinary school and then NEVER MAKING THEM AGAIN. Lan’s recipe delivers all of the eggy richness and comforting flavor of the French original but in a streamlined, make ahead–friendly casserole. I’m expecting many new fans!

And I’m also looking forward to turning my roast turkey carcass into great stock for soup using [Cook's Illustrated test cook] Steve Dunn’s brilliant-in-its-simplicity Simple Turkey Stock.

What’s your must-have gadget for Thanksgiving cooking?

I gotta have a bounty of rimmed baking sheets. I know, not the sexiest answer. But they are just so darn useful. They are there for me when I need to roast my turkey, dry bread for stuffing, caramelize winter squash, and transfer pies to the oven. My dad (a consummate woodworker) has been quoted saying, “he who dies with the most clamps wins.” I’m confident that in my golden years I’ll be judging my legacy with baking sheets.

What’s your pie preference?

Apple, apple, apple. Though I would happily make our silky smooth Pumpkin Pie if it would appease certain family members.

When will the first turkey sandwich get made?

11:00pm on Thanksgiving night.

Will the NFL be on TV at some point in the day?

If you mean the National Food League, then yes. Absolutely yes.

Meals that impress

All-Time Best Holiday Entertaining

Celebrations call for meals that impress, and with thousands of meticulously tested recipes to our name, guaranteeing that perfect outcome is central to what we do at Cook’s Illustrated. In this definitive collection, we have gathered the absolute best dishes for making your next celebration memorable, stress-free, and, above all, delicious.  
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How do you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this year? Let us know in the comments. And for more of our editors' holiday plans, check out this article (and check back for more in the coming weeks!):

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