Thanksgiving Entertaining with Tucker Shaw

The Cook's Country Editor in Chief's holiday meal will feature bubbles, Two-Hour (yes, just two hours!) Turkey and Gravy, and rooting against the Cowboys.

Published Nov. 21, 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 week 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 9). This week, Tucker Shaw shares the details of his holiday celebration.

Tucker Shaw's Thanksgiving

Home or away?


When do your festivities kick off?

Cocktails at 6:00, dinner at 8:00. Daytime feasts are fun, but I prefer an evening Thanksgiving. Flickery candlelight, Ella Fitzgerald in the background, and lots of bubbly wine. When I host, it’s bubbles before dinner, bubbles during dinner, and bubbles after dinner. In other words, buy lots of bubbles, folks, and make sure you have room in the fridge to keep them cold. (No room in the fridge? Fill a cooler with ice.)

Any special diets to consider?

I make a point of having plenty of meatless dishes on hand so guests can fill up on veggies if that’s their preference. And of course plenty of nonalcoholic drinks (fizzy water especially) for those who’d rather not indulge.

Tucker's Thanksgiving

What's your favorite recipe?

Hey, we’re in a time crunch, right? That’s why I love the Cook’s Country Two-Hour Turkey and Gravy. A couple of small but careful cuts through the skin between the breast and the thigh on both sides and then a visit to a high-temperature oven allow this turkey to cook quickly and evenly. It won’t hold together in that classic Norman Rockwell way, so your photo op might be compromised, but the meat will be juicy and the gravy will be savory and your guests will be happy.

What's your family's consensus pick recipe?

I’d be shunned if I didn’t put out a Maple Syrup Pie. Guests tend to bring pies whether they’ve been asked to or not. This is a good thing! But you do run the risk of a pumpkin pie glut. Enter the unexpected maple syrup pie, which is sweet and surprising and a total breeze to make. It works perfectly with a store-bought pie crust, which means one less thing to sweat. Just make sure to leave time for it to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Overnight is fine too. Serve it with whipped cream that you’ve bolstered with a bit of bourbon.

Any new recipes this year?

I’m nuts about our new recipe for Jalapeño-Cheddar Corn Bread. Some folks might not see this as a Thanksgiving dish but I love hot peppers and this supersimple recipe comes together in a flash and can be made the day before or even early Thursday morning. Slathered with tons of soft butter, a wedge of this flavorful bread is better than a dinner roll and its subtle heat adds a spicy twist to your plate. (Important: Be sure to leave plenty of butter out to soften before dinner. Hard butter is a major dinner-party foul.)

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

Plenty of plastic storage containers that you don’t mind sending home with people. Everyone wants leftovers. If you’re intent on getting them back (good luck!), stick a strip of masking tape on the base and Sharpie your name on it.

What’s your pie preference?

Maple Syrup Pie! (See above.)

When will the first turkey sandwich get made?

Midnight on Thursday. Be sure to buy extra mayo and fresh bread in anticipation.

Will anyone be watching football?

Absolutely, totally, definitely, wouldn’t be T-day without it. Dallas and Detroit each host a game on Thanksgiving every year, and tradition requires the games to be on while we cook. If I have to choose one game to watch closely, it’ll be the Cowboys versus the Chargers and I’ll cheer (begrudgingly) for the Chargers, or more specifically, I’ll cheer against the Cowboys. Why? Because I was a kid in Denver in the 1970s, when the Cowboys killed the Broncos in Super Bowl XII. The pain lingers for this lifelong Broncos fan.

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 these articles:

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