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Thanksgiving recipes: Expert advice on everything from stuffing to dessert

Here’s a game plan for preparing the big meal.

Got your turkey? Nailed down the guest list? Identified which topics are absolutely off limits at the dinner table?

Then you’re ready to start cooking.

This year, we’ve got everything you need to pull together the big meal, from tips on side dishes and cocktails to recipes for desserts and more:

Here’s a very basic stuffing recipe you should make.

Make seasonal winter squash part of your meal with these recipes.

Here’s a foolproof recipe for turkey, and a gravy you can make in the pan.

A mixologist weighs in on the best drinks to serve for Thanksgiving.

Instead of pie, try a galette, a dessert that evokes similar vibes but is easier to make.

Don’t want to cook? Here’s where to make reservations for a Thanksgiving meal.

And if you want something besides turkey, try one of these restaurants.

Apple galette
Apple galette [ MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times ]

Asking the experts

For some expert advice, I talked to Jack Bishop, the chief creative officer for America’s Test Kitchen, who has literally been preparing for Thanksgiving with the Test Kitchen team since the beginning of the year.

“March through April, that’s when we’re making the most turkeys, doing the most planning,” Bishop said. “There’s a turkey in the test kitchen every day.”

I wanted to know what home cooks should be doing at this point to prepare.

“Figure out what you’re going to be serving beverage-wise,” Bishop said. “Take a look at your bar. Do some shopping.”

Other suggestions: Start planning the menu; make your pie dough; take stock of your equipment and see what you need. (A roasting pan?)

“Every year, there’s something you don’t remember till Wednesday afternoon,” Bishop said.

If you’re cooking the meal but a guest asks what they can bring, what are some good things to tell them?

“My wife and I are both food people, we’re both control freaks. But I’m always happy for people to bring Champagne, or something to drink,” Bishop said. “If people want to bring cheeses or charcuterie, that’s good. If they don’t get eaten that day, they’re going to be fine the next day. And there’s never too much dessert.”

And as a guest, don’t bring anything that requires too much work on the part of the host, like a dish that needs to be cooked in an already cramped oven.

Bishop likes to make most of his meal from scratch, but said outsourcing something like pie crust, “if that’s the thing that’s holding you back from making homemade pie,” is a smart move.

“A lot of people, if they don’t bake very much, that can be a point of stress. Consider buying a pie from a nice bakery near you, too, if that’s an option,” he said.

Overall: Know your limits and plan a meal that you can actually execute.

“If you can’t take Wednesday off of work, don’t plan a menu with 12 dishes,” Bishop said. “And actually write out a schedule. I do this. I have a little schedule that I’ve written for myself with what I’m going to do at 1 p.m., or 2 p.m., and even though I’ve been doing Thanksgiving for 25 years, I still do it. It keeps me focused.”

One of Bishop’s go-to recipes is this Mashed Potato Casserole. He likes to make this do-ahead side for his family, who doesn’t think it’s Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes.

Mashed Potato Casserole

Mashed potato casserole
Mashed potato casserole [ America's Test Kitchen ]

4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

½ cup half-and-half

½ cup low-sodium chicken broth

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), cut into pieces

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons salt

4 large eggs

¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring potatoes and water to cover by 1 inch to boil in large pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Heat half-and-half, broth, butter, garlic, mustard and salt in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth, about 5 minutes. Keep warm.

Drain potatoes and transfer to large bowl. With electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat potatoes, slowly adding half-and-half mixture, until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape down bowl; beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated, about 1 minute. Fold in chives.

Transfer potato mixture to greased 3-quart baking dish or 13- by 9-inch pan. Bake until potatoes rise and begin to brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve.

The baking dish with the potatoes can be covered with plastic and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, let the casserole sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Increase baking time by 10 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen