The holidays look very different for many people this year, including me. We knew earlier on that we’d be spending Thanksgiving in Alabama instead of traveling home, and now it’s looking like we’ll be here for Christmas too. Tom and I both miss our families immensely, but we are so so thankful to have each other. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we decided to host Friendsgiving on Saturday, November 28th. It was the highlight of my month.
We kept it small to keep it safe, and also because we only own 6 plates. Everyone that joined is in the same boat as us: following the Army’s General Order 6, which means no eating at restaurants (even if they’re open), face masks in public at all times, and no travel outside a certain radius. I know that gatherings of any kind have become controversial, but we all consciously made the decision to celebrate this holiday together since most of us couldn’t be with our families this year. And it was truly such a blessing.
I’ve only cooked a turkey once, back in 2018 when it was my family’s turn to host Thanksgiving. I also had two ovens to work with then, versus the one I have in the apartment now. I was determined to have all the classics though: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, etc. In addition, I wanted to try my hand at stuffing and pumpkin pie. I definitely couldn’t have managed everything by myself, so we doled out duties to our group. I decided to handle the turkey, cranberry sauce, green beans, stuffing, and pie. Our friend, Patrick, brought mashed potatoes, gravy, and rolls. Our friends Nick and Madalyn brought roasted veggies and cranberry bliss bars. And then we feasted.
I know traditional Thanksgiving meals are at an end (how is it already December tomorrow!), but maybe you’ll find some tips in this post for next year, or to use at Christmas. Here’s the info on everything I prepared:
In 2018, I used Tieghan’s Herb and Butter Roasted Turkey recipe and loved it so much I’ll probably use it every year I cook a turkey. I used thyme, sage, rosemary, and Kerrygold butter to season the turkey. It’s ~key~ to rub the butter under the skin as well as on the outside of the bird. But the #1 tip from this recipe: don’t skip the butter-soaked cheesecloth. Seriously. It will change your turkey-cooking game. I basted mine about every 45 minutes and rotated it once. I also used Zoup’s Chicken Broth because I forgot about my homemade broth in all the hubbub, and I was pleased with the quality. I used the drippings to make the white wine gravy detailed in Tieghan’s post, but it was a last minute decision and I kind of just winged it. I just simmered the drippings until reduced, scooped in some butter and flour, whisked, added white wine, and that was that. It was salty, but in the kind of way that makes the corner’s of your lips turn up, and we put it all over our turkey. Don’t worry though, Patrick’s gravy and his mashed potatoes were a match made in heaven. While mine was very runny, his was thick and silky and thinking about it right now is making my mouth water.
THE GREEN BEANS
I made this dish a few months ago and knew it needed to be included in our Thanksgiving spread. I adapted the recipe from Kate’s Green Bean Salad with Toasted Almonds and Feta. Her recipe is definitely on the healthier side compared to mine for one personally specific reason: I really only enjoy green beans when they’re cooked in butter and garlic until nearly burnt. So my method of cooking the green beans differs from the original recipe, but I still dress the dish up in feta, toasted almonds (or walnuts), and that delicious lemon Dijon dressing. I’ll talk more about my green beans in another post soon.
THE MUSHROOM CORNBREAD STUFFING
My original plan was to make a classic stuffing. Nothing fancy, because I’ve never made stuffing before. But the day before Friendsgiving I saw an article that listed each state’s most popular Thanksgiving side dish, and Alabama’s was mushroom cornbread ~dressing~ because apparently that’s what they call stuffing in the south? Idk. The recipe I found was… let’s just say not my style, so I was planning on fully winging this dish. Thankfully, I discovered that Bon Appetit has it’s own version. We bought an extra large cast iron at Walmart on Friday specifically to make this dish and I am so glad we did! It was a total hit. While very unique and not at all what I associate with stuffing, it was fun to challenge myself to try something new. This was the last thing I made on Saturday and it was also the most stressful dish to make, but it was well worth it.
In my heart of hearts, I wanted to make my Gramma’s cranberry sauce (which is actually my great-grandmother’s recipe). I always make sure to take a large portion of the leftovers home with me because I smear it on everything for the week or so after Thanksgiving. Plus, her recipe could not be more simplistic: cranberries, apples, sugar. That’s it. Unfortunately, to get that perfect, slightly crunchy but also juicy texture, she uses an old-fashioned grinder. I was going to attempt to make it in our food processor, but didn’t want to end up with mush, which would be an injustice to the OG recipe. So I turned to trusty Bon Appetit again and simmered this beauty into existence. It wasn’t Gramma’s, but it’s still pretty delicious, and I will be smearing it on everything for the next week or so. I used orange bitters instead of orange liqueur.
GINGERSNAP PUMPKIN PIE
If I’ve ever made a pumpkin pie before, I don’t remember doing so. Probably because it was a crushed graham cracker crust with canned purred pumpkin pie scooped into it. This pie, however, was a labor of DIY ~love~. I made my own pumpkin puree, my own sweetened condensed milk, and some of my own alterations. I loosely followed 3 separate recipes to make this happen: BA’s Best Pumpkin Pie, Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk, and Holiday Ginger Snap Crust. I will be recreating my Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie soon to perfect it, so keep an eye out for that. Tom whipped some heavy whipping cream to soft-peak perfection by hand while we all looked on.
Tom’s jobs on Friendsgiving were to make a cocktail all of us could enjoy and be my sous chef. He did both jobs spectacularly. He chose this Gin Punch recipe and it was a crowd pleaser. At first sip, it gives the impression of being a little too sweet (for my taste), but as you finish your first sip you find yourself already taking a second. All of the flavors are subtle and meld together into boozy perfection. If you’re worried about it being too sweet, just go a little lighter on the sugar in the burnt sage simple syrup and add an extra squeeze of citrus.
Friendsgiving 2020 was a night full of cooking, laughing, eating, drinking, and friendship. There was also ~a lot~ of dishes, turkey doubts, and worry about serving cold food. But those things were so miniscule to the amount of joy I felt. I hope you all had a lovely and safe holiday weekend. Cheers!