Turkey Day is just around the corner, which has most everyone dreaming about mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. There’s a time and place for those tried-and-true passed-down recipes to shine, but more and more folks are craving a looser menu with friends ahead of the big day – a more casual foodie gathering celebrating camaraderie and veering away from the traditional sides and mains. We heard from local catering chefs and a mixologist on best bets for creating a truly unique Friendsgiving spread.
“I think the best Friendsgiving menus are the kind that allow you to mix it up and kind of mess with the classics. We can always do a turkey if you want…but what about braised short rib with creamy spiced potato, or cauliflower with a rich romesco sauce? Roasted delicata squash is always a fall favorite. I love Friendsgiving – it’s none of the pressure, all of the fun.”
–Kaitlin Owens, Fox and Whale Catering
Owens recommends starting things off with a charcuterie spread. For sides, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto; sauteed green beans with buttered almonds; leafy green salad; and pearl couscous with sweet potato, pine nuts, and golden raisins are all creative uses of seasonal harvests. Swap turkey for rosemary lamb chops or braised chicken thighs. A round of mini apple cider donuts concludes this Friendsgiving meal, or “Convince friends to bring pie – it’s always the best!” advises Owens.
“Make sure to include things for everyone! Offer some gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian, and vegan options so that all your guests can be included. Oftentimes get-togethers have the same favorites, so switch it up with new and exciting dishes and fun twists on the classics. Put some
pomegranate molasses in your cranberry sauce, or toss your Brussels sprouts in an exotic spice blend, like dukkah or za’atar, so it gives a different flavor profile to the dishes we know and love.”
–Julie and Dean Couchey, SoCo Vedge
Kick off a vegan Friendsgiving feast with butternut squash bisque with a hint of harissa. “The spicy and sweet combo is unexpected and delicious,” the Coucheys explain, and instead of mashed potatoes, why not play with celery root or rutabaga? “A fun twist on a main entree is slow roasting a whole head cauliflower with poultry seasoning. Cook covered in foil for roughly 45 minutes at 350ºF, and remove the foil for the last 15 minutes to give it a crispy exterior that everyone at the table will want to try.” SoCo Vedge also offers a vegan spin on pumpkin cheesecake for dessert.
“My advice would be to lead with what you can do instead of what you cannot. Opening up your home/living space for others and making it comfortable for them should be the priority. Manage expectations; don’t promise a 12-course feast when your apartment barely seats four.”
–Michael Silva, MXR Cocktails
For any size of gathering, prepare drinks in advance so there’s no need to play bartender throughout the evening. “Get creative with sangria and mulled wine,” says Silva, or purchase a locally made drink kit from MXR – garnishes included – to take the work out of concocting your own recipe. The Whiskey Sour is a classic choice, or Your Love is on Fire uses a cinnamon syrup – either can be prepared from the contents of a MXR Whiskey Box.
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