September 28, 2023

Friendsgiving: the Chilled-Out Thanksgiving You Simply Must Try

For those who have never experienced it, the lesser-known November holiday known as Friendsgiving is definitely a must-try.

Not to detract from our traditional feast of the early American settlers and native peoples. But Friendsgiving just flows so well after the build-up that is an 18-lb. roasted bird, 17 side dishes and 24 of your favorite relatives elbow-to-elbow around a table, wedged into a corner of the dining room for 2+ hours of turkey and togetherness.

So what is Friendsgiving, you ask? Well, it can really be anything you want it to be.

Typically, it’s a gathering of giddy pals around a smorgasbord of fall and Thanksgiving foods… without the pressure to perfectly prepare Aunt Elsie’s signature stuffing recipe, not burn the gravy, not engage in heated political discussions, etc.

One could call Friendsgiving a post-Thanksgiving potluck. Each guest brings some form of leftovers from their Thursday feast, or cooks up something quick and creative along the autumnal edibles theme.

Ideas for what to bring to your Friendsgiving gathering:

A smoked turkey breast.

Usually lots of people end up with that free turkey breast that ShopRite gives away which doesn’t quite feed a crowd on Thanksgiving proper.

This free slab of meat is a great excuse to make more stuffing (which, unlike the can-shaped cranberry mold, never seems to be left over after Thanksgiving).

Sources say that injecting your turkey breast with brine before smoking will enhance the flavor and juiciness of the meat as well as make it more tender.

You can prep your meat in advance and then set it up for some-odd hours of smoking away in an outdoor smoker as you and your friends work up an appetite while imbibing.

Amber and pumpkin ales, hard cider and dry red wine.

Yes, I know: white wine traditionally goes with turkey. But most wine drinkers enjoy a nice red blend with a big fall meal. Beer and cider are nearly always welcomed at a fall gathering. Non-alcoholic options include mulled cider, and mulled cider.

Roasted root vegetables.

This makes a delightful accompaniment to your smoked turkey, and it’s simple to prepare.

Just pick up a few each of white potato, sweet potato, turnips, onion, parsnips and carrots. Roughly cut into chunks. Arrange on a baking pan and drizzle with oil and a shake or two of rosemary and sage.

Bake at 350 until you can pierce with a fork. Then remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley.

Sausage is one ingredient that we never get enough of at Thanksgiving. You can make some sausage-stuffed mushrooms to have as an hors d’oeuvre.

Basically you’re stuffing mushroom caps with a mix of cooked sausage meat, minced garlic, bread crumbs, minced mushroom stems, olive oil and parmesan.

Or if that’s too much trouble, throw together a sausage stuffing.

To do this, brown up some sausage meat in a big frying pan, then drain and set aside. Cut up chunks of bread. Toast these up in the pan with hot sausage drippings and a little olive oil and or butter added as necessary. Season with rosemary and sage. Stir. Set aside.

Next, saute mushrooms, celery,  onions in more oil. Once cooked, add the bread chunks in and toss all together in the hot pan. Incorporate the sausage meat. Sprinkle in parsley if desired.

Remove from the pan and add to a casserole dish. Pour chicken broth over all. Bake at 350 for maybe 15 minutes along with any other sides that you plan to serve with your turkey.

Other dishes to try at your Friendsgiving celebration:

Apple or pear sauce, cauliflower casserole, a big salad or an encore of that classic favorite, green bean casserole made with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions.

Or… you might decide for Friendsgiving to indulge in the recipes of preference that your friends are likely to indulge in.

You may have some low carb lovers, vegans, vegetarians, Indian folks who like to put a curry spin on turkey dishes, Italians who relish a hearty lasagna on Friendsgiving… or perhaps you’re a crowd of German food fans who just can’t get enough wurst, red cabbage and schnitzel at this festive time of year.

And then there’s the decision not to cook at all on Friendsgiving. Your get-together can be even more relaxing and enjoyable with a simple phone call to a local food purveyor or maybe some appetizer crudites.

Should you host your Friendsgiving feast before or after the actual Thanksgiving holiday? Well, that’s up to you and your crew.

I would assert that a post-turkey day shindig is the best way to go. People usually need to decompress after all of the traditional holiday buildup. The laid-back version of Thanksgiving definitely makes a nice way to finish off the festivities.

If you’ve never tried Friendsgiving, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love it and want to adopt it as your yearly tradition.

Just think of it: a toasty fire on a crisp fall evening, the aroma of smoked meat in the air, beer and wine flowing, easy conversation and laughter of good friends… now this is a holiday that our forefathers would appreciate!