I love the concept of Friendsgiving, a dinner you throw with your friends in the days leading up to Thanksgiving knowing you’ll have to spend time with your family on the actual day.
It’s more casual, less fussy, usually more wine is involved, and it’s far less political. You don’t have to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes when it comes to family tradition, and the awkward silences and stress over the seating chart seems to be greatly diminished. In all, it’s probably closer to what Thanksgiving aspires to be — a gathering with the people you love, filled with laughter and grateful hearts.
Because of it’s fluidity and inclusive attitude, Friendsgiving is also a time to get a little more playful with the menu.
Inspired by an afternoon apple picking with my friend Yasmine, I knew an apple dessert was in the cards, but I didn’t want to do something as rote as apple pie. Instead, I went with an apple galette served with a heaping cloud of applejack spiked whipped cream.
The leftover apples, with branches and leaves attached to them, made for a perfect tablesetting. The next tentpole for my meal was what to do about the turkey. For a gathering of friends, a full roast felt a bit over the top, and honestly, a bit stressful. I didn’t want to deal with brining and babysitting a bird when I’d rather hang out and be part of the conversation.
Instead, I used Cuban lechon as an inspiration, and marinated turkey thighs in a bright and flavorful mix of citrus, garlic, and oregano, and then slow roasted it until it was completely tender. It’s almost impossible to dry out the turkey this way, and so much easier to carve. Everything else fell into place for a delicious and low key feast.
Each of these dishes are perfect options for a potluck meal, and easy to transport to a friend’s house to serve. So, gather the ingredients with friends, cook together, and eat with the people you love. And though it may seem a bit cheesy, don’t forget to go around the table and share what you’re most grateful for, it is tradition after all.
Truffle Goat Cheese Parker House Rolls
1 1/2 cups milk
4 oz (one stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing
1/3 cup sugar
2 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups all-purpose flour
4 oz chevre (fresh goat cheese), crumbled
Truffle oil (optional)
Truffle Salt, for garnish
Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and sugar and let cool. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy. Combine milk mixture, eggs, yeast, salt, and 1/2 of the flour in a mixer with the dough attachment and mix until smooth. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until a smooth ball forms. Continue kneading for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth, damp to the touch but not sticky, and pliable.
Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 60 to 70 minutes. On a floured surface, punch down the dough and press into a rectangle about an inch thick. Sprinkle with chevre and roll up like a jelly roll. Slice the roll into 12 slices, and form the rounds into small balls. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover again and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven 350 degrees F.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter with a few drops of truffle oil before serving, and sprinkle with truffle salt. Eat immediately.
Bacon Miso Kabocha Soup
4lbs kabocha squash (or pumpkin), halved and deseeded
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 brown onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 tablespoon white miso
3 sprigs of parsley
1 bay leaf
pinch of chili flake
8 cups chicken broth
Preheat oven to 425F. Drizzle the butternut and kabocha squashes with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper on a roasting pan. Chuck them into the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until soft and tender.
Meanwhile, let’s get started on the broth. Over medium heat in a large pot, cook the bacon until not quite crisp. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until golden brown (about 15 minutes). Add the celery and carrot and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the miso and stir to combine. Add the chicken broth, parsley, chili flake, and bay leaf, bring to a simmer and let it go for 10 minutes or so.
Scoop out the soft interior of the kabocha squashes. Pluck out the bay leaf and parsley and add the squash to the soup. Let it all simmer together for about 10 minutes. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or a regular standing blender. Put it back in the pot taste for seasoning. Adjust the salt, pepper, and add brown sugar if it needs some sweetness. If it’s too thick, add a little water until it’s the perfect consistency.
To serve, ladle the soup into each bowl and top with a spoon full of sour cream. Drizzle with brown butter. Enjoy!
Lechon Style Turkey
6-pounds boneless turkey thighs (skin on)
20 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 and 1/2 cups sour orange juice (If you can’t get sour orange juice in your area, use two parts orange to one part lemon and one part lime)
1 cup onion, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 and 1/2 cups olive oil
Mash the garlic, salt, and peppercorns together with a mortar and pestle.
Add dried oregano, onion, and the sour orange to make a mash — mix thoroughly.
Heat the olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan until hot, but NOT deep frying hot! We’re looking for something in the neighborhood of 220 degrees F. Remove the saucepan from the heat source. Carefully add the mash to the hot oil and whisk gently. Let cool.
Pierce the pork as many times as you can with a sharp knife or fork.
Pour garlic mixture (save a little for roasting) over turkey, cover and let sit in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or preferably overnight.
To roast in the oven, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place the turkey thighs fattest side up in an open roasting pan. Place pan in oven and reduce temperature to 225 degrees F. Spoon extra marinade over the roast occasionally as it cooks. Using a meat thermometer, roast should be removed from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees F. — for fork tender, “pulled-pork” quality. (If you want a roast you can slice, remove when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F.)
Immediately cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Roasted Vegetables with Pistachio Mint Pesto
3 lbs root vegetables (potatoes, yams, carrots, parsnips) cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pistachio Mint Pesto
1/4 cup raw pistachios (shelled)
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup basil
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmiggiano cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine everything in a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms. Cover and hold in the fridge until ready to use.
Frangipane (Almond Cream):
1 cup raw almonds, more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 oz applejack (optional)
3 pounds Granny Smith Apples or other firm textured apple
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg, plus a tablepoon of water (Egg Wash)
AppleJack Whipped Cream
1 cup whipping cream
1 oz apple jack
2 tablespoons sugar
Directions for the frangipane:
In the bowl of your food processor, process the almonds and flour until finely ground. Then add the rest of the ingredients and process until you have a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for up to three days.
Directions for the pastry:
Once the puff pastry has defrosted (but is still cool), place on a lightly floured surface and roll into two 8 x 12 inch rectangles. Spread a thin layer of frangipane on each pastry, leaving about a 1/4 inch border. Cover and refrigerate the pastries while you prepare the apples.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel and cut the apples into thin slices. Place in a large bowl and toss with the sugar and ground cinnamon. Remove the puff pastry from the refrigerator and lay the apple slices on top of the frangipane, overlapping the slices.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the apples are slightly browned and tender and the puff pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. If desired, place under the broiler to caramelize the ends of the apples. Serve with applejack whipped cream.
Directions for the whipped cream:
Whip the cream in a cold bowl until thickened, but not stiff, and add the applejack and sugar. Keep whipping until stiff peaks form.
Do you celebrate Friendsgiving?
Images via Claire Thomas