How to Host (or Attend) Your Best Friendsgiving Yet
Friendsgiving is a moment to celebrate the family we choose, the community we turn to through the day-to-day triumphs and struggles--our friends. But it’s also a moment to celebrate and prepare the food you choose, dishes you actually want to eat (no offense to turkey and dressing).
Friendsgiving is the best kind of “holiday,” because it’s an occasion designed specifically to celebrate the people you love in whatever fashion suits best. Rather than orchestrating it out of obligation or tradition, a friendsgiving celebration is one completely driven by what makes you happy in your daily life—the things you’re thankful for—namely, food, booze, and friends. It’s an endlessly customizable affair and while its official date essentially depends on your schedule each year, the weekend before Thanksgiving is the most common time to have a friendsgiving meal. Speaking from personal experience, I know that really laying out a plan for this kind of casual gathering of comrades is usually a little bit of a last-minute scramble (which is totally fine), so this seems like a good moment to review the basic to-do’s for a friendsgiving done right.
Like all decent festivities, this is one based around food and drink. And when it comes to planning out the menu, there is but 1 key rule to friendsgiving: Make the food you want to cook, eat, and share with your people.
Remember, you can structure your feast however is most appropriate for your group of friends, but the details of how you go about planning are going to depend on who’s doing the cooking. This can go in 2 general directions…
You’re planning to provide the food.
So you’re gonna play the host with the most and volunteer not only to (kind of) clean up your home and open it to your friends, but also feed them on your own. Way to be, baller. In terms of strict planning and covering all the bases, this is probably the easier route. In terms, of execution… well, there are a few things I’d suggest you keep in mind.
1. You should keep your attendees limited to a number that you and your wallet feel confident serving. Maybe only include your closest friends on the guest list.
2. You might want to consider going with an array of apps and small plates rather than cooking a massive, multicourse family-style meal.
3. You should definitely allow your guests contribute somehow. If you’re covering the food, have your guests bring the booze. Or charge a couple of folks with bringing dessert. Unless you have a personal kitchen staff and some kind of lofty inheritance (in which case, you are welcome to invite me to your friendsgiving), you don’t need to foot the entire shebang.
4. If you don’t feel totally confident in the kitchen (or even if you do, but you’re just freaking busy), recruit some prep help from one of your attendees. I’m not hosting friendsgiving this year, but I have volunteered to assist one of my dearest friends-- who is a home entertaining queen and the natural hostess of our friendsgiving--with the cooking. Because everyone can use a hand.
You’re going potluck-style.
This means everyone gets to contribute a dish they’re excited to make, which can make for a really fun, eclectic, special meal. This would be my preferred path 9 times out of 10, but the 2 major points I’d encourage you to keep in mind are as follows.
1. You do not need to execute a cohesive menu. So you end up with 4 cheesy, starchy sides and barely any fresh vegetables, or someone brings a platter of nachos, which completely clashes with your lasagna—so what? This is a party, after all. And it’s a reflection of your friends’ personalities in food, don’t sweat a little overlap or randomness. Embrace the hodgepodge glory of it all.
2. That said, just so you don’t end up with 3 people bringing pumpkin cheesecake brownies while you literally have no side dishes, create some sort of “sign-up” system (a Facebook event page is always an easy, accessible option) so that folks can let the group know what they plan to bring. And you, the host, can set the tone if you want by letting everyone know what you’re planning on preparing.
With that, let’s get on to the important part—the food. Here are some of the recipes our staff members have selected as items they want to make for friendsgiving this year. Whether you’re hosting or attending, the following dishes provide excellent examples of what a friendsgiving done right might look like.
Appetizers and Drinks
Keep things fun and fresh with a couple of bright, finger-friendly appetizers. Baked Crab Rangoon make for a playful throwback bite, and are super easy to make. Serve them with a little duck sauce and you're golden. It's always a good move to have a lighter, raw veggie snack as well. Crudite served with a vibrant dip like our Lemon-Garlic Edamame Dip is sure to be a win. When guests arrive, you'll want to put a drink in their hand immediately, and having a big-batch of a "signature cocktail" mixed up for the event is the easiest way to do so. A pour of Apple Pie Moonshine over ice is a refreshing, but still ultra autumnal, selection that's hard not to love. But a word to the wise--sip slowly, this stuff is potent. Once everyone has arrived, you can transition to wine and beer for dinner.
Obviously, it's completely up to you, but I feel like it never hurts to have a simple, fresh salad at any dinner party. For this recipe, you're just going to be working with simple mixed greens, because the real star here is the dressing. Total beet freak that I am (seriously, people around here know my largely for my Beet Pie, Beet Sherbet, and the beet inked into my left forearm), this one was my personal pick. Because really... how can you not include a gorgeous, creamy salad dressing made by emulsifying pureed beets with oil and vinegar once you know such a thing exists? People, it's magenta, come on.
Look, for friendsgiving, I'm gonna run about as far in the opposite direction of turkey as I can--and that means, I'm serving BEEF. Going with hunks of beef that can be prepared mostly hands-off and in a big batch is your best bet when cooking for a crowd. I would suggest something hearty and comforting, that also has a dynamic flavor profile to keep things interesting--something like Cantonese Short Ribs (bonus: you make these inthe slow cooker) or Moroccan Pot Roast (bonus: using chuck roast earns you more bang for your buck). Both will provide you with plenty of tasty juices to pour over mashed potatoes--which, as we all know, is a crucial requirement for a holiday entree.
For a fall feast, I'm all about some starchy side action, but sneak a little nutrients on the plate too by tucking some veggie goodness into traditionally carb-only dishes, as with our Mac and Cheese that features pureed butternut squash or these Mashed Potatoes that incorporate celery root. Of course, if mashed isn't really your thing, you can't get any hipper than a hasselback.
And finally, dessert. If you want to go pie (as if that's an "if"), try branching out beyond the traditional pumpkin or pecan for friendsgiving. Our rich Butterscotch Pudding Pie offers plenty of toasty autumnal flavor, but for sure isn't a pie your friends are bored with. And in case you have a couple of folks at the table who aren't fans of pie (unfriend them immediately after this meal... just kidding, sort of), might as well have a cake around too. Something simple and elegant, like this Orange-Olive Oil Cake with Vanilla Glaze, is the way to go after a decadent meal.
So there you are--you're armed with rules and recipes; you're ready to pull off your best friendsgiving yet. Just keep in mind that this is an occasion for you to raise a glass and a fork with your closest companions, so leave stress out of the equation. Save that for next week, when you're making the drive home and mentally fleshing out an explanation to the elders of your family on why you are returning with no engagement ring or offspring to show.