Create a Tasty and Memorable Friendsgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!

Blog Post Friendsgiving

Every November, I get to see my extended family back in the Midwest, and we catch up, play board games, stuff ourselves silly with food and eventually fall asleep in various uncomfortable positions around the house. This might be the only time each year I see certain family members, so we always make it count.

When I lived in Pittsburgh during culinary school, it wasn’t always feasible to make the trek home. Not everyone can be with family every Thanksgiving, so my friends and I held Friendsgiving — a day we gave thanks for our strong friendships and our even better share our family recipes with each other!

I thought I would share my favorite recipes to get your party started. Here are my tips to help keep the meal fun and focus on spending time with friends!

Tip 1: Buy turkey breasts! 

As tradition has it, Turkey is the star of every Thanksgiving feast. Don’t hassle with waking up at 4 a.m. on Thanksgiving day to start the turkey slow roasting like my (saintly) mom does. Buy turkey breasts to serve at your Friendsgiving! Turkey breasts are readily available during the holiday season and they look just like gigantic chicken breasts. These are a perfect work-around and can be cooked in much the same manner but in a third of the time. If your Friendsgiving is for a smaller group (6 or fewer), another solution is to roast whole chickens. Whole chickens are perfect for those not looking to have a lot of leftover meat from a 20-pound bird and they will also cook in less time (~2 hours as opposed to 4+ hours).

Tip 2: Let’s talk potatoes!

There are so many types of potatoes and recipes to try, I wanted to share my favorite with you! Attaining perfectly fluffy clouds of spuds is an achievement that should have its own holiday, in my opinion.

To get that sought-after balance of airy potatoes and satisfying stick-to-your-ribs goodness, there are a few key steps you should take:

  1. Pick the right spud; I prefer either Yukon Gold or the traditional Idaho. They both have what it takes to make great mash.
  2. Peel thoroughly; Homestyle potatoes with the skin on are great with rosemary and a nice ribeye, but it comes to Friendsgiving, I want nothing but starchy, pillowy goodness without any interference.
  3. When you cook your potatoes, start them in cold water and put them on the stove top to cook. If you start your potatoes in hot water the outside with cook faster than the inside making the outer parts gummy while the inside remains undercooked. Your potatoes are done when you can stab them with a paring knife and they easily slide off.
  4. When you’re ready to mash the potatoes, use an electric handheld mixer to give you control over the entire process. Some recipes have you mash the potatoes by hand, which will make it more of a hassle to get that pillowy consistency we have talked about. Other recipes use a stand mixer, which can “over mash” the potatoes, making them dense and gummy. And you don’t want to be the friend who ruins the potatoes…trust me.

*Note: Mash your cooked potatoes before adding butter and milk. This makes it easier to eliminate lumps, and the hand mixer won’t spray milk everywhere if it hits a "bump".

Tip 3: Stuffing: Cook it outside the bird, avoid food poisoning, and prosper

Stuffing can be as much of an obsession as the perfect mashed potatoes. You can cook your stuffing inside of the turkey or bake it separately in the oven along side the bird. I prefer the latter, and here’s why: Much of the food poisoning that takes place on Thanksgiving revolves around undercooked stuffing, and the risk goes up if you are using shellfish like oysters or clam juice in your recipe. Cooking it separately will allow you to ensure that ALL of the stuffing is fully cooked. Trust me — you don’t want to lose the ability to host Friendsgiving next year because you made everyone sick.

Let’s say that you ignore my advice and prefer to go for the more traditional route of cooking your stuffing in bird. You might say, “Chef, I have a digital thermometer and I will be sure to temp directly in the center of the stuffing to the tune of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.” Great! Might I add though, that by cooking the stuffing to the proper temperature you have almost certainly overcooked the bird surrounding it.

Whether you cook your stuffing in or outside of your bird, please make sure you have covered your food safety basics by cooking it thoroughly.

Tip 4: Set it and forget it with a casserole!

I have included to of my favorite vegetable side dishes that are served at the Scheer Thanksgiving celebration every year.

First up is my Aunt Lori’s Scalloped Corn Casserole. Casseroles are a staple in the Midwest.

Scalloped Corn is the end result of crossbreeding cornbread and creamed corn. I picked this for its homey simplicity and tastiness. Truthfully, I don’t eat it at any other time than Thanksgiving day.

Another family favorite that I always look forward to is my mom’s Lima Bean Casserole.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz Frozen Lima Beans
  • 16 oz Frozen Chopped Broccoli
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1 Bag of Dry French Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 Can of Campbells Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 (6 oz) can of Water Chestnuts
  • 1 Stick of Butter
  • 4 Cups of Rice Krispies

Open both packages of frozen veggies and par boil in slated water for one minute. Drain and set aside. Stir together your sour cream, french onion soup mix, and your can of cream of mushroom soup. Add your veggies and the drained water chestnuts. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and pour in your mixture of veggies and sauce. Next melt your butter in a medium sized sauce pot. When melted add your rice krispies and toast for appx. 3 min. Add Rice Krispies to the top of the casserole and bake at 350 for 35 min.

Both recipes are made from simple everyday ingredients that won’t add too much to the cost of your Friendsgiving, and your friends will thank you.

Tip 5: The Yin must have a Yang

Finally, it wouldn’t be the holidays without cranberry sauce. Remember the can-shaped monstrosity you avoided at the Thanksgiving table every year? Stuff that in the garbage and use my recipe below instead. This recipe will give you a refreshing acidic “Yin" meant to cut through the stick to your ribs gravy train “Yang” of almost everything else on the table. It’s really quite simple. Here it is:

  1. Boil water sugar and cranberries together until you cranberries pop open.
  2. Lower your heat to a light simmer and add zest and spices.
  3. Reduce liquid by half.
  4. Pull off heat and serve!

Whether you are going to be celebrating at home with relatives or your adopted family of friends, I hope that you use these tips to make a feast for all to remember.

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