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Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018 12:01 am

Friendsgiving

PHOTOS BY ASHLEY MEYER
Growing up, my family didn’t play around with Thanksgiving dinner. Other holidays were open to interpretation, but every year on the fourth Thursday of November we ate the exact same meal consisting of turkey roasted with butter and sage stuffed with sausage and onion dressing alongside garlicky mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, creamed spinach, succotash and pumpkin pie – the concrete foundation upon which this holiday was built. Other dishes occasionally made a guest appearance, but Thanksgiving in our house has always been a highly traditional and blissfully delicious affair.

And so it would pass that each year I would peruse the Thanksgiving issues of my favorite cooking magazines, salivating over recipes like yogurt-marinated turkey with biryani rice stuffing. The problem was that our holiday table was already groaning with cherished dishes that no one wanted to bump. The solution to this delightful dilemma: Friendsgiving.

As far as I know, there wasn’t a first Friendsgiving. The term started popping up on Twitter around 2007, referring to a sort of orphan Thanksgiving potluck for those who weren’t going back home for the holiday. The concept has become widely popularized, and now Friendsgiving parties are often thrown just for their own sake, an excuse to try out fun new recipes and get together with friends.

This year we threw our first Friendsgiving and it will certainly not be the last. I smoked a turkey, made a pitcher of cider-bourbon bellinis, and invited more people than my tiny house should probably hold. Everyone brought delicious food and lovely wine and it was a truly grand time. Here are some of my tips for hosting your own fabulous Friendsgiving feast:

The host is responsible for providing turkey - This is a meal of side dishes, but it all starts with the bird. If you get a frozen turkey, make sure you allow at least five days for it to thaw in the refrigerator. I cooked and carved my Friendsgiving turkey the day before the party so that I wouldn’t have to deal with cutting up a giant bird in my kitchen while guests were arriving. You can either serve the turkey room temperature like I did or pour hot turkey broth over the sliced meat, cover with foil, and reheat for 10 minutes in a 425-degree oven.

Create a sign-up system for dishes - I created a Google doc that allowed guests to share what they planned to bring and included the link on the Evite I sent out to friends. In the invitation, I encouraged guests to cook whatever pleased them and not to stress out about making some grand confection – it’s supposed to be fun! If you’re invited to a Friendsgiving soiree but don’t have the time or inclination to cook, consider bringing wine or ingredients to make hot cider or cocoa.

Keep the little ones busy - I set up small tables for the kids in my living room with Thanksgiving coloring place mats and a jar of crayons. It was a nice day, so we also had a fire going outside with ingredients to make s’mores and glow sticks for the kids once it got dark. If you have a lot of kids coming, consider having the parents all chip in for a babysitter to keep an eye on the kids.

Be prepared to distribute leftovers - Have some plastic containers and zip-top bags ready for guests to take leftovers home. If the party is still raging and you’re ready for bed, setting out containers to pack up food can help signal to guests that its time to wind things down.


CIDER-BOURBON BELLINI

1 bottle chilled prosecco or other sparkling wine
3 cups chilled apple cider
¾ cup bourbon

Combine the above ingredients in a large pitcher and serve immediately. Makes 10-12 drinks.


AUTUMN VEGETABLE GALETTE

1 recipe Páte Brisée (find the recipe in my Illinois Times column dated June 15, 2017)
2 tablespoons butter
4 yellow onions, sliced
½ cup white wine or water
3 medium-sized beets
2 sweet potatoes
2 parsnips
1 large rutabaga
2 turnips
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary or thyme
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 egg, well-beaten
¼ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Melt the butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onions and sear briefly, then add wine or water to deglaze the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir occasionally until onions have turned a dark golden color and become very soft, about 30-40 minutes.

While the onions caramelize, roast the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel and cut the root vegetables into ½-inch cubes, then toss them with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Arrange them on sheet pans in a single layer, then roast in the hot oven for about 30 minutes until fork-tender.

Allow the caramelized onions and root vegetables to cool, then mix them together along with the minced herbs. This vegetable mixture can be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Keep the oven at 425 degrees. Roll out the pie dough into a circle about 16 inches in diameter. Center the pie-dough circle onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Mound the vegetable mixture onto the center of the dough, leaving a 3-inch border. Crumble the goat cheese on top of the vegetables, then fold the border of the pastry over the vegetables, pleating it to make an edge.

Brush the dough with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with the pepitas. Place the galette in the preheated 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 45-55 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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