When Jews gather, it’s usually around a table full of food. So when Thanksgiving rolls around, we’re pretty prepared. In fact, weekly Shabbat gatherings are perfect testing grounds for that new pie recipe or your roasting pan before Thanksgiving. Turn it into a Friendsgiving and gather with a group of friends—no family drama involved.
On Thanksgiving you have all day to cook (although somehow the clock moves faster than you anticipate), but the secret weapon for Friendsgiving is an arsenal of recipes you can through together relatively in advance and transport; alternatively, if your crew is going for a vegetarian “everything but the turkey” meal, rock a fancy last-minute cheese or appetizer board. (This is a great place to use that jar of pickled peaches you made at the end of summer.)
In my experience, a whole roast turkey rarely makes an appearance at Friendsgiving. Save the struggles for the big day, and instead serve a taste of turkey to get you excited for Thanksgiving Day. Grain dishes are some of the best options for gatherings; they’re a godsend for the cook and a fun way for guests to pack lots of flavors into one bite—and with big Thanksgiving-style meals, every bite counts! This Kasha with Smoked Turkey, Squash and Bourbon celebrates a trifecta of Thanksgiving flavors: turkey, butternut squash and wholesome grains. Often overlooked, kasha, which is packed with vitamins and fiber and cooks in under 10 minutes, is something everyone should keep in their pantry. Buy some smoked turkey (you don’t even have to cook it) that is juicy and full of flavor, and watch the turkey haters come back for seconds.
Speaking of turkey haters, they won’t be able to keep their hands off Pumpkin Turkallah, a seasonally flavored, turkey-shaped challah creation that makes a great centerpiece on a meat- or non-meat table, or as part of an appetizer spread.
If you ask me, veggie dishes are the best part of Thanksgiving. Fall produce is at its peak, and hearty fare like potatoes, greens, squash and root vegetables are welcome additions to any Friendsgiving meal. Pomegranate is in season, too, and its tart seeds add a burst of freshness and a jewel-like sparkle to almost any dish. Try this Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad, which not only brightens the table, but can also be made in advance and served at room temperature.
There’s no Friendsgiving without some form of potatoes on the table, but save the mashed ones for Thanksgiving. If you’re going dairy, get fancy (and cozy) with this Early Winter Potato and Greens Gratin. For something more colorful and/or lighter, try Za’atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Serve with garlic toum for an added kick.
Last but not least, you’d better save some room for a slice (or three) of pie! From gluten-free Chocolate Pecan Pie to handheld Apple Pie Cookies for those who fear the piecrust, your table can easily accommodate each guest at the table. If you’re hosting a large crowd, turn your pie into a slab pie; Chocolate Pecan Slab Pie is a favorite, but you can do go the slab route with almost any recipe. Enjoy alongside Hot Spiced (and Spiked!) Cider.
The best part of Friendsgiving is that it’s all about gathering with friends, which means that you usually have a bit more flexibility than the family turkey-stuffing-mashed potato-casserole-pie Thanksgiving spread. To make it even easier, go the potluck route, letting the bakers tackle the pie and the veggie lovers wrangle the squash. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even find pick up some new tastes and tricks for the real turkey test.