How to Host a Friendsgiving, the Martha Way
With style, a stuffed turkey breast, and some help from your sous chef pals, you can pull off a feast in your small space
If there's one thing we love, it's an opportunity to gather and eat. That's why rallying your group of friends in the weeks leading up to November's feast seems like a no-brainer. Of course, we do understand that there's a certain intimidation in hosting your own Thanksgiving-style dinner: Do you have to roast a turkey? Do you have to make everything, all by yourself? How will you fit all the dishes in the oven? How will you fit everyone around your tiny table? Since you're the domestic leader within your group of friends (you're reading this story, after all), we do suggest you take charge of the shopping and prepping. But rather than planning a potluck-style Friendsgiving—it can lead to repetition, and not all Thanksgiving dishes travel well—send a Venmo request for the groceries, and let joint cooking be part of the bonding experience. We'll tell you which tasks you're better off tackling before your guests arrive and which ones you can happily outsource.
This is the time to step outside the box when it comes to recipes. Since you'll likely have a more traditional feast with your family to scratch the nostalgic itch, we suggest you welcome the opportunity to try some new riffs on your Thanksgiving favorites. Read on for our picks, including a turkey recipe that won't take hours to cook and a cranberry sauce with a sweet secret ingredient. The most important thing to remember is that Friendgiving isn't Thanksgiving, but rather a Thanksgiving-inspired dinner party. You'll have much more fun along the way if you release yourself from the obligation to make a traditional feast and instead look to the namesake holiday as a starting point. By all means, borrow the classic ingredients—turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries—but make them your own. It'll make your feast not only less stressful, but also more memorable for your guests.
What to Make Ahead
If you want to serve a hot dinner, you're going to have to navigate a stressful few minutes of musical chairs with the oven and stovetop. That said, we strongly suggest at least prepping most things in advance—chopping the vegetables, peeling the potatoes, and assembling hot dishes to pop in the oven. Safe bets include anything with "casserole" in the name (sweet potato, green bean)—which will taste even better if the flavors get a chance to meld over time—and cranberry sauce, which can be stored in the refrigerator until it's time to eat.
What to Take Off Your Plate
No, not your literal plate—it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without dessert. But since you've got an eager crowd of willing helpers, it would be a shame not to use them…and dessert is the perfect thing to outsource. We know, we know: You're famous for your apple pie but making it can cause you a lot of stress, especially if it gets lost in the shuffle at the end of a full dinner. You can bake a pie anytime. Today, let your friend who loves to bake bring two pies or your friend who doesn't cook pick one up from a local bakery.
What to Make Together
This is a trick question, since it will depend on your personal cooking and hosting style. Some will feel more comfortable doing most of the work alone, while others will love the addition of a sous chef (or seven). However, since this is Friendsgiving, we strongly suggest you leverage the extra hands and embrace the opportunity to bond with your crew. True, too many cooks can spoil the soup—but they can also make for light work and wonderful memories.
Remember, there's no need to replicate a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Instead, let the classic dishes and flavors associated with the holiday inspire your menu. Our picks are not only easy to make in a small space, they're delicious and a little bit unexpected, too.
Some choose to forego the bread course on Thanksgiving, arguing that the holiday doesn't need another starch. We beg to differ. Festive popovers that can be made in an array of flavors—like Gruyere-Thyme and Bacon & Black Pepper—will set the tone for the feast. We love that this bread recipe doesn't require any yeast, making it easy to whisk together in minutes.
Yes, you could roast a whole bird, but you don't have to. While we firmly believe in having turkey at Thanksgiving dinner (it's just not the same without it!), if you're working in a small space, opt for a breast-based dish for Friendsgiving. It's a fresh take on the classic holiday meal that's far easier to perfect. Plus, this recipe lets you knock out the turkey and stuffing in one go, leaving you that much more time to socialize.
Remember what we said about new riffs on Thanksgiving favorites? This cranberry sauce recipe incorporates pomegranate arils for added texture and sweetness. As an added bonus, it takes just 20 minutes to make, and can be prepped in advance for less stress in that final power hour before dinner.
If your crew loves snacking on sour cream and onion potato chips at parties and tailgates, they'll love this tart twist on mashed potatoes, which incorporates scallions and goat cheese. This is a recipe to make day-of, though you can peel and cut the potatoes in advance.
Take a load off your prep work by simply roasting a batch of small sweet potatoes for a DIY potato bar. Set out toppings like blue cheese, pecans, bacon, sour cream, chives, brown sugar, and—of course—mini marshmallows, which you can finish with a quick trip under the broiler.
It might seem odd that this green bean casserole has the longest prep time of any of these dishes, but much of it can be done in advance (plus, you're already making bacon for your sweet potato bar). Feel free to take shortcuts—frozen green beans, Funyuns instead of home-fried shallots—to make it your own.
You're more than justified in outsourcing dessert, but if you insist on serving something homemade, this pumpkin icebox pie (with an easy graham cracker crust, no rolling pastry dough required!) feeds a crowd and can be made up to two days in advance.