This year, we decided it was time to be adults and host our first “party” in our condo on a Saturday before Thanksgiving. I have always been a tad hesitant as we do not have a big area to host more than 4 people comfortably. But as this generation is full of small homes we dived in. A Google Doc was utilized to help divide the essentials among the 9 people in attendance (my husband’s cousin and fiancé, my husband’s best friend and wife, our dear friend from high school, and both of our brothers). My donations (including fancy plastic plates and silver-plastic silverware, a new slim folding table to fit directly behind our couch- for buffet style service- and festive turkey and pumpkin décor) was the turkey, corn, green beans, salad (dairy allergy friend- also may plain steamed veggies for her as well), applesauce, bread, and then some dessert- cookies (high demand), apple pie (ice cream and whipped cream accompaniments) and a fruit salad (dairy allergy friend). My pot-luckers provided stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, mac-and-cheese, pumpkin pie and plenty of wine. Coordinating these dishes in my tiny kitchen with standard oven was a challenge- but one accepted.
Applesauce (Tuesday/Wednesday Night): Slower cooker has become a close friend of mine in the kitchen so I did not hesitate to call it to the front line for Friendsgiving. This recipe called for 6 apples (used honeycrisp), two cinnamon sticks (can substitute for ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon) and a ½ cup of water. I liked most that this recipe was sugar free and dairy free. I prepped it at night and let it run on high for 4 hours while I slept and took 5 minutes in the morning to transfer it to a tupperware container for immersion (votes were in favor of smooth, not chunky). The house smells amazing and the apple sauce tasted wonderful. I was unsure if this one batch would make enough (as an applesauce consumer myself I could eat half the container if I wanted to…) so I made another batch just in case the next night, especially since it was so easy. Refrigerated until serving at the party. Swimming in apple sauce now so one batch would have been enough. Easy and delicious!
Chocolate Chip Cookies (Tuesday Night): My “somehow famous in the family” chocolate chip cookies have become a must at any gathering. I really can’t tell you why they are held on a pedal stood but this is the recipe I use. When I got my KitchenAid mixer, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies at the first test. After Googling “best chocolate chip cookie recipe” and using the first link listed, it has been my go-to ever since. I use the oversized chocolate chips from Trader Joe’s, generic other ingredients, and these jelly roll pans that my mother-in-law (best baker ever) uses and I think that is truly the secret to good cookies because the ridges on the pan allow for air to get under the cookie. Soft inside and crunchy outside every time.
Apple Pie (day of): First thing after I got back from barre class at 9AM I began the apple chopping and was able to get the apple pie in the oven before 10AM since it needed 45 minutes in the oven and I wanted to get the turkey in the oven at 11AM. I used Trader Joe’s pie crust which (thank god) I remembered to take out the night before and let it thaw in the refrigerator and then I left it at room temperature before I went to barre. In and out of the oven and off to cool until dessert time later that evening. Great, reliable recipe with the only problem being we were all too entirely full for dessert and I have a basically whole pie left over.
Turkey (day of): Oh the stress of the turkey- everyone says it is a big undertaking ever since I was little so off the bat I was nervous- so much so that I was on board to do a turkey breast or two in the slower cooker (multiple recipes found only) so that it freed my oven for all of the other items. My mother-in-law always uses turkey breasts (uses a butcher) to feed the typical group of 7 people so I figured increasing to 9 (especially since I do not eat a bunch a turkey- I am a side dish girl) would be easiest. I searched high and low with no luck in finding turkey breasts appropriate for my needs- I found small ones that I would have needed at least 6 and at $8 a pound it was financially silly. Need to get myself an old fashioned butcher. So after much internal struggle to give up the oven space… I begrudgingly caved and got a 12.6lb refrigerated turkey. I had a roasting pan from my bridal shower still tucked neatly in its box and was going to be called to action. After Googling “easy way to cook a turkey with roasting pan”, found myself on this webpage for my first turkey lesson. Co-workers also were full of advice on how to conquer the turkey. After much review, I decided to stuff the bird with carrots, onions, and celery and cover the skin and meat with butter and French onion soup mix (a gamble at the time rather than going traditional salt and pepper). No time or space for a brine. The bird went in the over after the apple pie and before all the side dishes at exactly 11AM on schedule. At 12lbs I expected it to be done in the oven after 3 hours at 2PM with basting every 45 minutes. I also had a handy meat thermometer (also never used from my bridal shower) ready to go- stuck it into the “deep thigh meat” as Google instructed me to as that is the part that takes the longest to cook at 165 degrees. Once I was able to get the turkey out of the wrapping, remove the “extra” pieces (thanks to my co-workers for not letting that part be a surprise), rinsing it off, stuffing it with the veggies and then having a lovely “getting to know you” session of slapping on softened butter and French onion soup mix, and pouring some turkey stock in the pan- the clock began! The first 45 minutes for basting came and as I opened the over, there was nothing to baste with! Annoyed since the videos showed waterfalls cascading down for the turkey into the pan, I called my Aunt (who makes our Thanksgiving every year) and confirmed my instant of just using more stock (yay for back-ups) would suffice. In the entire cooking saga- the bird never gave me any basting juices- just burnt, dried up used-to-be juice in the pan. The alerts on the meat thermometer began going off at 1:20PM…an entire 40 minutes early! Do I trust the thermometer or the cooking time??? After a brief survey to my phone-a-friends, the thermometer takes the trump. Out with the bird and a gorgeous golden brown color surrounded the meat. I was a proud turkey mama. My husband cut up the turkey and we placed the meat in deep pans and used the remained turkey stock as a kiddie pool for the meat to stay moist in before it would get reheated once the guests arrived. It came out juicy and flavorful. Overall a fairly easy and straightforward process and I feel silly for working so hard to utilize the slow cooker and get turkey breasts. Mission accomplished.
Corn soufflé (day of): This dish went in after the turkey around 3 PM since it took almost a full hour to cook. I always liked to idea of a non-traditional twist on dishes so I took the opportunity to jazz up the corn. I had made this recipe once before for my family but they did not take to it… they don’t appreciate new things with food so I should have known better… but I figured for my friends it was a great time to try again! I am glad I did because everyone ate this (minus my dairy-free friend) and it was mostly gone by the end of the night. This recipe calls for 1 can of whole kernel corn and 1 can of sweet corn, 1 pack of cornbread mix and 1 pack of cream cheese with some butter. Before popping it in the oven for 50-55 minutes you cover the mix with cheddar cheese. It came out perfect and I would make this again and again.
Green bean casserole (day of): Green beans were the last dish in the oven to fully cook around 4PM. I have made this recipe before as a side since my husband likes the fried French onions that go on top. Only calls for a little milk, can of condensed cream of mushroom soup and a bag of frozen French green beans. I only made one dish (though had backups to make another since it’s only in the oven for 20-25 minutes) but we did not need it. Simple dish with yummy flavor- a favorite by all.
Misc. salad, fruit salad, bread (day of): self-explanatory right? Made day of while things were in the oven so it was easy but I have the entire portions of all of these still in the fridge haha
Plating: I kept the turkey in the stock swimming pool, green beans, and corn and popped them in the oven at 170 degrees until everyone arrived. Once all the food was accounted for, I rotated the food I had out and stuck the candied sweet potatoes in the oven at full temperature to melt the marshmallows to go on top.
Everything else that arrived was surprisingly still warm. I put the cold items out and then followed with the warm dishes and by the time I completed that, the marshmallows were sufficiently golden campfire brown for serving. Take a look!
Surprise cider and cider donuts!: My husband ran to Terhune Orchards for fresh cider donuts and a gallon of cider for the party and this was a big hit. Everyone loves these and it was perfect for dessert and for fall.
Wine: Everyone brought a bottle and I think we topped off 5 bottles- mostly Beaujolais and Beaujolais nouveau since it is that time of year. We invested in wine markers since I did not want to deal with people losing sight of which glass was theirs or using those wine rings that people will forget which one they originally chose. As described, they wash off with little pressure from a sponge or cloth and made keeping track of everyone’s glasses revolutionary.
Clean up: I was a fan from the start of spending extra to get the disposable dishes and silverware so I could enjoy time with everyone instead of cleaning up. It was and since we had table cloths on the dining table and the folding table we were able to just throw them in the washer and call it a day. A bit of vacuuming to get crumbs and throwing the serving dishes and wine glasses in the dishwasher and Sunday cleanup was a breeze. We even had time to go to the movies =)
Overall: I think it was a very successful party! The dishes everyone else brought were all homemade and all delicious. Hope we can make this an annual tradition because it was fun. I think we will have to consider doing something again when the weather is nice because we have an entire deck that can support an overflow of people as well. Hope this was helpful in planning your future Friends/Thanksgiving! Do you have any tips to share?