South County Chefs on Friendsgiving Feasts

Catering professionals offer fresh takes on classic Thanksgiving eats for more casual get-togethers

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Turkey Day is just around the corner, which has most everyone dreaming about mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. There’s a time and place for those tried-and-true passed-down recipes to shine, but more and more folks are craving a looser menu with friends ahead of the big day. We heard from local catering professionals on best bets for creating a truly unique Friendsgiving spread.

REALISTIC GOALS

“My advice would be to lead with what you can do instead of what you cannot. Opening up your home/living space for others and making it comfortable for them should be the priority. Manage expectations; don’t promise a 12-course feast when your apartment barely seats four.”

–Michael Silva, MXR Cocktails

Try This: Mix Ahead

For any size of gathering, prepare drinks in advance so there’s no need to play bartender throughout the evening. “Get creative with sangria and mulled wine,” says Silva, or purchase a locally made drink kit from MXR, like the Whiskey Box.

FOSTER CONNECTION

“Use this gathering as bonding time, a time to reconnect. Have games that you can play throughout, kind of like a baby shower, so you can have fun and warm everyone up. For the meal, prepare some old favorites while introducing dishes that are sure to become
new favorites.” 

–Bree Smith, The Afro Indigenous Vegan

Try This: Soup’s On

Start with a cozy first course. Chef Bree’s Harvest Butternut Squash Soup combines roasted veggies including carrots, onions, and garlic with turmeric, cumin, and other spices, served up with sliced avocado, a dusting of curry powder, or a dollop of sour cream and crusty artisan bread. Watch for her cookbook dropping soon with the full recipe. 

INCLUSIVE EATS

“Make sure to include things for everyone! Offer some gluten-free, nut-free, vegetarian, and vegan options so that all your guests can be included. Oftentimes get-togethers have the same favorites, so switch it up with new and exciting dishes and fun twists on the classics. Put some pomegranate molasses in your cranberry sauce, or toss your Brussels sprouts in an exotic spice blend, like dukkah or za’atar.”

–Julie and Dean Couchey, SoCo Vedge

Try This: Plant-Based Main

“A fun twist on a main entree is slow roasting a whole head cauliflower with poultry seasoning. Cook covered in foil for roughly 45 minutes at 350ºF, and remove the foil for the last 15 minutes to give it a crispy exterior.” 

QUALITY SIDES

“For the sides, go for quality over quantity. A few great traditional – or non-traditional – dishes are way more enjoyable and saves you stressing out over oven space. A charcuterie board is a great way to provide some variety without a lot of additional prep.”

–Padraic Keane and Esteban Gonzalez,  Keane’s Wood-Fired Kitchen

Try This: Take it Outside

Toss tradition out the window with BBQ for Friendsgiving. “It’s the perfect meal for getting friends together for the festive season, whether it’s Friendsgiving, football, or a holiday party,” the Keane’s chefs share. 

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

“Take notes for future years’ meals. What did you like? What fell short a little bit? What absolutely killed it? And make sure you record every detail possible. Use your weeknight meals leading up to the day to test, recalibrate, and master some of the staples. Get weird and start to expand on the dishes and techniques you’ve nailed in the past.”

–Brandon Teachout, Dips Dips

Try This: Rise and Brine

“As far as turkey goes, quality really matters. We really like to break down, wet brine the bird, and then cook the white meat and dark meat separately,” removing the hind quarters and wings and leaving the breast on the bone to control the rate of cooking for each part. “We also like to start at a very high heat to crisp up any skin quickly; then drop the temp way down to cook the meat nice and gently. Just try your best to do the bird justice.” 

GET IT CATERED

“If you’re wanting to throw a completely hassle-free event, hire a personal chef to cook and serve a scrumptious meal that you don’t even have to clean up. Whether it be a buffet for a larger crowd or dinner party for a more intimate gathering, having a professional chef in your kitchen is always a unique and memorable experience.”

–Haley Pollock, The Holistic Trick

Try This: Fall Flavors

“Seize local, in-season ingredients and play around in the kitchen,” advises Pollock. “Cheesecake is good with just about any fall flavor. Cocktails are also fun with so many autumn-themed spirits on the market. Sangria is great because you can add many different ingredients and
it tastes fire.”

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