A Foraged Friendsgiving: Part Two, Our Dinner (with Recipes and Plan-Ahead Tips)
While our model friends in Treasure&Bond were out on a morning forage photo shoot for part one of our Friendsgiving, our blog editor Jeff Powell was in the kitchen whipping up a Friendsgiving feast with seasonal ingredients and garnishes common enough you might find some right in your backyard.
After putting together a full three-course menu from dishes in our What’s Cooking series, he’s sharing our restaurant team’s recipes so you can cook your own lavish dinner. It’s a meal fit for any special occasion when you want to break bread and give thanks with whomever you call family. Bonus: we have his tips on how he prepped in advance so our entire dinner came together in only four hours on the day (and how he survived to tell the tale).
On the day of our photo shoot, we had a crew of about 14 including our models, stylists, hair and makeup artists, photographer and blog team, so there were a lot of hungry people by the end of it. While we may not actually have gone out foraging for every ingredient, I did want to make a real dinner that tasted great with in-season ingredients that were as local as possible and included touches you could find in your own—or your neighbor’s—backyard (think bay leaves and rose hips as garnish for the turkey platter, sprigs of rosemary, etc.).
While I’m a big fan of cooking, I’m much less a fan of cooking and being stressed out. Once I had a menu in mind, I got to planning what I could do in advance to save as much time (and sanity) as possible on the day of our shoot. Here’s the menu we had at our Friendsgiving with links to the recipes, along with ideas for keeping things as easy as possible, so you can actually enjoy your time with all those people you’ve invited into your home.
Oysters on the half shell: Find a friend or two to shuck this appetizer for you (it’s good kitchen theater to entertain your guests) and keep things simple to let the fresh oyster flavors shine through. I made an easy sparkling rosé mignonette with 1/2 cup sparkling rosé, 1/2 cup minced shallots, 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar and some freshly ground black pepper. Throw it all in a bowl, mix and you have an effervescent sauce to spoon over two dozen oysters. I served lemon on the side and garnished each with a pomegranate seed.
Our Cranberry Chutney: It’s a more savory cousin to something you’d find in a can—and a lot more delicious. Caramelized onions, orange, ginger and a little cayenne pepper make this an unexpected addition to any traditional table.
Our Brussels Sprouts Gratin: Cheesy, creamy, rich and full of flavor. This gratin with bits of crispy prosciutto is always a favorite and gives exactly nobody a reason to say they hate Brussels sprouts.
Our Salt and Pepper Roasted Wild Mushrooms (pictured in first image at right): Seasoned perfectly with garlic and olive oil, roasted until golden brown and just crispy on the edges, this recipe showcases wild mushrooms like chanterelle, oyster and maitake at their height.
Mashed potatoes: Everyone has a favorite recipe for these. Mine includes putting the potatoes in a pot with cold water and then bringing to a boil for more creamy, consistent results. Also, I like to heat my milk and butter together in a small saucepan while the potatoes boil and then add flavor-enhancing ingredients (like roasted garlic and/or sprigs of rosemary) to steep for 5-10 minutes or so. It infuses lots of great flavor once mixed throughout the mashed potatoes.
Our Pumpkin Spice Frangelico Cheesecake: End the meal with a wow-factor dessert. Throw the tradition of difficult pie crusts, soggy bottoms and runny fillings out the window and serve this easy, airy pumpkin- and-hazelnut-flavored cheesecake instead.
Lastly, here are some tips for a low-stress, prepare-ahead Thanksgiving dinner:
- Prep whatever veggies you can. For the gratin, I trimmed the Brussels sprouts the night before. It’s the most tedious, time-consuming part. Throw them in a zipper-lock bag once they’re looking pretty. I did the same with the vegetables I was including in the roasting pan with our turkey.
- Also, for the gratin, I shredded the Gruyère ahead and kept it in an airtight container.
- If you need rendered bacon or, as I did, prosciutto for the gratin, you can do that in advance—drain on a paper towel, cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Containers: I like to have lots of these around for prepping and storage. But I started feeling so harassed by my Tupperware drawer that I stopped buying a bunch of different-sized containers altogether. These days, I only buy disposable deli containers in 16- and 32-ounce sizes. They stack easily on top of and inside each other, and all have the same-sized lids, so I no longer feel like I’m battling against an emotional breakdown when I have to go near that particular drawer.
- Green beans: I love green beans, so I like to prepare them simply (no casserole for me). To avoid another big pot boiling on the stove, I do them ahead. The night before, I trimmed 2 1/2 pounds and then blanched them in a large pot of salted, boiling water for 3 minutes—just until crisp-tender. I took them out with tongs, immediately plunged them in ice water to stop the cooking, drained when cooled and dried them on a dish towel. With their beautiful green color set, I threw these in a zipper-lock back in the fridge overnight with a slightly damp paper towel. They take no time to reheat; just before you’re ready to serve, warm them with some butter and olive oil over high heat in a big pan—add salt, pepper and maybe a little garlic when they’re almost ready. I topped them with fried shallots, also made the night before.
- Buy ingredients that are already measured for you, when possible—and for each separate recipe. If you need one cup of chicken stock, buy an 8-ounce container. If you need another cup for a different recipe, but two 8-ounce containers instead of a 16 ounce. It’s a small thing, but dirties one less measuring cup, which always seem to be in short supply.
- Brining your turkey really is worth the effort, and you can do it in advance. Combine a couple gallons of water and 16 ounces of table salt. Let your turkey soak in it for up to 6 hours, drain, rinse and pat it dry after. It’s ready to do whatever else you want to with it (just don’t add more salt), and it makes so much difference. You’ll get a more flavorful, juicier bird—even if you overcook it a bit. It also tends to make people think even a regular, frozen grocery store bird is some sort of farm-fresh fancy variety.
- The cranberry sauce: our Cranberry Chutney can be kept in the fridge for up to seven days. I made it three days ahead while I was baking the cheesecake. Speaking of…
- The dessert. Buying dessert is always an option to make things easier, but I prefer to make whatever I can from scratch. Find a dessert you can make ahead. You can make our Pumpkin Spice Frangelico Cheesecake up to three days in advance. And that’s exactly what I did.
- Select your serving dishes in advance. Maybe it seems weird, but I set everything I wanted to use out and put a little sticky note on each reminding me (or anyone I might ask to grab it for me) what recipe went inside.
- While we’re talking things that seem weird, I made a day-of schedule for myself. You may not want to go as far as creating a spreadsheet listing each dish and what stage it should be at with times by the half hour across the top like I did (we had a tight schedule to keep!), but even a rough guide is really helpful when you’re simultaneously boiling potatoes, dicing vegetables, making gravy and all the other things. I find listing it all ahead of time and letting the schedule help guide where I should be and what I should be doing is much more reliable than my brain when doing serious multitasking. Plus, it comes in handy to reference for those superhero guests who inevitably ask what they can do to help.
Photography by Matthew Sumi
Styling by Tamala Ayres
Production by Jeff Powell, Britt Olson & Andrew Matson
Models: Wood Brownlow, Jillian Jacobitz, Ambra Washington & Katie Joy Blanksma