This year, I hosted my very first Friendsgiving and I think I’m way behind the trend. It’s become a pre-Turkey Day tradition for people everywhere—even Sesame Street celebrates!
Ever since meeting Grace and Greg Mazzatta of Port Coffee Roasters at our local farmer’s market, Peter Culos—my fiancé and partner in Jersey Bites adventures—and I have been looking for an excuse to hang out with them. Their coffee is amazing (I’m a huge fan of their Nitro Brew) and they’re just real, cool, fun people.
When you have a party, you always try to pick friends you think will have common interests. With this in mind, my second invite went out to Rachel Weston and her husband, Shawn.
Rachel is a fellow cookbook author as well as a chef and culinary educator. She’s funny, down to earth, and a serious locavore. I knew we’d all geek out over the food and the company.
I assigned Peter the job of developing a signature cocktail for the evening and I have to say, he did not disappoint. It’s one part Jersey, one part fall, and all parts delicious. The recipe is below the photo.
1 oz. Laird’s Applejack
2 oz. Ironbound Devil Harvest Cider (or regular cider with splash of cranberry juice)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Dash of orange bitters (optional)
Flamed Orange Twist (rub around rim of rock glass)
Combine all ingredients except orange peel in a shaker with ice. Stir and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Finish with Flamed Orange Twist.
Here’s a quick list of the menu items we enjoyed. Read on for the delicious details of each one.
- Pan-seared turkey
- Cranberry-serrano relish
- Cauliflower gratin
- Roasted sweet potatoes, with caramelized onions and goat cheese
- Classic sage and sausage stuffing
- Roasted broccoli with smoked gouda cheese sauce
- Cannoli chips and dip (a la Wegman’s)
For the main event, the big bird (no not THE Big Bird), I decided to try something different. I stumbled on a recipe in the Costco Connection magazine, of all places: turkey cut into eight parts, brined overnight then slathered with a rub of parsley, sage, garlic, lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Pretty amazing. You can check out the recipe here, which was originally from Carla Hall’s Cooking with Love; Comfort Food That Hugs You.
The turkey was really delicious. My only issue was that the recipe is very labor intensive. My plan for this Thanksgiving is to have the turkey spatchcocked (thank you, Whole Foods) and just follow the recipe from there. No carving. Although, I have to say Rachel did a lovely job of carving and plating said pieces, don’t you think?
Another highlight of the menu was a staple on our annual Thanksgiving table: Bobby Flay’s cranberry-serrano relish. This is honestly one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving dinner.
I also tried, for the first time, J. Kenji López-Alt’s classic sage and sausage stuffing, which was a big hit. Be sure you’re stocked up on stock for this recipe. That dried bread is the perfect sponge for some good, homemade stock. As we all know, chicken or turkey stock saves the turkey day in so many ways.
Rachel brought a roasted broccoli with smoked gouda cheese sauce dish that was devine. She was kind enough to share her recipe with us.
Roasted Broccoli with Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce
Serves 6 to 8
1 large head broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups smoked gouda cheese, grated
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cut broccoli stems and florets into spears. Lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Roast until easily pierced with the tip of a knife and a little crispy on edges—about 25 minutes. Turn halfway through cooking.
For the sauce:
- Melt the butter in a saucepan.
- Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Whisk constantly, until a smooth paste forms and it begins to smell nutty and looks golden.
- Slowly whisk in the milk, breaking up any lumps in the roux.
- Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add the smoked gouda and whisk until fully combined.
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Spoon the cheese sauce over the broccoli and serve.
For dessert, I went no-fuss with a cannoli chip and dip platter.
It paired perfectly with a big treat for the end of the evening: fresh coffee from Port Coffee Roasters. Our wonderful friends brought their beans, grinder, kettle, and even spring water to make us all the perfect pour overs. We also got a great lesson on the art of coffee making and the many nuances of coffees from around the world.
I think the party was a success. (You can always tell when your guests remind you about their leftovers container in the fridge.)
Happy Friends and Thanksgiving to all!