Thursday, December 8, 2011

friendsgiving, finally

Has it really only been 2 1/2 weeks since Friendsgiving? Surely not. Surely everything that's happened in my life in the past 2 1/2 weeks actually took place over a longer period of time, right?

I suppose "contemplate the time warp that has become my life" is not the point. No, the point is, I'm finally getting around to describing the gloriousness that was Friendsgiving. In case all you care about are pictures, let's start there, ok?

(Oh yeah, one thing before we get going. We decided to name the turkey Walter, so hopefully that clears up any confusion with the subsequent captions/narration)

Getting ready to make four(!) batches of rosemary olive oil bread

wearing plastic gloves and drinking some (fortifying) wine before brining Walter

coating Walter in herb butter prior to roasting

all 20 pounds of Walter, ready to roast


weary hostesses, still in cooking attire despite the 25 or so guests in the living room

fairly self explanatory, but: gravy, cranberry sauce, and bread!

from left: turkey and smoked gouda mac n cheese, apple sausage stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and bacon green beans

we finally made it out of our cooking clothes and in to our cocktail dresses
And now, if you are at all interested, the abbreviated narrative...

Our Friendsgiving was born from one of the many whims I've had lately in an attempt to stay busy and get in the holiday spirit. It was an idea I'd heard about from various friends over the past few years, and sounded fun, so my coworker/good friend Neha and I (pictured above) decided to give it a shot.  After all, we're always looking for an excuse to throw on a cocktail dress.  

The week of the party, despite my major aversion to the place, we went to Costco with a coworker and loaded up on obscene quantities of things like cranberries, green beans, carrots, cheese and turkey. Later in the week, we hit Harris Teeter for things we didn't need in bulk.

Neha and I devoted Friday night to baking bread and doing (not enough) prep work, and then cooked all day Saturday. Friday night, I burned the sweet potato biscuits I've made flawlessly half a dozen times now, so that was frustrating, but constituted our only major disaster, so I'll take it. 

Saturday we got a leisurely start to the day, taking our time buttering up Walter, and picking up a few last minute things. Around lunch, we suddenly realized "oh CRAP, people are coming over starting at 5, and we have so so so much to do!" So, we kicked things in to overdrive, and started chopping, sauteing, and prepping like mad women. We basically ceased any form of chatter, and only spoke when we had questions about a recipe or needed a tool the other was using. Sounds a bit Top Chef-ish, I know, but it worked out well, and we both agreed that cooking and hostessing together was an enjoyable experience. 

Despite the flurry of cooking, we were still in our aprons when the guests arrived, frantically stirring the gravy and setting up the warming trays. We plied the everyone with plentiful wine, and trays of hummus and carrots (mercifully put to good use after we nixed the planned glazed carrots dish due to lack of time and sanity). No one seemed to mind our apron-clad, frenzied selves with the smell of turkey floating around the apartment and glasses of wine in hand.

Once everything was as good as we were going to get it, we instructed everyone to fill a plate and find a place to sit. Then we snuck off, shed the aprons, tossed our cocktail dresses on, joined the party, and piled plates with delicious food.

Even a few weeks later, it still makes me cheesily happy to talk (err, write?) about Friendsgiving. Despite the stress of cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal for the first time in our lives (and for 25 people!), we had a great time. And having friends from all aspects of our lives come together for the occasion was a really nice way to kick off the holiday season.

Next year, though, we're going to do a few things differently. Yes, this brings us to the "if you decide to throw your own Friendsgiving" portion of the post. If we invite that many people again, we're going to aim for a potluck style meal in which we provide only the protein and the booze. All of our side dishes were edible, and dare I say delicious? But the size of apartments in this city does not allow for adequate prep space, oven capacity, or availability of tools, making cooking multiple dishes for two dozen people a real challenge.  And, literally everyone we invited really wanted to bring something, so I don't think the transition to a group-sourced meal will dissuade people from attending our second annual Friendsgiving next year.

Speaking of booze, provide plenty (even if you don't drink and/or some of your guests don't, the rest will make up for it). Gracefully accept in advance that you are not Martha Stewart or staring in a sitcom, and as such, your meal is not going to be ready promptly, nor will your guests all show up at once. No one will lead a revolt due to those factors, but a full glass of wine will squelch any impatience they might feel until you pull the golden turkey out of the oven triumphantly (and a presentable apron will make you feel a little less self-conscious about greeting your guests in leggins and a t-shirt) 

Oh and for the love of all things turkey, make sure you take the neck out of the bird before you roast him.

One last thing. Here are all the recipes we used (they're also on the "LKTC-tested recipes" page): 

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