Guys. Guys. Guys. Please don’t overthink Friendsgiving. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve all learned in the last year, it’s that casual, outdoor gatherings can be every bit as special as blow-out celebrations. Think about it: Thanksgiving, with its spreadsheets and budgets, storage issues and “Who the heck is bringing the pecan pie?!” issues, is just around the bend. You deserve an easygoing, simple Friendsgiving. That can be as straightforward as making a huge pot of black bean chili, setting out toppings and cold beer, and setting up the patio with a few throws. Celebrated in the great outdoors, Friendsgiving is ultimately casual, wonderfully intimate and offers a welcome way for bringing everyone together.
But here’s how we’d do it, because man, we missed our friends these last couple of years.
Keep It Cozy
The one thing to keep an eye on as Friendsgiving nears? The weather, lovely. (You’re not renting a tent for this thing; you’re providing $5 umbrellas… or postponing.) You may need your fire pit. Don’t have one? No worries. You do need to be ready for whoever forgot her sweater. Keep a stash of throws (we love these cashmere throws), hoodies, sweatshirts, fuzzy caps, even mittens handy. (And, uh, have you seen our epic heated chairs?) Have cushions for the chairs if you can. You’ll also need light and heat sources. Think: lanterns, giant candles, electric candles, little strung lights, and heat lamps.
You’re gonna need two side tables, bar carts or whathaveyou, folks. One for buffet dishes, and one for drinks. That’s two gathering places for chitchat and meet-cutes; your guests will thank you later. It’s OK to do hot cider or hot cocoa instead of a cocktail in addition to wine, beer, and perhaps seltzer. You can put some rum, brandy or bourbon out for spiking. (And in the invite, especially if you’re potlucking—we hope you’re potlucking—feel free to encourage folks to bring what they like to drink.)
For food, consider dishes that are casual, easily transportable, and lovable. Got a grill? Put it to good use, and grill the main and a side or two. And for heaven’s sake, don’t do a turkey; Thanksgiving will be serving up plenty of that particular bird. Keep things chill.
1. Cheeseball Board
“Yes! A cheeseball!” That’s what folks say when they spy a cheeseball board. Full stop. It should be that easy to make people happy at Friendsgiving. Just try to choose among Gaby Dalkin’s three knockout recipes.
2. Butternut Squash Soup
There’s no law we know of that says Friendsgiving, like Thanksgiving, must be half a dozen dishes. We’re gonna go out on a limb and say that if you have a robust charcuterie or cheeseboard, plus dessert, good bread, and drinks, you can call it a night. Feeling more traditional? Serve small cups of butternut squash soup or carrot coconut soup from a tray during cocktail hour. It’s such a classy move, and both options are super-seasonal.
3. Mâche Salad with Figs and Pears
Salads can be elegant and take 10 minutes to prepare. That’s what you want this time of year. Mâche salad with figs and pears delivers. Bright, sweet, and low-maintenance (just like you!), it’s juicy with seasonal fruit, and is a salad that doesn’t feel like a chore to eat.
4. Grill-Roasted Pork Loin with Onions
Here’s the perfect choice for an al fresco Friendsgiving main course: easy, inexpensive, crowd-pleasing, and absolutely delicious! For added flavor (and a little extra insurance to prevent overcooking), try brining the pork loin before putting it on the fire. Any turkey or other brine seasoning should work!
5. Grilled Flanken-Cut Short Ribs
We’re here to tell you that it’s OK to be economical when consider your main dish. (Cool autumn breezes tend to spark quite an appetite!) If you’d pass over pork for beef any day, Grilled flanken-cut short ribs are just the thing. Unlike English-style short ribs, which can take hours to cook, these are ready in a heartbeat. (Think: 15 minutes, soup to nuts, including time on the grill!) And they’re so good, with a mercifully short ingredient list.
6. Roasted Squash with Cranberries and Thyme
Key to the ultimate Friendsgiving menu? Make-ahead as much as possible, for sure! You can roast the squash in this easy recipe on the morning before guests arrive and your dish will be even better than had you made while they wait patiently while you finish cooking! A maple glaze brings a faint sweetness to this 5-star dish.
6. Bourbon Pecan Tart
Feel free to let a friend whip up the bourbon pecan tart of your dreams. Here’s the quintessential Southern recipe they need, and it employs a food-processor crust. Everyone wins.
7. Apple Galette
Rules or no rules, in an ideal world, you’ve got more than one dessert at Friendsgiving. A free-form apple galette that can absolutely use up a mix of apples from that orchard outing should be one of them. This one has earned five stars among our readers, and it is bliss on a platter.