A popular new Thanksgiving tradition has nothing to do with what’s on the table, but rather, who’s around it. Friendsgiving — a gathering of friends over a potluck dinner typically held prior to Thanksgiving Day — has become increasingly trendy among young people who want to spend time with pals before parting ways for the actual holiday.
Appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts and drink responsibilities typically are divvied up among guests in advance, and formats can range from a casual cookout with paper plates to a seated dinner with fine china.
Retailers and pop culture are jumping on the bandwagon. This season, IKEA store design experts are offering tips on how to maximize space for Friendsgiving with folding chairs and strategically placed tray tables. Target is promoting #friendsgiving party supplies (yep, there’s a hashtag!). And Chip and Joanna Gaines, of HGTV Fixer Upper fame, featured Friendsgiving ideas in the premiere issue of their magazine, The Magnolia Journal, which hit stands last month.
Tanglewood residents Katherine and Jeff Proctor experienced their first Friendsgiving five years ago when a buddy from Minnesota hosted the gathering before heading home for the holidays. They’ve hosted the annual event in their home the past two years, drawing around 30 guests.
We usually host it on a weekend when TCU has an away game, because there are so many TCU alumni in our group. It really does revolve around watching football and it’s an all-day thing.
“We saw a few other people on social media doing it and decided we wanted to do it,” says Katherine. “We usually host it on a weekend when TCU has an away game, because there are so many TCU alumni in our group. It really does revolve around watching football and it’s an all-day thing. People come and go from about 10 a.m. to late in the night.”
The Proctors’ Friendsgiving has a tailgate theme, with Jeff and his buddies handling meats and main dishes on a friend’s custom-built smoker while Katherine and her friends coordinate sides and desserts. Entrees have included everything from brisket and ribs to venison and elk, and there is a fried turkey every year.
“It’s also fun to let everyone bring their traditional dishes from their own families,” she says. “It’s fun to hear what’s a staple at their Thanksgiving. One year, we had tamales and Mexican food.”
Seating is typically “a free-for-all,” Katherine says, adding that tables are set up both inside and out, if the weather is nice.
“At my brother’s Friendsgiving, they set up one long table and everyone sits down at the same time for dinner,” Katherine says. “Ours is a lot more casual. The biggest difference now is that there are kids involved. Next year, there will be almost as many kids as there are adults, which will be really fun.”
For us, we want the point to be to get together and not make it stressful over how fancy it is.
Carley and Brandon Moore, both of Fort Worth, will host their third Friendsgiving this year. She, too, says the number of children in attendance is growing, so a babysitter is hired to help. The first year, a group email “went back and forth about 100 times” to coordinate the menu, says Carley.
She now uses that original email to assign dishes in advance, making planning easier and more efficient. Several tables are set up around the house and festive paper plates are used with real silverware.
“For us, we want the point to be to get together and not make it stressful over how fancy it is,” says Carley. “I decorate the tables, but I don’t assign seating because it wouldn’t happen that way anyway. When young kids are in the mix, you’re sitting down in shifts.”
The Moores host their gathering of about 20 friends on a Sunday evening and save even more time by buying a pre-smoked turkey and honey ham.
Chef Kalen Morgenstern, once a contestant on the TV cooking competition Hell’s Kitchen with tenure at Tillman’s Roadhouse and FW Market + Table, has hosted many Friendsgivings for good friends and restaurant-industry folks who may live away from their hometowns or have nowhere to go for the holiday.
I’ve done it where we’ve drawn ‘entree,’ ‘salad’ or ‘dessert’ out of a hat and that person has to bring that item, whether they’re good at it or not. It gets them out of their comfort zone.
Chef Kalen Morgenstern
“There are about 20 of us,” Morgenstern says. “I’ve done it where we’ve drawn ‘entree,’ ‘salad’ or ‘dessert’ out of a hat and that person has to bring that item, whether they’re good at it or not. It gets them out of their comfort zone.”
Another year, Morgenstern’s theme was “dish switch.” Guests were instructed to bring their item in unique or interesting dishware they were willing to part with and trade for someone else’s. No matter the theme, Morgenstern does have one rule for the group: Nothing is to be store-bought.
Her advice for first-time Friendsgiving hosts?
“Get the date out early and decide on a theme, whether it’s fine dining or a laid-back lunch.”
Katherine Proctor warns that hosts should be ready for a messy house. “Even if it’s a more casual atmosphere, you have to go with the flow,” she says. “And there is never such a thing as too much food. Everyone will end up taking leftovers.”
Carley Moore reminds stress-prone hosts to relish in the real meaning of the gathering.
“Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday,” she says. “It’s about taking time to be with those you love without any expectations of gifts. It’s about being thankful, and that’s what we want to do with our friends.”
Attending or hosting Friendsgiving this year? Try these impressive recipes from local chefs that are well suited for a fall potluck, will keep guests happy and will no doubt result in a repeat invitation next year.
Fall Sourdough Pizza
Trent Shaskan was raised in Northern California, where he grew up eating sourdough bread that he says he was inspired to replicate after moving to Fort Worth. He spent months perfecting his recipe and launched Icon Bread this year, specializing in sourdough products and selling at farmers markets. Pick up his sourdough pizza dough ($4) to make this rustic fall pizza recipe. “It’s pretty,” says Shaskan. “It has a great aroma and it’s very striking. But don’t have high standards on the shape. It’s not going to be a perfect round or a perfect square.”
• 1 large acorn squash, cut into
• 6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
• Olive oil, as needed
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 16-ounce Icon Bread sourdough
pizza dough (See note)
• Flour, for dusting
• 4 tablespoons butter
• 4 cups kale leaves, torn into large
• 1 cup ricotta cheese
• 1 tablespoon chopped sage
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Rub acorn squash and mushrooms with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on an oiled baking sheet and roast vegetables until tender and browned. Reserve.
3. On a lightly floured surface, stretch or roll dough into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle or oval (or as large as will fit on baking sheet). Transfer dough to an oiled baking sheet.
4. Melt butter in a sauté pan and continue to cook until slightly browned and aromatic. Pour browned butter into a dish and reserve.
5. In the same pan, sauté the kale in olive oil until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
6. In a small bowl, combine ricotta with chopped sage, salt and pepper. Scatter vegetables on top of pizza dough and dollop with ricotta. Bake until crust and ricotta are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Drizzle with the reserved brown butter and serve.
Note: Icon Bread also is sold at the Clearfork Farmers Market, 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays; www.farmersmarket1848.com.
— Trent Shaskan, Icon Bread, 817-501-9495, www.bravodfw.com
Chocolate Mousse With Maple-Pecan Cookies and Persimmons
Jen Williams, who gained tenure in Fort Worth as executive chef at Magnolia Cheese Co. and Sera Dining & Wine, says Thanksgiving was always a potluck filled with friends, and that her grandmother set a high bar as a hostess. “She had everything color-coordinated and put together. It was always an event,” says Williams, who now cooks at Dallas’ acclaimed Lucia in the Bishop Arts District. “It was a fun experience growing up like that.” She shares a recipe for an impressive dessert that’s well worth the prep time.
• 6 cups heavy cream, divided
• 1 vanilla bean, split with seeds
scraped, or 1 tablespoon vanilla
• 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
• 12 egg yolks
• 21 ounces dark chocolate, or
chocolate of choice
• Maple-Pecan Meringue Cookies
• 2 to 3 persimmons or oranges, peeled, sliced and reserved for garnish
1. Heat 2 1/4 cups heavy cream with vanilla bean and 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar until sugar has dissolved and vanilla is steeped.
2. While vanilla is steeping, whisk yolks and remaining sugar together until yolks turn a pale yellow.
3. Temper hot cream gradually into egg and sugar mixture. Return mixture to the pot, whisking constantly over medium-low heat until consistency coats the back of a wooden spoon.
4. Use the same pot as a double boiler to melt chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl. Once chocolate is fully melted, strain warm cream mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into melted chocolate. Whisk until incorporated. Cool in refrigerator until well chilled.
5. Whisk remaining 3 3/4 cups heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold into cold chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate immediately.
Assembly: Transfer chocolate mousse to a large serving bowl and top with meringue cookies and fresh persimmons. If persimmons are slightly underripened, sprinkle with a little sugar and salt to bring out the natural flavors.
Maple-Pecan Meringue Cookies:
• 1 cup pecans
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1 cup sugar
• 7 egg whites
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 1/4 cups maple syrup
1. Heat oven to 225 degrees. You will need parchment paper or a nonstick pan or cookie sheet.
2. Combine pecans and cornstarch in a food processor, grinding into a powder. Add half the sugar and set bowl aside.
3. Using a stand mixer, beat egg whites on medium-high speed. Mix until whites are frothy and no liquid remains. Add cream of tartar and whisk for an additional 2 minutes. Add remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time with at least a minute between addition, allowing meringue to fully incorporate each tablespoon.
4. Reduce maple syrup on medium-low heat until it has become gummy and extra sticky. Add hot syrup mixture to whites, streaming down the side of the bowl as close as possible. Continue to mix after all syrup has been incorporated, for about 5 minutes or until the meringue gains about three times its original volume.
5. Gently fold in pecan mixture, scooping from the bottom to the top and rotating your bowl. Take a pastry bag or two spoons and drop meringues onto nonstick tray and bake 1 hour, rotating frequently. After 1 hour, lower temperature to 200 degrees and bake for another hour.
— Chef Jen Williams, Lucia, 408 W. Eighth St., Suite 101, Dallas, 214-948-4998, http://luciadallas.com
Baked Brie With Cherries, Pecans and Agave-Maple Drizzle
Kalen Morgenstern has hosted many Friendsgivings and says she likes to divert from traditional Thanksgiving menu items. Cherries, pecans and sage make this pretty fall appetizer suitable for December holiday gatherings as well. Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.
• 1 16-ounce brie wheel, rind
• 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup
packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup dark agave syrup
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• Pinch nutmeg
• 1 orange, zested and juiced
• 1 lemon, zested and juiced
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup dried cherries
• 3/4 cup chopped pecans
• 4 sprigs sage, minced
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place brie on a baking sheet or in a large cast-iron skillet. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Heat until softened, about 12-15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.
3. In a saucepan, combine remaining brown sugar, agave, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus juices and butter. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add dried cherries and pecans.
4. Pour mixture over the warm brie. Sprinkle with citrus zest and sage for garnish.
— Chef Kalen Morgenstern, www.facebook.com/ChefKalenJane