We hosted our second Friendsgiving over the weekend for some friends from church. It was so much work, but so much fun and definitely our best one yet. I started prep for it on Thursday by making the syrups for our two cocktails. I did the bulk of the cooking on Friday, which certainly had its setbacks. And my friend Taylor came over early on Saturday to help me finish off the side dishes while Luke managed the turkey and made more than one last minute grocery store runs. We also made a few upgrades from Thanksgiving 2017.
The first improvement, was extending our table. Last year just put our two tables together, but the table from our kitchen was slightly taller and slightly more narrow than our dining room table, so it didn’t look quite right. Over the summer, after we replaced the table with our bar, Luke turned the kitchen table into a table with hinged legs, making it perfect for picnics in the back garden. He was careful with the leg heights so we could add a board that was the same width as our dining room table to the top and it would all be the same height. Perfect! But still, our table is so narrow, so this year we got even more boards to put on top of the whole thing, making it about 6 inches wider, which made a world of difference. Especially since the plates we got for our wedding are bigger than the plates we got from IKEA when we first moved in together.
Our menu was also bigger than it was last year, starting with having two signature cocktails this year. Last year, I made my go-to autumn cocktail, which was great and perfect for Thanksgiving. This year, I decided to go with two different cocktails with Thanksgiving flavour: an apple cinnamon gin & tonic and a cranberry Moscow Mule. I set everything up on our bar and then forgot to take photos of the bar and the drinks! We even had this cool glass bottles for the simple syrups and got to use the pourers that came in our cocktail set for probably the second time. It was legit!
APPLE CINNAMON GIN FIZZ
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 apple (any kind), sliced
2 oz apple cinnamon simple syrup
1 1/2 oz gin
3 oz tonic water
Make cinnamon apple simple syrup:
In a medium saucepan, bring apples, cinnamon, sugar, and water to a simmer over medium. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Let cool, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard apples.
Coat rim with lemon juice, then cinnamon sugar mixture.
In a cocktail glass, combine all ingredients, and stir. Add ice, and serve.
Garnish with thinly sliced apple and cinnamon stick.
CRANBERRY MOSCOW MULES
2 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (8 ounces)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 oz cranberry simple syrup
2 oz vodka
6 frozen cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
Make cranberry simple syrup:
In a medium saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, and water to a simmer over medium. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until cranberries are tender but haven't burst, 10 minutes. Let cool, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard cranberries.
Combine all ingredients, and stir. Pour over ice, and serve, preferably in a copper mug.
Garnish with cranberries.
I also added mac & cheese to our menu this year. My family has never had mac & cheese as a Thanksgiving side, but I know it’s a staple for some families and after we discovered the world’s best mac & cheese earlier this fall, I couldn’t resist. While looking at our menu, I realised we were seriously lacking on the veggies department, so I decided to do roasted carrots and parsnips too.
One of my goals for this autumn was to try a new recipe for Thanksgiving, and I actually tried two! The carrots and parsnips are the first. And instead of making the caramel apple pie I made last year, this year I made a chocolate bourbon pecan pie. It was the first disaster on Friday when I checked on it in the oven and realised the filling had essentially swallowed the crust. The recipe didn’t call for the crust to be baked before adding it and it definitely should have. Plus it took about twice and long to cook than the recipe called for. Luckily I had left over pie crust so I cut out some leaves to add to the top, but I forgot to give them an egg wash so they didn’t look as done as they should have.
The other setbacks I experienced on Friday were spilling some tea into the beginning of my bread dough. I was tight on counter space and had my tea cup between the bowl and the hand mixer, so when I went to pick it up, I also managed to spin the hand mixer, which then ran into the tea cup and then spilled not anywhere on the counter, but all into the bowl! Luckily I had only added two cups of the flour and I had exactly enough milk to remake the dough. Later that night, I had some issues trying to add the pumpkin design onto the cheesecake. I just gave up in the end, but I lost a bit of the filling set aside for the design, so it was the opposite of the pecan pie: 90% crust, 10% filling. Ha!
The last improvement we had this year was cooking a whole turkey. Last year, I was absolutely terrified that we would end up with an under-cooked or even frozen turkey, so we opted for a large turkey breast that could be cooked from frozen. This year, Luke was determined to cook a whole turkey, so he took on the main dish from the beginning. He defrosted it, brined it, even added a beautiful bacon lattice on top! And let me tell you, it was beautiful and delicious! He really did a fantastic job.
Thanksgiving 2018 was fantastic! British people asked me a lot this week 1) What is Thanksgiving? and 2) Am I sad not to be home for Thanksgiving? Truth be told, I don’t mind missing Thanksgiving in the States. Of course I miss my family, but that’s true every day! I’m glad we’ve been able to create our own traditions and share our table with friends who have become our Birmingham family each year. Food is such a powerful thing when it comes to memories and comfort and being able to recreate my favourite dishes from my grandmother’s menu or my mother’s menu or my stepmother’s menu has been an amazing way to feel connected to my family and feel like I’m taking on that role in my own family. Also, I think the fact that Thanksgiving isn’t a set date makes it easier to be in another country that doesn’t celebrate it at all. Of course no one has the day off here, so we’ve done it on the weekend both years. I don’t mind it much because having Thanksgiving on the 24th of November is no big deal!
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and are still enjoying all those delicious left overs! We’re doing a late Late Thanksgiving this evening with some friends who weren’t able to make it over the weekend. We just forgot to save gravy because neither of us like gravy whatsoever! Whoops!