Friendsgiving is one of my absolute favorite holiday traditions around the Thanksgiving holiday. I’ve been organizing Friendsgiving with my group of friends for over ten years, and we look forward to it every year! Being in the hospitality industry, compounded with being a Chicago transplant (though it’s been 15 years), meant that there were plenty of holidays that I didn’t get to spend with my family. Luckily, I’ve surrounded myself with wonderful friends that have become my family!
And we all have that one friend that can nap through anything!
We typically host our gathering a week or two before the actual holiday when a lot of people travel or have plans with family. I’m personally a fan of two weeks before, because while a turkey dinner with all the sides is one of my favorite meals, I like having a little time between Friendsgiving and the actual holiday (plus, I need time to make room for more leftovers). Friendsgiving, and potlucks in general, are a great way to take the pressure off the host as everyone brings a part of the meal!
In 2020, when we couldn’t safely get together, my friends and I chose to donate to a better cause, and we raised over $1000 to purchase and donate food to a local food pantry to help make the holidays for those in our community a little brighter. I was disappointed that we missed Friendsgiving, but I was so proud to have such a generous and kind group of friends!
It’s become second nature for me to plan Friendsgiving, but I can appreciate that it can sound daunting so rather than provide you a traditional recipe for the holiday, I thought it would be helpful to offer a recipe - some tips and tricks if you will - for hosting a successful Friendsgiving. In fact, you can use these ideas for any upcoming holiday get-together!
1. Plan Ahead
Choose a few dates and poll your friends to see what date works best out of a few options. I like gathering on Sunday at 12pm to enjoy football as well. Send out your invitations (text, email, social media, snail mail all work) at least a month in advance as the holidays book up quickly for people. Tell your guests the event starts an hour before you plan to eat (you know people will be late). I like to be able to sit down and enjoy the meal together. If guests can’t make it at the beginning, I always suggest they bring dessert!
2. Create a List
I always tackle the turkey, gravy and stuffing and create a list of dishes for people to choose to bring. Include it all!
Here’s my go-to list:
- Bread: Dinner Rolls, Cornbread and Biscuits
- Sauces: Cranberry Sauce
- Carbs: Mac 'n Cheese, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes
- Vegetables: Corn, Squash, Greens, Brussel Sprouts, Carrots, Green Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower
- Desserts: Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie, Brownies, Cookies, Cupcakes
I like social media because you can update the list in real time. I think it’s fun to leave the list general and let guests decide how to prepare the items – casseroles, mashed, roasted, etc. At this point, a lot of my friends have “their dishes” that they must bring like Dan’s Mashed Potatoes, Sarah’s Mac 'n Cheese, and Rachel’s Turkey Cupcakes, otherwise the others may riot!
Ask for RSVPs one week in advance and update your guests on the final number so everyone knows how much to make/bring. We have so many sides that I typically suggest about a half portion per person, so if you have 20 guests, 10 regular portions should suffice. I’ve hosted as many as 40 and as few as 10. You’ll want to make sure to have enough table space and chairs (couches count in my book!) to make everyone comfortable. You can certainly use fancy china if you have a smaller group, but paper plates work well for large groups and make clean up a breeze.
4. Have Plan for Serving and Plan for Leftovers
I typically plan for about one pound of turkey per person. If you have more than 15 guests, I find it’s easier to cook two turkeys – more legs, wings, etc.
Carve the turkey and platter it up rather than trying to carve at the table! I also think it’s easier to serve the meal buffet-style, rather than passing platters. You can have guests walk around the table or have a separate buffet area. Encourage guests to take leftovers. They can either bring plastic containers, or you can provide paper plates, foil, plastic wrap, etc.
Looking for more holiday tips and tricks? Join us for our Virtual Thanksgiving Crash Course Demonstration this Saturday, November 19, 2023 at 10am CST. It’s like the Butterball hotline, but even better! The Chopping Block's Owner/Chef Shelley Young will walk you through the entire meal from the turkey to the sides and to the desserts. You’ll be able to ask questions along the way, and even better, you’ll get the recording from Zoom which is good for one week so you’ll be able to review or cue it up in real time for your Thanksgiving meal!
Let us save you some time on Thanksgiving Day. We’re baking our famous Apple Pies in a pre-seasoned cast iron skillet and pumpkin pies that are available for pick up on Tuesday, November 22nd or Wednesday, November 23rd from Lincoln Square. They’re selling quickly and quantities are limited, so order yours now!
Looking to learn to cook? We’ve got some of my favorite seasonal menus coming up! Join us tonight, Thursday, November 17 at 6pm at Lincoln Square for Hands-On The Great Pumpkin. Learn how to make fall cocktails featuring sparkling wine on Friday, November 18 during Hands-On Sparkling Fall Cocktails.
Ready to bake? We have Hands-On Holiday Cookie Boot Camp on Sunday, December 10 at 10am and Saturday, December 17 at 10am, along with Hands-On Festive Family Baking on Sunday, December 18 at 12pm and Friday, December 23 at 10am. We also have one of our favorite holiday traditions, Hands-On Feast of the Seven Fishes on Friday, December 23 at 5:30pm. If you’re ready to plan for the New Year… we have Hands-On New Year’s Eve Surf and Turf on Saturday, December 31 at 6pm. If you’re looking to celebrate earlier with the kids, we offer Hands-On Noon Year’s Eve during the day on Saturday, December 31st.
If you can’t join us in person, we have some great virtual classes coming up too! Don’t forget to visit our retail store for all your cooking and culinary gift-giving. We’re also participating in Shop Late Lincoln Square. My favorite gift idea this year is our Holiday Wine Case and new for 2023: Wine of the Month Club – get them while you can!