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friends thanksgiving

November 16, 2010

It wasn’t our idea, but we copied the heck out of it.

When we lived in Minnesota, our friend, Andrea, would organize a giant Thanksgiving meal, to be shared by our group of friends.  It was always amazingly fun… and the food?  Delish.

So 2 weeks ago, on a whim, I decided that we needed to bring this tradition to Michigan.  I convinced my friend (conveniently, her name is Andrea, too) to collaborate with me on this one, since she’s got some mad cooking skills (she was, after all, part of the brains behind the meat party, and also an excellent sushi party host).  I kind of wanted to see if I could pull off a meal of this magnitude.  Also?  The china, crystal, and gravy boats that we registered for have been sitting on the shelves collecting dust for the last 2 years and it was high time to break them out!

I started preparations on Saturday, baking a pumpkin pie that ended up getting overcooked because the texture was weird and I thought it was still uncooked.  So I won’t share that recipe.  Because I’m still confused about what happened.

We also brined the turkey on Saturday, using this recipe (we just used step 1 of that recipe – the brine part).  Basically, I mixed 3 cups light brown sugar + 1 cup kosher salt + 4 cups hot water until the salt & sugar dissolved.  Then, I added a package of thyme, 1/4 cup black peppercorns, and 4 cups of ice.  I used turkey-specific oven bags to hold the brine & recruited Jason to help me stick the turkey in the bags.  I filled the bag with as much water as I could and then tied it up, sticking the bagged turkey back on a metal tray with edges (in case the bags leaked) and put it back in the fridge.

As far as I’m concerned, brining the turkey is the key to a super-moist turkey.  I think we’ll be brining every turkey we make from here on out.


Sunday morning, we pulled the turkey back out, rubbed it a Paprika-Brown Sugar rub (yum), and put it on the grill.  It’s sitting up awkwardly like that because we beer-canned it – meaning that it’s got a giant fosters can with leftover brine shoved up in there.  Because the turkey was so big, we had to use bricks to prop up the grill lid, then covered the space between the grill & the lid with aluminum foil.  I thought the turkey was going to take forever and ever to cook like that – especially with Sunday’s 40-degree temperatures.  But it cooked MUCH faster than we anticipated, and we had a fully-done turkey in about 2.5 hours. Which I loudly proclaimed was a Thanksgiving Miracle!

While Jason was tending the turkey (and vacuuming the living room – a second Thanksgiving Miracle, because the boy hates to vacuum and will choose almost any household chore above it), I made some mashed potatoes, using my favorite crock pot mashed potatoes recipe (except that I peeled my potatoes because I find potato peels in my mashed potatoes offensive).  I dig this approach because it means that my potato mess can be cleaned up long before guests arrive, and because the potatoes stay amazingly warm, even through dinner, which is crucial for those of us who enjoy seconds.

I also made my grandma’s delish cranberry relish, which is super easy (and I’ve been informed that it freezes well, too).  Throw 12 oz cranberries, 3/4 apple, 3/4 orange, a little bit of orange rind, and 1 c sugar into your food processor & chop it up until it’s a relish-y texture.  Super-easy, right?

And, for my final bit of the meal, I prepped some beans: 3 min in boiling water, then immediately into a cold water bath.  Throw ’em on a pan, slather them with butter, and just before you’re ready to eat, heat them in the oven for a few minutes.

Mmmm… Excuse me, I think I just drooled on myself a little just thinking about this…

Surprisingly, all of my cooking & cleaning was done well before guests arrived.  (This never happens).  And I was feeling pretty relaxed.  Which makes me think that maybe I could have handled making the rolls & gravy, too?  Although, Andrea did such a great job with those (and the stuffing! and the sweet potatoes! and the amazing apple pie!), that I’m certainly not complaining.

Of course, the food wouldn’t have tasted half as good without my table-setting skills.  (NOT!  But I’m going to show you anyways!).

I stuck pieces of orange paper with each person’s name on it inside a walnut (this idea is totally and shamelessly copied from Martha – I am just feeling so uncreative these days).  If you’re going to replicate this, you’ll need a razor blade to crack the walnut open a little without completely shattering it.

I meant to make a fancy centerpiece, and actually picked nuts & acorns from the yard for it, but ran out of time.  Which was fine because once the food was on the table, there wasn’t much room for pretty centerpieces anyways.  And you know I’d rather have food up there than prettiness (although, really, both would be best. in an ideal world).

All in all, it was a great meal with an amazing set of friends!  We are so blessed to have such a great group of people to hang out with.  And we’re very thankful that we’ll get to munch on all of this food goodness again in a week!  Yes!

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2010 3:39 pm

    So fun and you guys did a fantastic job! That plate of food is definitely making me hungry. I love the idea of a friends Thanksgiving…maybe I need to start that tradition here in Maine! Oh, and grilling the turkey is brave. I am amazed that it cooked so quickly!

  2. November 16, 2010 3:51 pm

    Yum, everything looks so good!

  3. mom permalink
    November 16, 2010 8:56 pm

    I agree, grilling that turkey is very brave! It really cooked all the way through? I heard it was a 20 pounder!

    • November 17, 2010 10:56 pm

      It was a 20 pounder, and yes, it was cooked all the way through (weren’t you calling me the “safety queen” in Montana? Look at you on safety patrol now!). In case you’re wondering, the internal temp of the bird was over 200 – it’s officially cooked when the temp hits 180. So there. 🙂

  4. November 17, 2010 7:44 am

    We are actually doing a friend’s Christmas dinner this year. I love this idea of celebrating on another day with close friends! You did such a fab job! And the food plate did make me want to drool also!

  5. GGG permalink
    November 17, 2010 4:33 pm

    Looking at those pictures makes me want next week to come real fast! I can’t wait to see the whole family together!

  6. Debbie permalink
    November 17, 2010 11:07 pm

    It looks delicious! We were invited to a friends Thanksgiving one year in Kentucky when we didn’t go home. It was so much fun and very nice of you to host it! A 20 pound turkey! We’ll be having a little baby 14 pound breast this year with our small group.
    Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays. I hope you have a wonderful one ! Give my best to all those you’ll be spending it with.

  7. November 17, 2010 11:50 pm

    This looks like such fun. I think I need to try this. Your table looked great and the food…ohmygoshiwishiwasclosersoicouldcometofriendthanksgiving. Delicious, in other words. Yum!

  8. November 18, 2010 12:29 am

    I’m a huge fan of brining – only way I’ll do it! Looks fun!

  9. November 18, 2010 10:36 am

    I’m having a giveaway if you want to head on over. 🙂

  10. November 18, 2010 11:00 pm

    I love this idea! Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday and what a great way to spend it with friends 🙂 Bravo on the team work, too. xoxo

  11. November 23, 2010 12:49 pm

    Love the idea of a friends thanksgiving!

    Basically I love the idea of ANY thanksgiving!!!

    Some year I hope we will be on America over Thanksgiving 🙂

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