Celebrating Thanksgiving with friends has the added appeal of being instantly more casual. Embrace the richness of your social circle, and break free of the trappings of family tradition, while keeping the heart of the holiday in mind when you host your first Thanksgiving for friends. With a mix of classic and more adventurous recipes, and a tableful of good friends, you’re guaranteed a fun feast.
Divide and conquer
Save yourself a little stress, and make it a controlled potluck affair. Establish your theme, set the menu, and then ask friends to pitch in with a dish, dessert or a drink that suits them best. Sharing your plans includes everyone in your big day and won’t overwhelm your kitchen. If a friend is a Brussels sprouts fanatic (yes, they exist!), you know who can tackle that dish. Appetizers, sides and desserts are logical choices—most can be prepared in advance, and sides can get a quick re-heat, if necessary once they arrive.
What to remember
Don’t forget the little things. Think through the meal from start to finish, and make sure you have enough silverware, napkins, plates, serving dishes and serving utensils. Do you have dessert plates and forks for pie? A cheeseboard for your appetizer spread? A water pitcher? Think about the end of the meal. Even if you’ve hosted plenty of parties, chances are you haven’t had quite so many dishes on the table at one time. Solicit help from friends in advance, and know who is bringing what.
Plan in advance
- Stock the fridge with non-alcoholic beverages: sparkling water and juice make a great pre-party and clean-up thirst quencher.
- Consult with friends to divide up the menu, and cover the bases with beverage and serving ware.
- Buy the wine and non-perishable ingredients a week in advance to avoid the grocery store crunch.
- Set the table the night before.
- Make a playlist. Have all your favorite tunes at the ready to take you from cocktails to lounging after the meal.
- Be prepared to serve coffee after dinner. Have enough coffee and cups on hand for a crowd. Grind the coffee and program the machine so it’s ready to go before guests arrive.
- Take a break between dinner and dessert to walk around the neighborhood. If a couple folks want to stay behind and help clear the first load of dishes—the more hands the merrier.
- Plan for a game (board, word, drawing, action—you name it) after dinner for the perfect social respite after a week spent behind computer screens.
- Have a musician in the group? Make sure the guitar comes along!