Here at Elle & Pear we hosted our first Thanksgiving. We were honored to spend this Thanksgiving among friends from all over the world in our home away from home in Barcelona. Creating and executing a Thanksgiving dinner is no easy task, and one that inevitably takes practice and perfecting over time.
Like many forays into the culinary world, it takes a little bit of science, a tad bit of art, and a whole lot of work. While much of what can be learned needs to be experienced first hand, we are happy to share with you some of our insights into the world of Hosting Thanksgiving with Friends from a beginner’s perspective.
First, decide how big you are going to go and whether you have the time and resources to get there. Here are two basic menus and some tips to give you a place to start: The Ultra Basic Menu and the Basic (but still lots of work) Thanksgiving Menu. We’ve also included some prep tips, including when to make what, and a few extras.
The Ultra Basic Thanksgiving Menu
- Turkey (aka The Main Event) & Gravy: Keep It Simple Silly. Order a fully prepared turkey for day-of-delivery.
- Tip: Even easier, find a store nearby that does rotisserie chicken. It’s a friends’ Thanksgiving, no need to stress about making the perfect turkey (no prizes are awarded), plus it goes just as well with gravy and cranberry sauce. Sit back and enjoy the company and the juiciness of the chicken!
- One Side | Stuffing: Make only one side, such as stuffing, the ultimate pair for your ordered-in turkey. If it already comes with stuffing, make mashed potatoes. They’re super easy, inexpensive, and they go well with gravy.
- One Dessert | Pie: Make only one dessert such as pie (or better yet order it ahead of time from your favorite local bakery).
- Potluck, Potluck, Potluck: Make a list of what you’re making and a list of suggestions for your guests to bring such as additional sides, desserts, drinks or appetizers.
- Tip: Go light on the appetizers. No one will be particularly keen on filling up on appetizers when the biggest feast of the year awaits them. Stick with something simple like cheese and crackers.
- Tip: For an even more basic approach, order the turkey and organize it such that everyone else brings all of the other sides, drinks and desserts.
If you’re looking to do a little bit more than just the ultra basics, take a look at this Basic (but still lots of work) Thanksgiving Menu from us here at Elle & Pear. It still provides some suggestions for Friend “Sourcing”, but also allows you to dabble in making some of your favorite sides. Keep an eye out for some tips on execution and links to Elle & Pear Thanksgiving Recipes below.
The Basic (but still lots of work) Thanksgiving Menu
- Turkey & Gravy: Just as above, keep it simple and order a fully prepared turkey (or rotisserie chicken) for day-of-delivery.
- Tip: When buying, ask for extra drippings from the turkey or chicken to make your own gravy.
- Green Bean Casserole
- Mashed Potatoes
- Dinner Rolls (store bought)
- Cranberry Sauce (store bought)
- Drinks & Desserts
- Apple Pie
- Cornucopia with Fresh Fruit (apples, bananas, pears, grapes).
- Tip: This is a super simple eye-catcher, and it fits perfectly with the theme of the day. Guests can grab a piece of fruit for the road at the end of the evening. Chances are they’ll save it (who could possibly eat anything else after the multiple helpings of turkey, endless sides, and pie) and reminisce about your wonderful meal while eating it at lunch the next day. If nothing else, you’re stocked up with fruit for the rest of the week, a good balance to the meal you’ve just eaten.
- Drinks: Two or three bottles of wine, a bottle or two of soda, and some juice.
- Tip: Invite guests to bring something that they like to drink to help stock up the bar for the evening.
- Friend Source
- Additional Sides
- Tip: Everyone does Thanksgiving a little bit differently. Even if guests bring more of the same, they will have added their own touch, making the dinner even more intimate and unique.
- Tip: You can never have too many desserts… never.
- Tip: Today is more about the food than the drinks, let everyone bring a little something that they like and keep your focus on the food.
- Additional Sides
The Extras & Prep Tips
- Sides | If you have inexhaustible energy or organizing skills, give these a shot.
- Sweet Potatoes with toasted marshmallows
- Banana Bread
- Corn Bread or Cranberry Bread
- Pearl Onions in Cream Sauce
- Two small table vases
- Single flower for the bathroom
- Tip: Buy one large bouquet at the florist the day before. Split it into four vases. Use a single medium-sized flower in a small vase for the bathroom. Use two side vases (use what you have on hand, perhaps leftover glass bottles from rootbeer or fancy soda) for the table with a flower or two and a filler like baby’s breath or some greenery. Lastly, add the remaining flowers in a centerpiece vase. Now you have all your bases covered.
- Two for the table
- One for the bathroom
- Tip: Tupperware
- Buy a pack or two of plastic tupperware to pack up the leftovers and for guests to take home on the way out. Your guests will have the best leftover lunch ever, and you’ll feel good about having divided up the leftovers.
- When to Make What
- Day Of: Turkey, Gravy, and Stuffing
- Day Prior: Absolutely Everything Else
- Prep Tip #1: As soon as your guests arrived you are going to be pulled in a million different directions. Everything that can be done ahead of time should be done ahead of time. It will feel like a struggle just to get everything heated through in time. So save yourself the stress and prepare everything the day before. You can leave things like adding crispy onions on top of the green bean casserole or marshmallows on the sweet potatoes until the last minute, but otherwise they should be made the day before Thanksgiving.
- Prep Tip #2: Take everything out that you made the day before earlier in the day on Thanksgiving. This will give it a chance to warm up and take less time to reheat in the oven. The more oven time you can save (unless you happen to have about 5 of them) the better.
- Prep Tip #3: Skip heating up any bread. On Thanksgiving, room temperature bread is just as good as warm bread. The same is not as true about some of the sides. Save the oven for them.
- Final Tip: Be a guest at your own party. Take some time to sit back, enjoy the time with your friends and soak in all of your hard work. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Perfection is boring. As long as there is some semblance of food, a few drinks, and good friends you can call it a success.