“Here’s the thing about Thanksgiving—at the end of the day, nobody wants a reinvented one,” says Leslie Jonath, author of the gorgeous and giftable new book, Feed Your People: Big-Batch, Big-Hearted Cooking and Recipes to Gather Around from Brooklyn publisher powerHouse Books. “Don’t put a fresh spin on the holiday,” Jonath continues. “Don’t screw around with Aunt Sally’s squash.”
But do gather your favorite people around a giant meal. Whether or not you’re doing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with your family, we highly recommend setting aside a day for a Friendsgiving feast. Maybe it’s a dinner for friends who won’t make it home for Thanksgiving or maybe it’s just a Sunday afternoon with your neighbors or some families from your kids’ school. Maybe it’s a book-free meeting of your book group, with each member’s partners, roommates, and kids invited, too. Hosting a large crew doesn’t have to be intimidating. Feed Your People explains how to simplify and take the pressure off.
“The whole point of the book is that you don’t have to do this by yourself. Get your people together and cook with your people. And then eat with them, all together.” And for Friendsgiving, how about a potluck with no guesswork? Leslie Jonath knows just how to do it.
A Collaborative Main Course
“I have been to a number of Friendsgivings, and I think that psychologically, I don’t want to replicate the turkey ritual with my friends. Even if I like your stuffing, it’s not my mother’s stuffing,” Jonath says. “There’s something about owning a new tradition with people. And if you want to make a simple, hearty Friendsgiving that everyone’s going to talk about for the rest of their lives, I think a turkey pot pie would be brilliant.”
Referring to San Francisco cooking instructor Mary Rizly’s amazingly indelicate YouTube video, “Just Put the F*cking Turkey in the Oven,” Jonath notes that roasting a turkey takes forever, often with mixed results. If you want guaranteed deliciousness, skip the roast turkey and opt for Merry “Corky” White’s Little Cranberry Chicken Potpie from Feed Your People. This recipe comes from the island of Little Cranberry, off the coast of Maine. Every year, at an annual Harvest Supper, a bunch of local cooks bring chicken potpies made from this very recipe. Jonath suggests following their lead and asking a couple of guests to bring along potpies, or inviting everyone to come over early and cook together.
• The hardest part of the recipe is peeling the pearl onions, but this could become a fun group activity.
• For added Turkey Day vibes, you could substitute leftover turkey, uncooked boneless turkey breasts, or turkey tenderloins for the chicken thighs listed in the recipe.
• If you want a major shortcut, Jonath gives you permission to skip the whole process of making a pastry crust and use frozen pie dough.
One Simple Side
Since a potpie is a one-dish meal, you don’t need to go nuts with a spread of traditional Thanksgiving add-ons. For vegetarian guests, you could make veggie pot pies, and Feed Your People offers a pair of great grain salads that could serve as main courses for vegan guests. So long as everyone is on board for the potpies, Jonath thinks you could enlist one guest with an even simpler task: “I would have someone bring a big green salad with chicory—just do 3 handfuls of lettuce per person with a lemony, garlicky vinaigrette.”
The Easiest, Coziest Dessert
For a crowd-pleasing, fuss-free dessert, you’ve got to try Becky Courchesne’s Frog Hollow Farm Fruit Crisp, also from the book. It can be made with whatever fruit looks good at the greenmarket, with apples and pears being the most obvious choices for the Friendsgiving table. And if one dessert doesn’t seem like enough, figure out which guest makes the best pumpkin pie and add that to the meal.
Why Feed Your People Tops Our Holiday Gift List
Leslie Jonath makes entertaining a crowd sound easy-breezy, but figuring out which recipes work in large batches takes a lot of trial and error. The last thing you want is a simple dish going horribly wrong just as you’re about to pile 20 guests into your apartment. Jonath has done all the troubleshooting for you. “The idea that you can just make a big pot of soup is a big fallacy,” Jonath says. “A big, huge pot of soup could burn on the bottom, while the rest doesn’t completely cook through. It’s actually better to do 2 vats and combine them.”
We hope to keep the Friendsgiving spirit alive all winter long, with Jonath’s chili cook-off recipes and advice on whipping up a Big Night Timpano, inspired by our favorite cooking movie of all time. We can’t wait to gather friends over Old School Chicken Parm and a summertime clambake, and we’re pretty sure that the book’s showstopper, Poole’s Diner Macaroni Au Gratin, is enough to make Feed Your People deserving of space on any crowded cookbook shelf. Jonath promises, “You’ll never want any other mac and cheese ever again.”