How to Master Your Appetizers, Main Course and Dessert
By: Jane Pastrana
It’s that time of year again for the ever popular #friendsgiving.
Hosting a dinner party for any amount of people can be a bit stressful, but with the proper planning, and understanding your own culinary skill set, it can be a very fun process.
My friends and I have a rule—the person who hosts will provide the turkey. This is something that had intimidated me for a long time until I decided to adjust to my comfort level of cooking.
Instead, I had decided to serve chicken breast my first year and then graduated to a roast chicken the next.
I’ve noticed that most people don’t even care about the bird, and typically get more excited for the side dishes anyway.
My goal is not to give you a list of recipes but to help inspire your own menu with your cooking skills in mind while preserving the level of deliciousness served.
Appetizers are extremely easy to pull something impressive off without much effort.
By simply arranging a few cheeses on a wooden board, instead of a plastic tray or white dish, it’s instantly transformed to a fall rustic look.
Slice up some cured meat or maybe even a few loaves of prosciutto bread to introduce something for the carnivores at your party.
Crudité is another simple thing to arrange in a fun and artistic way, just check out Pinterest! Now it’s a good idea to throw in about two or three other appetizers for a well-rounded first course.
Shrimp arranged around a pumpkin shaped bowl of cocktail sauce or some seasonal flatbreads cut up in bite-size pieces are a great addition.
You don’t want people to fill up too much on the appetizers that no one will touch the main course, which after years of Friendsgivings behind me is a lesson learned the hard way.
Now it’s time for the main event! As mentioned earlier, I’m a big fan of switching out the turkey for something a little more manageable, but that’s completely up to your preference.
Have fun with your side dishes, the stuffing has become my signature over the past few years.
I make my own sourdough bread based stuffing with spinach and artichoke hearts, but I do have friends that prefer the old school classic Stove Top.
Whichever your preference is, bake the stuffing in a muffin tin and then display them as a savory cupcake tower to help create levels to your table.
Growing up in an Italian American household, lasagna was always included in our Thanksgiving meal and the same goes for Friendsgiving, so feel free to include something particular to your household.
So, we have your turkey—or chicken, stuffing muffins and, if you come over to my house, lasagna on the table. Let’s finish off the meal with some veggie options.
Stuffed peppers can help introduce some color to the table and are easy to prepare in a big or small batch. You can either stuff them with quinoa and ground turkey breast or keep it all vegetarian friendly.
Mashed potatoes are always a given when you think about Friendsgiving sides, as well as, green bean casserole or sweet potato pie.
Giving these dishes a new twist can also be an easy way to dress up the table.
To enhance or differentiate your meal, finish the mashed potatoes off in the oven with some mozzarella sprinkled into the dish and, instead of adding a casserole, serve a green bean salad.
Dessert is probably the easiest course to cheat your way through with the wide variety of bakeries we have here on Staten Island, as well as delivery services like Fresh Direct.
I decided last year that I wanted to try my hand at making cheesecake which was way easier than I thought.
By adding fall colored sprinkles to the top, it instantly gave it a seasonal upgrade.
You can wrap up the rest of the stuffing muffins—assuming there were leftovers—and use the cupcake stand for some sweet cupcakes.
Leave them blank or frosted and set aside the decorations for a cupcake decorating station.
When it comes to dessert, there’s no limit to the inspiration sweets can bring.
Also with the addition of pumpkin flavored everything, that automatically doubles the dessert options.
Another idea is to abandon the traditional Thanksgiving menu completely and go for your favorite American dishes—trade out the turkey for fried chicken, make a grilled cheese platter and serve tater tots.
It doesn’t matter if you and your friends cook up a gourmet feast or order a bunch of pizzas, the only requirement is to set aside the time to enjoy a meal with your favorite people.
Maybe even throw a pumpkin on the table just for effect.