Friendsgiving is my favorite post(s) of the year here on ABM. I love cooking. I love photographing food. And I love hanging out with friends. I will say though that doing all of those things at once can be a touch overwhelming. I love hosting the meal, but I do always worry in the back of my mind if we’ll have enough food, or if the turkey will be done in time, etc. I suspect that many of you who will be hosting a big meal this year share lots of the same concerns. I must admit that this year I was really feeling like, “I got this.” Cooking a big meal was feeling pretty easy…and then I got thrown a curve ball.
I drove down to Nashville on a Saturday, knowing that we were set to host our event that Monday. With a family vacation happening right after this, it just turned out to be the best date for everyone involved. So Elsie and I went for it. I had already practiced all my recipes. (Except the turkey because I just can’t eat a whole turkey. I hate to waste it, so I just don’t practice it…I wing it. Ha! Pun!) I drove down with a cooler of my supplies and lots of baking and cooking gear in my car. Elsie had bought the turkey and it was thawing out in Nashville the day before I arrived (more on that in a minute).
So upon arriving, I learned that Elsie’s new oven doesn’t have racks. I mean it has racks, but the piece that holds the racks in place is missing. The company is rushing it to us, but it won’t arrive until sometime on Monday, and the turkey has to start baking around 8:30am that morning…so that’s not going to work. The alarms in my brain go off! Danger! Danger! You don’t have an oven and almost all your recipes need one! You’re in trouble! Friendsgiving is ruined!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And then I calmed down. I started thinking about grilling or smoking our turkey this year because I’ve been wanting to try that anyway. But with little time to plan and everything being closed on Sunday, this proved to be a bad plan. So I decided we’d just try to “rig” the oven racks, test it on a dish that day, and if it didn’t work, reevaluate the plan. We bought four metal loaf pans and set those on the bottom of Elsie’s oven (the heating coils are located on the top) then we set the rack on top of the loaf pans. I baked something. Nothing caught fire, smoked, or otherwise seemed to be ruining her oven or what I was baking. And that’s how four metal loaf pans saved Friendsgiving this year. Ha!
1. We had to buy a frozen turkey instead of fresh because we were too early. I called two turkey farms in my hometown just to see if they could get me one early, but they could not. I was about a month early, so I can’t really blame them. But this meant that our 12lb turkey had to thaw in the refrigerator for three days and it ended up not being completely thawed the night before. So I frantically googled around trying to figure out what to do when your turkey doesn’t thaw in time. In the end, I decided to try running cool water over the bird (still in its package) in the sink for about an hour and luckily that did the trick.
2. I decided to skip brining this year. Every year I brine the bird, and so I just wanted to see if it made a big difference if I didn’t. My conclusion: I think brining is a little better. Go figure. If you want to read about how I’ve brined past Friendsgiving birds, you can read about them here: Year 1 / Year 2 / Year 3. I’d have to say that year 2 is probably my favorite so far.
3. I also decided to try stuffing the bird this year (with bread stuffing). I had never tried this before, so again, just experimenting. My conclusion based on observed data (aka what everyone ate): the stuffing cooked in a casserole dish was preferred to the stuffing that was baked inside the bird. I tried a little of both, and I too preferred the casserole dish stuffing. I like the crispy bits and also I thought the bird stuffing was too moist for my liking. I like a slightly drier stuffing so I can pour gravy on it. 🙂 For our stuffing, I simply used a slight variation of this recipe, but omitted the apples, bourbon and eggs. I only needed a small amount to stuff the bird with and the rest I put in a small casserole pan.
Oh yes, turkey gravy. Oh how I missed you. As a mostly vegetarian throughout the year, it might surprise you to know that one of my very favorite things about this time of year is turkey gravy. It’s just SO good. You can read my foolproof method for making gravy here. (Spoiler: it’s super simple.)
So that’s the story of this year’s turkey, stuffing and gravy situation. I thought I’d have more recipes to share, but like I said, I just wasn’t wowed by this one this year. It was good, we ate it all, believe me, but I like to only share my very best here on ABM. But stay tuned because I do have lots of other great Thanksgiving recipes for you coming this week and next. 🙂 xo. Emma
Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photography: Collin Dupree and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.