My big family is big on tradition. Holidays are when this is most apparent. For Thanksgiving, my dad always makes several turkeys—roasted, smoked and fried. After two huge meals—one with either side of the family—we go home to watch our favorite Christmas movie. When my brothers and I were kids, Thanksgiving was the first day we were allowed to start watching holiday movies, and what was once a rule has morphed into a tradition.
I’ve done this almost every year for 27 years. But I decided this year I might like to start making my own traditions: Rather than going home for Thanksgiving, I’ll be hosting a “friendsgiving” for the first time.
While I plan to incorporate some of my childhood favorites—like my grandmother’s ridiculously good stuffing—it’s exciting to take ownership of the menu. Because I am a creature of habit, I want to serve traditional Thanksgiving flavors and fare, but with a twist. Here are some of the best ideas I lifted from PBS Food. (And, yes, I’ll probably force my friends to watch a Christmas movie after we eat.)
Rather than serving your standard bird, which can be tricky to get just right, why not make delicious, flaky, handheld turkey pies? It’s like combining two traditional Thanksgiving foods in one! You can also swap in ground meat substitute to make this vegetarian friendly. The recipe is super simple, too—it calls for pre-made pie crust.
Holy smokes. These look so good. I am a sucker for French fries with mayonnaise, so classing up a favorite for the Thanksgiving table really resonates with me. PBS Food recommends wrapping them in paper cones, Euro-style, with your guests’ names written on them. Cute!
Because the fries are made of squash, my potato slot is still open! These smashed potatoes seasoned with soy sauce sound too good to be true—the recipe had me at “umami.” The dish sounds perfect as-is, but you can also add garlic if you’d like, which is always good news as far as I’m concerned. It’s a tough call, but this might be the one I’m most excited to try.
I was so happy when I learned that some people consider macaroni and cheese to be traditional Thanksgiving fare. I’m all about legitimizing this dish, another one of my favorites, which gets written off as kid food far too often. When I was a child (and today), I loved to add tons of pepper to my mac and cheese. It just tastes so good that way! So the fact that black pepper is a main ingredient—count me in. And the crisp on top once the mac is baked is to die for.
This dish boasts Thanksgiving flavors and autumnal colors. Seriously, this is one good-looking soup. The dukkah topping adds a crunch and the yogurt dollop cuts the strong flavor of pumpkin. Best thing is, this one is easy to make, even for everyday.
People have really strong feelings about pumpkin pie. If you’re one who would be happy to live the rest of your life without ever having another slice, here’s a delicious alternative. This simple custard—think flan—incorporates the fall flavors of pumpkin and maple into a silky, light, chilled dessert.
This might be best to have on hand at a family Thanksgiving, actually. Kidding! This warm bourbon + apple cider cocktail will warm you up from the inside. It’s an adult update on the mulled wine that you’ll probably get at other holiday parties this year. Bottoms up!
Want more great Thanksgiving ideas? Take this PBS Food quiz to find out what you should be serving this year.
Featured image of bourbon mulled cider courtesy of PBS Food.
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.