If you’re hosting your first Friendsgiving, it can be hard to figure out where to start. Whether your guests are students enjoying their first American Thanksgiving or friends who can’t make it home to their families, you can still present them with an impressive, traditional meal while also keeping it casual. I’ve simplified these recipes with the goal of helping you make an entire Thanksgiving spread in just a few hours.
This entire spread comes from my new book, Wood for Sheep: The Unauthorized Settlers Cookbook. You don’t have to serve your spread in these cheap and easy hex shaped dishes, but if you’re going to play some boardgames later, why not show off a little? Have fun with it.
If you want to make a full sized Settlers of Catan Friendsgiving board, you’ll need:
Hills = 8 cups basil roasted carrots
Forest = 8 cups garlic butter green beans
Pasture = 8 cups dressing
Mountains = 3 lbs turkey tenderloins
Fields = 6 cups sweet corn with garlic butter
Desert = 2 cups mashed potatoes and gravy
Ocean = 12 pumpkin stuffed sweet rolls
Basil Roasted Carrot Hills
4 pounds carrots
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp basil
2 tsp Kosher salt
If you can find red carrots at your local health food store, schmancy food store, or farmers market, the bright color difference is worth a couple extra bucks. For the purpose of this board, nod and smile and pretend those bricks are more red than orange.
Peel your carrots and thinly slice them. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add all of your carrots and stir until they’re a little oily.
This is a slow food recipe. Let the carrots cook for about 35-40 minutes, stirring every five minutes. The edges will turn a dark brown as they caramelize. Don’t try to rush it. The slow cooking does amazing things to the texture. When you’re finished, they should be soft inside and slightly crisp on the outside.
Mix the basil and salt. Sprinkle the spice mix over your carrots, stirring well so they’re all coated. Cook for another 5 minutes. Resist the temptation to add the herbs earlier. If you do, they’ll burn, rendering your carrots inedible.
Garlic Butter Green Bean Forest
2 pounds fresh green beans
1 cup butter
10 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp Kosher salt
Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan. Add the salt and crushed garlic cloves. Cook until the garlic barely starts to brown, stirring frequently. Add rest of the butter and melt it over a medium heat. When the butter is melted, reduce the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for half an hour, stirring a couple times. Strain out the garlic cloves. You should end up with a lovely, golden, butter sauce with a rich garlic flavor.
If you use too much heat you’ll end up with a nutty, dark, browned butter sauce. Its’ still tasty, but isn’t golden yellow. If that’s the case, just tell people your fields are suffering from a drought.
Fill a stockpot with enough water to thoroughly drown your green beans. While that comes to a boil, snip the ends off your beans.
You probably still have some time to kill, so prepare an ice bath while you’re waiting. Before the beans cook, you want to have a strainer waiting in one half of your sink and a large bowl of ice water in the other (or on the counter if you don’t have a double sink.)
Once the water finally gets around to boiling, throw in your green beans. Let them cook for about 4 minutes to achieve the coveted tender-crisp texture. Immediately strain them then dump your steaming beans into the ice water. This stops the beans from cooking and preserves their color.
I’ll be honest with you. Getting the green beans to stand up nicely in these hex dishes is a pain. If they’re deliciously oily from garlic butter or other sauces, getting them to stand up is nearly impossible. If you’re all about presentation, go ahead and arrange your beans dry with a discrete gravy boat of garlic butter hovering nearby. The garlic butter is also really good on the carrots and mashed potatoes. In fact, don’t be surprised if it’s as popular as your gravy.
8 cups dried bread cubes
8 tbsp (one stick) butter or vegan butter substitute
6 cups chicken broth or veggie broth
2 onions, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 granny smith apples, peeled and diced (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp sage
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
Thanksgiving trivia time! The difference between stuffing and dressing is stuffing goes in the bird while dressing is made in its own container. Since we’re simplifying things by making turkey tenderloins instead of a whole bird, this side dish is dressing.
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions, celery, and apples until the onions start to brown. (I like apples in my dressing. Not everyone agrees. Leave them out if you’re not a fan. If, on the other hand, you really enjoy a little sweetness with your savory side dish, try also adding 1 cup of raisins to the bread cubes.)
Once the onions brown, melt the rest of your butter. (If you add all the butter at once, the onions will drown instead of brown.) Throw in the sage, salt, basil and thyme and mix them well.
Before we move on, let’s talk about your bread cubes. Maybe you bought a bag from the grocery store. I’ve done it myself. But trust me when I say you’ll be a lot happier if you use any artisan loaf. A garlic and onion loaf or a Tuscan Focaccia or really anything with some herbs and flavor in it is a better choice than a bag of bread cubes. Eat a slice or two, cut the rest into slices and leave them out to dry overnight. The next day, cut them up into smallish pieces then put them in your food processor to get a little finer texture. (That last part isn’t required. If you like chunkier dressing just cut your bread into one inch cubes.) A lot of your flavor comes from the bread, so pick yours accordingly.
Pour your butter and broth into a large rectangular baking dish. Add the beaten eggs. Mix everything until it becomes one dubious liquid mass. Now add the bread crumbs. You want to get them as evenly moistened as possible. I find it’s easiest to just reach in there with your hands and knead it.
Once you’re done, pat everything down so you have a nice, even top. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes or until the top is a nice, crisp golden brown.
Honey Butter Sweet Corn Fields
8 cups of corn
8 tbsp butter
4 tbsp honey
2 tsp Kosher salt
I freely admit that I’m a corn snob. Fresh corn on the cob is infinitely better than canned. Canned is notably better than frozen. Frozen isn’t actually food.
If corn on the cob is in season, you’ll need about 8-10 ears depending on size. Shuck the corn, bring a big pot of water to a boil, and throw in the ears. Put a lid on the pot and turn off the heat. Let it sit undisturbed for 15 minutes. Strain it, rinse it in cool water, and let it rest and cool for a few minutes before cutting the beautifully crisp kernels off the ears. Or, y’know, drain some cans.
However you acquire your kernels, you now want to mix them with some delicious sauce. You can skip some time by just using the same garlic butter sauce as the asparagus.
However, if you want to give each side dish an individual buttery spin, melt the honey and butter in a large, microwave safe bowl. That takes about 20 seconds, one good stir, and 20 more seconds in my microwave, but your wattage may vary. Add the salt and stir it one more time. Now dump in all those kernels and mix until they’re coated in sweet deliciousness.
Turkey Tenderloin Mountains
3 pounds turkey tenderloins
3 tbsp olive oil or melted butter
3 tsp Kosher salt
3 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tsp kitchen herbs
You’re welcome to bake an entire turkey if you like. Most people I know only eat the white meat, so if I’m not making a dramatic presentation turkey, I like to really simplify things but just baking some tenderloins. Sure, tenderloins are less traditional, but keep in mind you’re probably serving this in hex shaped plastic weigh boats you bought online. Sometimes you need new traditions.
Simply rub your turkey tenderloins down with either olive oil or melted butter. Now coat each one with ½ tsp each of salt and pepper. You’re welcome to add other kitchen herbs if you’d like. I’m a big fan of basil and thyme on my turkey.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Space out your tenderloins so they’re not touching. Bake your antisocial turkey at 400F for 30 minutes. Let it rest for another 10 minutes before slicing.
Garlic Mashed Potato Desert
3 pounds baking potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
Start a big sauce pot of water boiling. This takes time, so while you wait, peel and cube your potatoes. Once the water comes to a boil, throw them in and put on the lid. Let the potatoes cook for about 15 minutes.
While the potatoes merrily boil away, melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add your minced garlic cloves and cook until they barely start to brown. This is a simple way to add a lot of richness to the flavor.
When the garlic starts to brown, add the rest of your butter. Once it melts, add the salt and pepper mix well, and turn off the heat. If you like your garlic mashed potatoes super garlicy, double the number of cloves.
When your potatoes have cooked for 15 minutes, strain them. I dump mine right back in the same pot. Add the garlic butter mix and heavy cream, then pound away with a potato masher until you reach your favorite texture.
Easy Brown Gravy
1 cup chicken or veggie broth
¼ cup red wine
½ cup water, divided
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp Kosher salt
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the red wine, broth, water, salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for at least 15 minutes so the harshness has burned out of the alcohol and you’re just left with flavor.
Meanwhile, whisk the flour and remaining ¼ cup of water together until the mix is free from lumps. After 15 minutes of simmering, add the flour mix. Whisk enthusiastically to keep lumps from developing.
Cook for another 2-3 minutes then remove it from the heat. Let the mix thicken for at least 10 minutes before serving. Feel free to toss in a clove of minced garlic or a pinch of your favorite kitchen herbs if you want to make your gravy a little more exciting.
Pumpkin Stuffed Sweet Rolls
4 – 4 ½ cups bread flour
1 tbsp yeast
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp softened butter
1 tsp salt
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp table salt
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup melted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp water
This recipe is similar to the Blueberry Stuffed Sweet Rolls from the Cold Salad board, but instead of summer berries, it’s stuffed with pumpkiny autumn goodness. If you understandably prefer a nice blue ocean around your board, substitute those rolls instead.
To make these, start by heating the milk until it’s the temperature of a warm bath. Mix in the yeast. Let that bloom for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, eggs and softened butter. Mix it all into a single frothy mess. Now mix in the flour.
If you have a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and let it do the hard labor for the next 6-7 minutes. If you’re kneading by hand, show that dough who’s boss for the next 8-10 minutes. Once you have achieved a well-kneaded dough, cover it with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise for an hour. When you come back, dust a clean surface with flour, punch down your dough, and roll it into a large rectangle.
To make the filling, melt your butter in a microwave safe bowl. While that’s melting, mix your canned pumpkin with the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt in another bowl. Paint the dough rectangle with melted butter. Spread the pumpkin mix over it, leaving a one inch border on all sides. Carefully roll the dough along the long side until you now have a long tube of sweet holiday temptation. You may notice the filling has pushed its way to the ends. It’s a good thing you didn’t spread it all the way to the edge or else you’d have a huge mess.
Cut the tube into 1 inch slices. Instead of a huge mess, you now have a moderate sized one. There’s no getting around it. Some of the filling is destined to gloop out. Arrange your rolls 3 inches apart on well greased cookie sheets. Don’t put them any closer. You want big round pumpkiny cinnamon rolls, not scrunched in square ones.
Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let the rolls rise for another hour. Bake them at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are a dark golden brown. While the rolls bake, mix up your glaze. Whisk the powdered sugar and water together until you have a smooth paste. Add the pumpkin and cinnamon. It’s that easy. Let the rolls cool completely before glazing.
If you’re out of time or just don’t like making bread, here’s the cheat code for faking your way through these rolls.
3 tubes generic cinnamon roll dough
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup brown sugar + 1 tbsp
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice + 1 tsp
You’ll want the generic store brand cinnamon rolls. Pillsbury make unrollable cinnamon biscuits.
Mix the canned pumpkin, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice. Now unroll each cinnamon roll and spread a tablespoon of the pumpkin mix over the cinnamon coated side of the dough. Roll it back up.
Arrange your stealthily stuffed rolls on baking sheets with at least 2 inches of space between them. Bake the cinnamon rolls according to package directions.
While the rolls bake, mix the extra 1 tbsp brown sugar and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice with the contents of the cinnamon roll icing packets. When you take the rolls out of the oven, drench them in your spiced up glaze.