There’s Thanksgiving, then there’s Friendsgiving—a turkey-dinner affair amongst friends that features wine, food and family-free fun. It’s a favorite of actress, model and at-home entertainer Molly Sims, who dishes about being a host (as well as being a new mom and author) on her Web site.
“I grew up in the south, so entertaining and cooking for family and friends is in my blood,” she says. “It’s fun to breathe new life into favorite-holiday traditions.”
Wine Enthusiast tapped the Southern belle for tips on how to creatively have a turkey affair for your closest friends before, after or on Thanksgiving.
Create dishes with your friends in mind
“My good friend is a vegetarian and when she comes for Friendsgiving, I always make sure there are veggie options she can enjoy! Our favorite dishes are my sweet potato-coconut pecan casserole, or my honey-roasted carrot and quinoa salad,” says Sims.
Keep wine pairings simple
“Stick with two to three food-friendly wines to place on the table rather than focusing on specific wine pairings.”
Get creative with leftovers
“I like to host a casual, family-style Friendsgiving right after Thanksgiving Day and serve leftover turkey with a spicy cranberry salad—that is my spin on the traditional staple.”
Think beyond the Bird
“I grew up in the south, so entertaining and cooking for family and friends is in my blood. It’s fun to breathe new life into favorite holiday traditions. No Southern girl can enjoy the holidays without a gooey potato dish.” Sims pulls out all the stops by setting up a mashed potato bar. Set out favorite spud-toppings like chives, shredded cheese, bacon, soured cream and broccoli and let guests go to town.
“There is no better scent than a warm, spicy batch of mulled wine filling up the room,” says Sims. Her recipe calls for Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir, which she also pours with dinner.
Get the kids involved
Sims suggests creating a holiday-themed scavenger hunt for kids. “The little ones retrieve holiday-themed items to fill a cornucopia,” she says. Meanwhile, older kids can help set the table and package up desserts to go.
Molly’s Mulled Wine
1 cardamom pod
3 allspice corns, whole
3 cloves, whole
1 vanilla bean, cut down the center
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise, whole
1 bottle dry red wine (Sims uses Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir)
¼ cup blue agave syrup
Orange peel for garnish
Place the spices into a sachet or tea strainer. Pour the bottle of wine into a large saucepan and add the sachet and agave syrup. Bring it to a low boil, then reduce it to a simmer, for 5 additional minutes. Serve the mulled in glass mugs or teacups, and garnish with a twist of orange peel and a cinnamon stick.
Honey Roasted Carrot and Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well in a fine-mesh sieve
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for coating a baking sheet
2 tablespoons apple cider
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and black pepper
3 medium carrots (about ½ pound) peeled, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup pickled beets, cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill
1 head butter lettuce, leaves torn, or a few handfuls of fresh arugula (optional)
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cook quinoa according to package directions, until tender. Fluff it with a fork and transfer it to a large bowl; let cool.
Lightly coat a large rimmed baking sheet with the olive oil. In a large bowl, whisk the cider and honey and season with salt and pepper. Add the carrots and toss to coat. Transfer the carrots to prepared baking sheet, spreading into a single layer, and roast until tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool.
In a small bowl, whisk the apple cider vinegar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in the ¼ cup of oil until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the beets, dill, carrots and half of the vinaigrette to the quinoa, tossing to coat. If you desire, serve the quinoa atop the lettuce with the mozzarella cubes. Serves 4.