How a Friendsgiving Celebration Allows Space for New Traditions

Including recipes for a maple- and cider-brined turkey served with gochujang gravy.

A glimpse into this year’s Friendsgiving, as shot by Clay Williams, one of our favorite photographers.

Thanksgiving is just one day a year, but there are always more people who count as “family” than with whom we spend the day. In that spirit, it’s been my ultimate pleasure to host a pre-Thanksgiving feast—or Friendsgiving, as it’s more commonly known.

My Friendsgiving has taken on a life of its own in the past decade. What began as crazy cravings for Thanksgiving food and the desire to catch up with friends eventually grew into a now ten-year-long tradition, one that has accommodated changes throughout the years and found new footing.

I’d hosted it in my own apartment for years, but my home has changed in size and locations so many times that when the feast had to move on in another place, friends in Brooklyn were able to answer the call. Once the feast moved, it traveled well. To further indulge in our surroundings, there was plenty of local-everything. We’ve hosted in a friend’s home in Sheepshead Bay and another’s in Cobble Hill.

Scheduled two weeks before the big holiday, it’s an evening of friends and makers, loud trivia, singing and feasting. The mission of my business, Create & Plate, has always been not just to unite folks with great food, but also the arts. No matter anyone’s level of artistic skill, everyone’s ability to create is indulged in as much as the food we put on the table. Both serve as the ultimate connectors and can’t be underestimated.

To celebrate my tradition and in the spirit of both Friends and Thanksgiving, I’m sharing my maple- and cider-brined turkey with gochujang gravy recipe.

MAPLE & CIDER-BRINED ROAST TURKEY

To brine or not to brine, that has always been the question. My own eventually evolved into this sweet, savory and fragrant one that’s proven to be timeless and foolproof over the years. The sugars will give the turkey skin a gorgeous deep brown, almost mahogany color (and don’t be fooled: the turkey is juicy and delicious underneath the charred skin!).
The gochujang gravy is a recipe inspired by years of watching my parents enjoy leftover turkey with whatever favorite condiments lay about in the kitchen. The fermented gochujang adds a fragrant, notable kick to complement the hondashi and miso, and a touch of toasted sesame, along with some freshness from the thyme, creates layers of flavors and natural saltiness.

I’ve made it free of butter for my dairy-free friends and family, but here’s a little tip for you: Feel free to also make it with or without the turkey drippings! Though I lean toward using the drippings, it’s still full of flavor when it’s pescatarian-friendly (as the hondashi is bonito flakes—dried fish). May it hopefully also become your new approach to a Thanksgiving gravy tradition.
12-14 pound turkey, defrosted
1 cup Kosher salt
1 c. pure maple syrup
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. whole black peppercorns
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ tbsp. whole cloves
½ tsp. dried thyme (or 1 sprig)
2 tsp. smoked paprika
3 bay leaves
1 small onion, sliced
8 whole cloves of garlic, smashed
12 oz. hard cider (or sparkling cider, if you prefer it)
8 oz. Coca-Cola
¼ c. whiskey (optional)

On a low heat at the bottom of a large pot, toast the black peppercorns, cloves, thyme and smoked paprika for about 3 minutes to release their oils. Shuffle the pot every 30 seconds or so to make sure the spices are as thoroughly toasted as possible. When time’s up, turn off the heat.

Add Kosher salt, onion, garlic, bay leaves, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and about a gallon of water in a large pot, and bring to a boil.

Let the liquid simmer for 10-minutes. Then, remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Once the brine is cooled, add in the hard cider and Coca-cola.

Place the turkey in you’re a plastic brining bag, and carefully pour the brine over the turkey, making sure it’s completely submerged. Refrigerate for 6-8 hours or overnight.

* If you plan to store the turkey in a cold area rather than the refrigerator, put the brining bag in a clean storage bucket: it will make pouring the brine easier.

** If the turkey is completely covered, don’t worry about using all of brine. If it needs a little more, just add in some cold salt water.

Preheat your oven to 450-degrees F.

Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Remove giblets & neck from the insides, and set aside (for whatever delicious use you’ll want to make with them later!)

Place turkey upside-down in shallow roasting pan, and roast it at 450-degrees for 30-minutes.

After time’s up, lower the oven heat to 325-degrees F. Carefully turn the turkey over, breast-side up, for the rest of your roasting time. (15-minutes per pound, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh registers somewhere between 160 and 165-degrees F.)

* You won’t really need to baste, but if you feel you’d like to, 3 times in the last hour should be just fine!

Remove from oven and let the turkey rest about 20-minutes before carving. The sugars from the cider and maple syrup will give your turkey a stunning deep golden color, and a tender, tasty bird!

GOCHUJANG GRAVY

¼ c. olive oil
¼ c. turkey drippings, skimmed & strained
2 shallots, chopped
3 whole cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c. cornstarch
32 oz. (4 cups) vegetable stock
1 or 2 tbsp. Gochujang (Korean chili-paste. 2-tablespoons for the spicy enthusiasts!)
1 tsp. Hondashi (bonito)
1 & ½ tbsp. white miso paste
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
½ tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. mustard powder
¼ tsp. dried thyme, or 1 sprig of fresh thyme

In a small saucepan over low heat, toast the ground black pepper, thyme, smoked paprika and mustard powder for about 3-minutes, shuffling the spices in the pan every 30-seconds or so to help toast them all thoroughly.

After the spices are done toasting, raise the heat to medium-low and add in the turkey drippings, olive oil and shallots, tossing to combine all together. Cook the shallots in olive oil until they’re golden-brown, add in garlic, and cook for another minute.

Add in the cornstarch, and continue whisking until it’s completely absorbed.

Gradually pour in the vegetable stock, cup by cup, and continue whisking. Then, add in the gochujang, miso paste, hondashi and sesame oil, whisking until the miso paste and gochujang have dissolved, and let the gravy come to a boil.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat and let it continue to simmer over at low heat, whisking occasionally for about 8 to 10 minutes until it’s thickened and reduced down.

Remove the gravy from the heat (discard the fresh thyme sprig if using one), and serve hot.

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