The Friendsgiving Handbook Provides a Guide to Hearty Seasonal Cooking

The cookbook is illustrated by Melanie Gandyra. Illustration courtesy Chronicle Books.

Cookbook author Emily Stephenson knows Friendsgiving: She’s been hosting the elaborate, holiday-adjacent, dinner-centered feast since 2006. That was the year she began living too far from family to travel home for just a long weekend, and so Friendsgiving became its own big tradition. In her new book, The Friendsgiving Handbook, out now from Chronicle Books, she lays out exactly how to make this day seasonal, delicious, and accessible—while still being the kind of all-day affair any big home cook craves. The book starts off with a guide to how to approach the day, whether the host does everything, it’s a potluck affair (tip: find out what people are preparing well in advance), or make a few dishes and assign out the others. Then, before anyone has been told to bring some olive oil to a shimmer in a pan, the drinks are given thought and care.

Stephenson’s book has a lot to offer all dietary restrictions, from vegan to vegetarian and otherwise, and doesn’t demand an extravagant list of ingredients that might be difficult to procure if something was forgotten mid-preparation. Her recipe voice is straight-forward and soothing—just look at the lengths she goes to make pie not intimidating!—making this a cookbook readers might want to return to again and again, for any old Sunday in the cooler months. Here, we have three recipes from the book to share: a vegan miso gravy, a vegetarian green bean side, and a Concord grape pie.

Garlic-Miso Gravy
SERVES 10
MAKE AHEAD 3 days
PREP TIME 2 Hours

12 oz [340 g] cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, cut into chunks
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup [120 ml] dry white wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup [70 g] white or yellow miso
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C]. 

Put the vegetables and rosemary on a rimmed baking sheet and add the oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast, stirring once or twice, until everything is nicely browned and the garlic is caramelized, 40 to 45 minutes. 

Discard the rosemary, squeeze the garlic from the skins, and add the roasted vegetables to a large pot. While the baking sheet is still hot, add the wine and scrape off any browned bits from the bottom, then add to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce and 4 cups [960 ml] water, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavors mingle. 

Turn off the heat, and add the miso and flour. Carefully purée everything in the pot using an immersion blender (or let the mixture cool, transfer to a blender, and work very carefully in batches). Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve (fussy but a necessary step!). At this point you can cool the gravy and store for up to 3 days. 

Return the gravy to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to medium, and simmer until the gravy thickens and you can no longer taste the flour, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Panfried Green Beans with Mushrooms
SERVES 8
PREP TIME 30 minutes

12 oz [340 g] cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 large shallot, halved and sliced
1½ lb [680 g] fresh green beans, trimmed
¾ cup [180 ml] chicken stock or dry white wine
4 Tbsp [55 g] unsalted butter
2 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large, wide skillet over high heat, put the mushrooms and shallots on the bottom, then add the green beans, stock, butter, and salt, and bring the stock to a boil. Cook the vegetables, turning occasionally with tongs, until the beans are bright green and crisp-tender and the stock has mostly evaporated, 12 to 15 minutes. If the green beans are still mostly raw when the liquid has cooked off, add more stock or water 2 Tbsp at a time and continue to cook until they’re ready. 

Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown on one side, 2 to 5 minutes. At this point the pan should be dry. 

Turn off the heat, add the pepper, taste, and add more salt if necessary. Serve right away or cover the pan and keep warm for up to 30 minutes.

Concord Grape Pie
SERVES 8 to 10
MAKE FILLING AHEAD 2 days
BAKE AHEAD 1 day
PREP TIME 2 ½ hours (plus making pie dough)
TIME TO COOL 4 hours

2 lb [910 g] Concord grapes
1 cup [200 g] lightly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
1 recipe Pie Dough (page 102)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

This is the fun part (jk): remove each grape from the stem and squeeze the grape so the flesh comes away from the skin. Put the fruit in one bowl and the skins in another. Now repeat that with entire 2 lb [910 g] of grapes. 

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the fruit until it’s mostly broken down, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl, and press on the seeds until you get as much of the juice and pulp through as possible. Discard the seeds. Roughly chop the skins (I use kitchen shears and cut them in the bowl to keep my cutting board from turning purple). Add them to the cooked fruit and mix well. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, and allspice. Add the mixture to the grapes and stir until no lumps remain. At this point you can refrigerate the mixture for up to 2 days. Let it cool while you roll the dough.

Lightly flour your work surface. Cut the dough in half and form both halves into rounds; wrap the half you’re not working with, and keep it in the fridge. Starting from the center of the dough, push the rolling pin away from you in firm strokes, rotating the dough 45 degrees every two strokes (and adding flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking), until the dough forms an even circle that is about 13 in [33 cm] in diameter. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9 in [23 cm] pie pan and gently press into place. Roll out the remaining dough to the same size. 

Pour the grape mixture into the prepared pie pan, carefully drape the other dough round over the pie, and crimp the edges in whatever style you prefer, then trim the excess dough. Brush the dough with the beaten egg, and then sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, carefully cut four or five vents in the top dough. Chill for 30 minutes before baking. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C]. 

Put the pie pan on a baking sheet and bake until the pastry is beginning to color, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350°F [180°C] and continue baking until the crust is well browned and the juices are bubbling and syrupy, 50 to 60 minutes longer. 

Cool completely on a wire rack (at least 4 hours) before cutting and serving. The pie can be covered with foil and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

PIE DOUGH RECIPE
MAKES 1 double crust pie

2½ cups [350 g] all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup [220 g] unsalted butter, very cold and cubed
¼ cup [60 ml] vodka, very cold

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt with a fork. Add the butter and use two forks or a pastry cutter to work the butter into the flour until most of the butter is broken up into very small pieces (only a few pea-size pieces) and the mixture looks crumbly. 

In a measuring cup with a spout, mix the vodka with ¼ cup [60 ml] cold water and a large handful of ice. Pour a little of the wet mixture onto the dry mixture and incorporate with the pastry cutter or a fork. Continue adding small amounts of liquid and incorporating it until you can pinch a little of the mixture between your fingers and it holds together (you might not use all the liquid). The dough won’t be in one ball yet, but there shouldn’t be any pockets of dry flour, nor should it be sticky. Press the dough together, and then wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days (you’ll be surprised how the flour continues to hydrate while it rests). 

NOTE: If you’re making just the Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Fluff (page 113), you can freeze half of the dough—tightly wrapped—for up to 1 month.

Troubleshooting

Don’t be alarmed by the pie dough if you’re used to adding much more water! I like to make my dough on the very dry side. It’s flakier that way, if a little harder to work with. If you find the mixture is still a little crumbly after resting, it usually will come together as it warms up and you start working with it. You can always smoosh any crumbly bits back into the main dough round.

Prevent Sad Pie: 

  • USE COLD INGREDIENTS There are a million articles about why, and they’re all correct. 
  • USE AS LITTLE LIQUID AS POSSIBLE More will also make the dough tough. 
  • YOU REALLY CAN’T OVERCOOK PIE DOUGH So if you’re not sure about your fruit pie (custard is a whole different ball game), go ahead and bake it for 10 minutes longer. 
  • DON’T OVERWORK THE DOUGH It will only turn out tough. As soon as you can pinch the dough and it holds together (and there are no pockets of dry flour), it’s done. Step away. 
  • USE A GLASS BAKING DISH So you can see the bottom and know it’s fully cooked. 
  • IF YOU DON’T HAVE VODKA You can substitute apple cider vinegar, but both are better options than plain water.

Reprinted from The Friendsgiving Handbook by Emily Stephenson with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019

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