Thanksgiving: College Style
Thanksgiving is probably one of the best holidays of the year, especially for college students. A celebration with unlimited, home cooked, FREE food??! I rest my case.
Around this time of year, it’s common to host a “Friends”giving of sorts with your roommates, friends, THON Committee, or other group of choice. While these events provide a fun opportunity to break out your domestic skills, it’s not always practical to go full-Food Network, but don’t fret. We have a few recipes that are in accordance with the three rules of college cooking: (1) they are easy, (2) they are cheap, and (3) they are delicious.
Turkey is generally the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving traditions. But let’s face it: It’s just not that practical of a protein to serve to a small college crowd. Buying a turkey is expensive and not to mention impossible when just about every grocery store takes “pre-orders” nowadays. I say skip the turkey, and shove a beer can up a chicken. Beer can chicken is easy, quick, and delicious. Plus, you only use half a can, so the rest of the beer is left for the chef’s personal enjoyment (you have to make sure it tastes good after all).
If you’re extra lazy, Wegmans has amazing pre-roasted whole chickens that come in a variety of flavors including barbeque, Caribbean lime, and plain. Stick that sucker in the oven before your guests arrive and they’ll never be the wiser.
A crowd favorite, mashed potatoes don’t have to involve a peeler and two hours of your life, and you don’t have to resort to the weird potato flakes. Look in the freezer section for microwavable potatoes — hear me out! There are vents! That means you can steam them IN THE BAG. Just make sure you put the bag in vent side up, and cook for the time listed on the packaging. When they’re done, dump them into a bowl and add liberal amounts of butter, cream, salt, pepper, and sour cream and chives (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Stuffing is one of those controversial foods that can drive a family apart. You’ve got your “in the bird stuffing,” the moist, food safety hazardous bread shoved up inside of the turkey, and you’ve got your “dry stuffing,” the toasty kind made separately. The pros and cons of both are too numerous to mention here, but suffice it to say, my aunt still makes both kinds each year to avoid the awkward silences and dirty looks.
If you’re not making an entire turkey, dry stuffing is the only option for you. If you’re one of those “I must have my stuffing shoved up the backside of a turkey” kind of people, don’t worry, once you put gravy on it they both pretty much taste the same. You can either make your own simple stuffing, or bust out the boxed kind, depending on how ambitious you’re feeling.
CRESCENT ROLLS. CRESCENT ROLLS. CRESCENT ROLLS.
People either love ’em or hate ’em, but if you have to have sweet potatoes at your Friendsgiving, think outside the box. Sweet potatoes are already sweet, so why are we constantly putting marshmallows on top of them? To save yourself time and to masquerade as a culinary genius, make some sweet potato fries instead. They cook faster, and are a unique spin on an old classic that even the sweet potato haters might try a bite of. You can make your own, or pick up some gourmet frozen ones like the Alexia brand. They have spicy chipotle flavored fries that are to die for and even sweet potato tots!
Now what good is all this food for without some gravy to smother all over it? But please, do yourself a favor and skip the gravy from a can. That stuff is a sodium bomb of flavorless-ness, and honestly you can do better. You’re getting a bachelors degree. It’s about time you learned how to make your own gravy.
All you need is butter, flour, and chicken stock. Melt the butter over medium heat, then add the flour, and stir to combine. (If you want to impress people, this concoction is called a roux.) Next, slowly add your chicken stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add salt and pepper to taste, and revel in your new found gravy prowess.
Personally, I’m not that big of a fan of cranberry sauce, mostly due to the fact that it maintains the shape of the can when served. I would much rather ingest my cranberries in alcohol form, so if you insist on including the little red fruit, may I suggest a nice crantini?
If you already got the canned stuff, portion it out into some dixie cups, add a shot of Vlad, and voila! Cranberry jello shots. You’re welcome.
Mmmm…pumpkin pie. The smooth spiced filling. The tender crust. The dollop of whipped cream. Truly a dessert masterpiece.
If you don’t want to buy store bought pie and are convinced your homemade version could never compare to grandma’s, listen up! The Creamery actually makes pumpkin pie ice cream. It even has chunks of pumpkin pie in it. If I was served Creamery ice cream instead of actual pie I wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed, but sandwich that goodness between some gingersnaps and I’m in heaven.
If you want to get crazy, try making some bourbon pumpkin pie milkshakes. If you pick up some of that pumpkin Creamery ice cream all you have to do is add milk and gratuitous amounts of bourbon. Happy Friendsgiving indeed.