Planning to eat too much turkey (and stuffing, and cranberry sauce) on Thursday? No shit! We all are. That’s exactly why I made you this Thanksgiving after-dinner drink. It’s full of all kinds of things to aid in digestion (does this sound like a fucking TUMS commercial or what?) and it also happens to taste really good. ‘Cause that’s what I do.
The secret (well one of them) to this stomach-settling tonic is a hot honey syrup, made with honey, water, and cayenne pepper. Honey itself doesn’t blend into cold drinks — it just gets all fucking globby — but a honey syrup is a perfect cocktail ingredient. And it’s even easier to make than a simple syrup (instructions below). Another beneficial ingredient is bitters — which has historically been used as a digestif. I often drink it with club soda when I’ve eaten too much (especially if I NEED to eat more), and it really does the trick. And then there’s tonic, which I guess can help cure your malaria? So basically what I’m telling you is this drink is might as well be medicine (am I allowed to say that? doubtful). Anyway, enjoy. And happy fucking Thanksgiving!
½ cup hot water
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ounces rye whiskey
½ ounce Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon (½ oz) hot honey syrup
6 dashes Angostura Bitters
Lemon twist for garnish
To make the hot honey syrup, combine ½ cup honey, ½ cup hot water, and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Stir until combined, then store in the fridge in an old honey bear, or something similar. Let that shit cool completely before adding it to a cocktail.
To make the cocktail, add the rye, Grand Marnier, hot honey syrup, and bitters to a double rocks glass. Stir well, add a handful of ice, then top it off with tonic water. Garnish with the lemon twist and enjoy.
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In my family, stuffing comes from a box. And I admit, I like that shit. But I LOVE this stuffing. I’ve been making some version of it since a friend and I went to a pretentious-as-fuck Friendsgiving in Brooklyn back in 2008 (everyone was really snotty about esoteric art and I’m fairly certain Lana Del Rey was there). We were asked to bring stuffing (or maybe they even called it dressing, or “common people bread stuffs”) and since I’d just published a casserole cookbook (yes, it’s true), and stuffing could technically be considered a casserole, I figured I better bring my A-game. I did’t really follow any recipe — just simmered a bunch of really good shit in butter and poured it over some day-old bread. Obviously, it was amazing. And now I make it every year — and I sing “Got to be startin’ stuffing! Got to be startin’ stuffing!” the entire time I’m cooking. Every damn year. And if I had to give it a name, I guess it would be a sage stuffing recipe, but I prefer to just call it The Best Damn Stuffing in the World. Maybe even The Best Fucking Stuffing in the World. You know.
There are two secrets (okay, three) to making this shit taste amazing. The first is layering fresh sage. Like adding it at practically every step. The second is butter. SO. MUCH. FUCKING. BUTTER. And the third is onion powder. Yes, I love onion powder, so, so hard. I call for a tablespoon of it in this recipe, but if anyone actually measured how much I dump in, it would probably be more. Feel free to use it generously is all I’m saying.
This sage stuffing recipe can be made and mixed the night before, then refrigerated overnight. If you go this route, take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you want put it in the oven, and cook it with a lid or foil on top for the first 20 minutes or so. It may need a little more time in the oven, too (closer to an hour) to be fully cooked. It can also easily be made vegetarian by swapping vegetable stock for the chicken stock. And if you want to make it vegan, that’s a bummer, but you can probably use olive oil or coconut oil in place of the butter.
While you’re in the kitchen you might as well make my Grand Marnier cranberry sauce, too.
And in case you’re wondering, nope. You definitely shouldn’t cook in a vintage cooper pan. Won’t be making that mistake again, but it sure is pretty, huh?
The Best Damn Stuffing in the World (A Sage Stuffing Recipe)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
8 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or more!)
1 large, white onion, chopped
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pink lady apples, large dice (with skins)
1.5 cups chicken stock
1.5 cups finely chopped baby bella mushrooms
1 tablespoon onion powder (or more if you love it as much as I do)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper to taste
2 day-old baguettes, torn into ½-inch pieces
6 ounces dried cranberries (Craisins or similar)
Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) of the butter in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, then add 2 tablespoons of chopped sage. When you smell the sage (which will happen quickly), add the onion, carrots, and celery. When the onions become translucent, add the garlic and second stick of butter, and stir until the butter is melted. (At this point you can add salt and pepper or save it to the end, but I usually add a little a few times as I go.)
Add another 2 tablespoons of chopped sage along with the apples. Pour in the chicken stock and stir. Once the liquid is simmering again, add the mushrooms, onion powder, cayenne, and 2 more tablespoons of chopped sage. Stir well, and salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind that you’ll be tossing this with two baguettes — so season that shit really well!).
At this point, I usually turn the burner’s heat down as low as it will go, preheat the oven to 350ºF, and start tearing the bread right into a 4-ish quart casserole dish. Then, I pour the mixture from the stove over the bread, along with the dried cranberries, and final 2 teaspoons of chopped sage and mix it really, really well.
Bake, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, or until the stuffing begins to brown on top. For best results, stir once throughout the cooking process.
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Whether you call it a “shrub” or a “drinking vinegar,” there’s no denying that when you mix fruit with vinegar and sugar, and then mix that shit with booze and club soda, you get a really fucking great cocktail. It’s sweet, it’s tart, it’s boozy, and it’s bubbly; what’s not to love? In this particular case, the fruit is cranberries (because, hello, Thanksgiving is less than a week away!) and the booze is Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon. I won’t waste your time going on about shrubs or the fact that Thanksgiving is the official holiday of Festive AF — because Thanksgiving is six fucking days away (have I mentioned that yet?) and you need to get your ass in gear. So, without further ado, my cranberry shrub recipe.
With this recipe, you’ll get about two cups of shrub mix that will keep in a mason jar in the fridge for up to two weeks (but I’m willing to bet it will disappear on or before Thanksgiving). The mash also makes for a really good non-boozy cranberry sauce (you can find my boozy version here).
2 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
2 cups white balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
Combine the cranberries, sugar, and vinegar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir it well, and let it reach a boil (it will get all kinds of foamy and shit on top). Reduce the heat to low, add the cinnamon and cardamom, stir, and let the mixture simmer for about 10-15 more minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve (using a spoon to get all the juices out), and let it cool completely.
Cranberry-Bourbon Shrub Cocktail
I think this cocktail is at its best with equal parts shrub, bourbon, and club soda, but feel free to play with the ratios to suit your taste. You can also eliminate the bourbon for a festive Thanksgiving mocktail.
Fresh cranberries and/or rosemary sprig for garnish
To assemble the cocktail, stir together equal parts chilled shrub mix and bourbon. Add one large ice cube, or a handful of regular cubes, then top off that shit with a heavy pour of cold club soda. Garnish with fresh cranberries and/or a sprig of fresh rosemary and enjoy!
Thanks to my new booze sponsor/sugar business, Brookside Wine & Spirits, for providing the Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon for this recipe. If you live in Kansas City, go see them for your next bottle (and tell them I sent you!).
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Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Did you know it’s only 10 days away? Are you freaking the fuck out yet? If the answer to those questions (or at least the first and last) is “yes,” I’m here to help you calm the fuck down. I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving for years (like, 15 of them, I think) and it’s really not so bad. I mean, I’m not gonna lie to you. There’s a lot of work and planning involved. And if you, like me, can’t keep your house Instagram-clean to save your life, then (also like me) you should probably hire someone to come over and take care of that while you attend to more important matters, like stocking up on booze and ordering your turkey. But, seriously, I’m going to share with you some of my Thanksgiving hosting tips — including a handful of things you can do now — to make that shit go smoothly.
Here are 10 things you can do, seven to 10 days out, to get your ass (and your house) ready for Thanksgiving. And if this list seems a little sweeter than what I usually write, it’s because I’ve cobbled together some of the many similar pieces I’ve written for other publications over the years. Of course, I threw a few “fucks” in there for you, too.
10 Thanksgiving Hosting Tips – Shit to Do Ahead of Time
1. Get a head count.
Is your cousin is bringing her new boyfriend or did she already drop his ass? Are your mom and stepmom both going to be there? And maybe also your dad’s first wife who’s your half sister’s mom? (Asking for a friend.) I don’t really care who you invite, but getting a headcount now ensures you’ll have enough time to borrow tables, chairs, and whatever other furniture items you need so everyone can eat comfortably, and then have a place to lounge when the tryptophan-wine combo sets in.
2. Order your turkey.
Please tell me you’ve ordered your turkey. If you haven’t ordered your turkey, what the fuck are you waiting for?! Order your fucking turkey. Yes, like, right now. Call your butcher or Whole Foods or other fancy fucking grocery store and order your heritage breed whatever turkey. Like, don’t even read the rest of this post. Just go order your fucking turkey already. You can safely assume you’re going to need about a pound of turkey per person. And then, you know, more for sandwiches.
3. Plan your menu.
You should have a rough idea of what you’re going to serve for the holiday meal. I mean, there’s turkey (I hope, if you fucking ordered it), green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, stuffing, etc. Now it’s time to decide how many pounds of Brussels sprouts you’ll need and how you’re going to prepare them. Are you going to brine your turkey? What kind of rolls are you serving? Are you making pies or asking someone else to bring them? Make all of those decisions, and then make a shopping list based on the recipes for each dish.
4. Get help.
Unless you’re independently wealthy and happen to employ a kitchen staff, no one expects you to prepare the entire Thanksgiving dinner yourself. Doing so would take away from the spirit of the holiday, anyway. Remember that it’s more than okay to ask your guests to bring something. And if they can’t cook, ask them to bring wine. And even though you probably don’t employ full-time kitchen help (and if you do, why aren’t we friends?), and you’re doing this solo, ask a friend or family member to come over in the morning and help. This person should also bring you coffee and be willing to make last-minute trips to the store — because there’s no way you’re going to remember everything.
5. Shop till you drop.
You don’t want to be cursing locals at the liquor store the day before Thanksgiving, do you? (I mean, we’ve all done it but it’s not incredibly becoming.) Get as much shopping done as you can done now, while you can still do it with equal parts ease and dignity. Load up on non-perishables and, more importantly, booze. The last thing you want to run out of on Thanksgiving is beer and wine. Seriously.
Once the food runs out (or people have eaten as much as they can, in the first round, anyway) your guests will want to sit around and drink for as long as you will let them. And while it’s absolutely acceptable to ask each one to bring a bottle of wine, as the host, you should have some extra on hand. Plan on at least a bottle of wine per adult, and don’t worry about getting expensive stuff. Your guests will bring that, and after a few bottles, wine is wine, right?
What else you can buy now:
- Frozen vegetables
- Cranberry sauce (if you’re using the canned stuff, but it’s so easy to make fresh)
- Paper products (paper towels, napkins and, yes, extra toilet paper)
- Dried spices and herbs
- Bag for your turkey if you plan to brine it
6. Beg, borrow and steal.
Okay, maybe don’t steal (unless you’re really trying to reenact the origins of the holiday), but is your home equipped with everything you need to prepare and serve Thanksgiving dinner? Are you sure? Do you have a stock pot big enough for boiling 15 pounds of potatoes? Or enough plates for dinner and dessert? What about wine glasses, chairs and serving pieces? Though a gravy boat is optional, if not antiquated, you’re going to need all the rest. If you don’t have a large stock pot, borrow one from your mom or a co-worker or neighbor. And if you find you can’t borrow everything you need, think about hitting thrift stores for kitschy, vintage finds. I took this picture (and all the images in this post) a few years ago for a BuzzFeed Thanksgiving table styling piece, so it’s a little outdated (and I have an updated Thanksgiving table styling post coming soon!), but you really can do quite a bit with mis-matched thrift store dishes.
In a few days, you can start worrying about this other shit:
7. Practice if you need to.
While you certainly don’t need to practice roasting a 12-pound turkey (that shit would get expensive and take up too much room in your already packed fridge), if you’ve never roasted poultry before, it might be worth your while to get a small chicken or turkey from the grocery store and brine it, baste it, and taste it. And if you’re planning to make some crazy side dish, why not try it out a week ahead of time?
8. Keep shopping.
At about a week out, it’s safe to buy almost everything you’ll need for your Thanksgiving dinner, including:
- Sweet potatoes
- Garlic (keep it in the fridge)
You’ll want to hold off for a few more days on produce like Brussels sprouts, green beans and whatever other fruit and green or leafy vegetables you’ll be using. But you can totally make your cranberry sauce now.
Oh, and buy more wine. You’ll thank me later.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, or might not apply to everyone. Or maybe you’ve already taken my advice and hired someone to clean for you. Either way, you’re going to have a lot of people in your home — maybe your parents will be there, or your in-laws. Start cleaning now, so you’re not tripping over a mop bucket to get to your turkey on Thanksgiving morning. That shit is stressful.
10. Check in with your guests. One more time.
Is your mom still bringing pecan pie? Is your sister still making her green bean casserole? OK, just checking.
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Okay, maybe “waste” isn’t a great word. But leaves, sticks and pine cones are all perfect items for your homemade tablescape, as the combination of natural elements and gold strike the perfect festive balance for winter holiday decor.
Anyway, it really doesn’t matter how you do it — you can paint three leaves or 30 — but here are a few ideas to get you started.
Collect different shapes and sizes of dried leaves or pinecones and spray paint them all gold. Scatter or arrange them around a candle or vase to add a touch of nature and glam to your holiday tablescape.
Gather fallen branches of a similar length and girth. Sand them if they’re rough, then add a festive pop by painting a few of them white or gold. Arrange horizontally around a candle holder or put them upright in a vase. A twist on this would be to coat an old jar or can with gold spray paint, then put a combination of natural and white painted sticks in it.
Add a little color to your rustic spread by putting fresh herbs or holiday buds in a vase or milk jug.
Want to make it even more interesting? Spray paint half of whatever you have, or a third. Or tape off a portion of your leaves or sticks diagonally before you paint. Mix it up however you’d like, because no matter what you do, it’s likely going to look like something out of a magazine (because it’s really hard to screw up this DIY!).
You can do this. I believe in you.
These images originally appeared in my Buzzfeed piece, 9 Surprisingly Easy Ways To Make Your Thanksgiving Table Look Better.