Join our very Philly Friendsgiving – The Philadelphia Inquirer

November 21, 2022
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Sheryl Lee Ralph, the Phanatic, Emily Riddell and others share recipes and stories for Friendsgiving this year.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has been to a lot of Thanksgivings, roasted plenty of turkeys, and baked our share of pies. So this year, we’re “hosting” a Friendsgiving potluck.
There isn’t an exact origin for the gathering that mashes friends and Thanksgiving — Merriam-Webster dictionary found its earliest print use dating back to 2007 — but it has become a sibling holiday, where like-minded people gather in lieu of (or in addition to) Thanksgiving.
We invited six of our favorite Philly friends to join us for our hypothetical Friendsgiving, and we asked them to share a dish and tell who they’d bring as a plus-one.
You’ll find turkey prepared by Emmy Award-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, who stars in Abbott Elementary, and mac and cheese from Joyce Abbott, the teacher who inspired the hit TV show. The Phillie Phanatic, beloved mascot of our National League champs, Nardeep Khurmi, award-winning director featured at the 2022 Philly Film Festival, and Philadelphia Orchestra’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin are all bringing starters and sides. Emily Riddell, who was recently named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine, has dessert covered, and drink maestro Jamaar Julal is making a party punch.
Get your pots, pans, and Dutch ovens ready for A Very Philly Friendsgiving! If you make any of the recipes, post a picture and tag us on social @phillyinquirer.
Who is the Phanatic bringing to the party? His mother, Phoebe Phanatic, of course.
“She used to host a lot of great Thanksgivings when the Phanatic was on the Galápagos Islands,” said Tom Burgoyne, the literal beating heart of the mascot.
Friendsgiving is a fun time for the Phanatic and his friends, the Galapagos Gang — Iggy the Land Iguana, Bessie the Blue-Footed Booby, Sid the Sea Lion, and Calvin the Turtle, Burgoyne said.
“One year, they were all together and Iggy ate a 40-pound turkey in one gulp.”
The Phanatic whips up a dip to pair with all your Thanksgiving munching.
The recipe was passed down to the Phanatic by his mother and “it’s his phavorite.”
Ingredients

Directions
Preheat the oven at 350 degrees.
In a bowl, combine chicken and Buffalo sauce. (The more buffalo sauce the hotter your dip will be.)
Coat the bottom of a 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan with the cream cheese.
Spread the chicken mixture on top of the cream cheese.
Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the chicken mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the dip is bubbling. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
Thanksgiving is particularly special for Abbott, the teacher who inspired ABC’s hit show Abbott Elementary.
“Growing up I can recall my father putting out the best china for our gathering,” Abbott said. “We were not wealthy by any means but having a five-star experience with family, even in the midst of struggle, was important to my father. After my father passed, the yearly Thanksgiving gathering continued at the Parks residence. My sister Bonita and husband Leonard Parks hosted a beautiful, loving Thanksgiving gathering. Family uniting was very important to them.”
During the holiday, Abbott hosts her own version of Family Feud.
“The competition was as if we were in front of Steve Harvey himself,” Abbott said. “It brought so much laughter and joy! When I was asked to join the Abbott Elementary Cast on Family Feud, I was ecstatic. I reflected on my Thanksgiving moments with my loved ones.”
Abbott’s special Friendsgiving guest is her daughter, Janeé Latrice, “my heart, and love of my life, my only child.” And she’s got her go-to dish from Philly’s very own Patti LaBelle.
Ingredients
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a deep 2 ½ quart baking dish.
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rapid boil. Add the macaroni and 1 tablespoon of oil.
Cook for 7 minutes, or until somewhat tender. Drain well, and return to the pot.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt 8 tablespoons of butter. Stir into macaroni.
In a large bowl, combine all of the shredded cheeses. To the macaroni, add 1 ½ cups of shredded cheeses, half and half, the cubed cheese, and the eggs, and the seasoning salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and top with remaining ½ cup shredded cheese.
Dot with remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and bubbly. Serve hot. Serves eight people.
— Recipe adapted from Patti LaBelle’s cookbook LaBelle Cuisine.
» READ MORE: Thanksgiving prep, cooking and hosting tips from a Philly expert
On the first Thanksgiving the award-winning director and his family celebrated, they decided turkey wasn’t for the main dish for their feasting.
“It was a modest gathering, just the immediate (family), and we had never cooked a turkey before,” he said. “My mother, the world-famous cook she is, took it upon herself to fashion up a turkey that would delight. But as we sat down, we all had the same thought: ‘It’s so dry! Why do people like turkey so much?’”
His mother, ever the planner, anticipated this outcome, so she “mischievously” brought out a rotisserie chicken.
“Our palates saved, it became our tradition to have a rotisserie chicken along with Indian food (aloo gobi, saag, samosas, chaat) in our Thanksgiving lineup — to balance, or maybe circumvent, some of those traditional Thanksgiving flavors.”
Khurmi’s dish of choice is palak paneer.
Recipe from Khurmi, via from his mother, Baljit.
“The tricks of learning from a mother — it’s never the same twice and there’s no measuring.”
Note: I tend to like my palak a bit more raw, but if you’d prefer more of a restaurant style, take this cooked mixture to a blender and blend it into more of a puree. Then bring back to the pan. You can also add other greens to the spinach, if you want. I often add kale or mustard greens.
Ingredients
Directions
Process and finely chop up onion, chillies, ginger, and garlic.
Using a pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in pan with cumin seed until fragrant.
Add onion mixture into pan Add salt, then cook until the onions become soft.
Stir in tomatoes and spinach. Taste and add more salt as needed. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat.
Add paneer (store bought). Cook for roughly 15 minutes on low heat, until paneer is soft.
Add garam masala. Stir in and cook for a few more minutes. Serve.
Optional: Garnish with fresh coriander leaves or haldee (turmeric) if desired.
Note: To make it vegan, use tofu in place of paneer.
As a Canadian, Nézet-Séguin has never celebrated an American Thanksgiving. His celebrations take place on the second Monday of October, which is Canadian Thanksgiving. On the holiday, his mother fills the table with turkey, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, and homemade cranberry jam.
He’s excited to see how American traditions differ from the ones in Canada, so Nézet-Séguin happily takes on a classic side dish. With his husband, Pierre, by his side, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s music director comes to Friendsgiving with cranberry jam, using the recipe that his mother follows each year for their festivities — her tip: add fresh ginger to taste.
Ingredients
Directions
In a saucepan, bring the water, sugar, and honey to a boil. Add the cranberries and bring to a boil again. Let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes.
Serve warm or cold as an accompaniment to turkey or pork.
Note: Refrigerate any leftovers.
— Recipe adapted from Ricardo.
Abbott Elementary’s all-knowing clapback queen is popping in with her favorite way to prepare the turkey.
Ingredients
Directions
Make the marinade: Using a blender, combine ½ cup olive oil, 6 thyme sprigs, scallions, allspice, paprika, brown sugar, and garlic. Taste, then add salt and pepper to taste.
Rub olive oil, inside turkey cavity and under any loose skin. Season turkey with rub inside and out. Put turkey in a roasting pan. Cover, and let marinade in the fridge for two hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Garnish turkey with remaining thyme sprigs. Roast turkey, basting with drippings every 30 minutes.
Note: For more flavorful turkey, The Inquirer food staff added two cups of turkey broth in the bottom of the pan with thyme, scallions, two celery sticks, two carrots, black peppercorns or red pepper flakes, six garlic gloves, six allspice berries, two cinnamon sticks, and four star anise pods.
If Julal could bring a plus one to A Very Philly Friendsgiving, it would be artist Tierra Whack.
“She is one of my favorite artists to come out of Philly,” he said. “Her energy is unmatched and I feel as if the conversations would be top tier all night long. Not to mention she’d probably be the life of the party.”
Keeping the party going is something Julal fondly remembers from holidays past. With more than 20 people packed in the living/dining room, Julal and his roommates, Matt and James, hosted Ringgold Friendsgiving in 2019 in their South Philly apartment on Ringgold Street.
“I just remember a lot of food and love being shared,” Julal said. “It was probably one of the most wholesome and rewarding things I had part in orchestrating. This and Thanksgiving with my family, have been the last times I had the opportunity to cook and share a meal with them.”
Julal serves us his take on the traditional sorrel beverage that he and his family grew up drinking.
“I combined ingredients I use for JamBrü Ferments Citywide with ingredients traditionally used in sorrel,” he said.
Makes about 10 servings
Recipe developed by Jamaar Julal. Note: This beverage can be served hot or cold. Alcohol is optional but encouraged by Julal. For a warm boozy toddy over the holidays, add Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum.
Ingredients
For garnish:
Directions
Using a large pot or Dutch oven, bring water, sorrel, ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon sticks, and allspice berries to a boil. Reduce heat to a rapid simmer.
Lower heat to simmer for at least 15 minutes. For a boozy toddy, add about 3/4 cup Jamaican rum, such as Appleton Estate.
To garnish, insert cloves into orange slices, then add to sorrel.
Serve warm or let cool completely, then pour over ice.
In the Riddell family, holidays are “always large and loud” but more so for Christmas than Thanksgiving.
“The night always ends with a sing along accompanied by a few guitars around a bonfire,” said Riddell, recently named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. “Our Christmas Eve is more rowdy — filled with piñatas and dance parties.”
This Friendsgiving, Riddell is making memories with us with her apple crisp in hand. She’s bringing her boyfriend, Michael Rafidi, who is also a chef, “because I always want to eat whatever he’s cooking.”
Serves 8
Recipe developed by Emily Riddell.
Note: For two 8-inch pies, double the apple filling. The pastry streusel recipes make enough for two 8-inch pies.
For the apple filling:
Directions
Using a skillet on low heat, brown butter to noisette. Add diced apples.
Add sugar, salt, vanilla seeds.
Cook until apples are tender.
Whisk together the rum and cornstarch. Add to the apple mixture and let cool.
For the pate brisée:
Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix pastry flour, cornstarch, salt, and cold butter (cubed).
Mix on a slow speed until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea.
Add eggs and water and mix until the dough just comes together.
Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Once the dough is chilled, roll to 3 millimeter thick and line a buttered 8-inch tart ring and prick the base with a fork.
Note: If using a tart pan with a removable bottom, blind bake the crust with pie weights for 10 minutes before adding the filling.
For the almond streusel:
Directions
Mix almonds, butter, sugar, flour, and salt together until crumbly.
Let rest in the refrigerator until ready to assemble and bake the crisp.
Preheat over to 375 degrees.
Assemble the crisp.
Fill prepared tart shell with apple mixture. Cover with almond streusel. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until top is golden and the filling is bubbling.

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