How to rock Friendsgiving like a grown-up

Kelsie Vallacqua,

Friendsgiving defined (according to Urban Dictionary): “The celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends. This usually occurs on the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, since Thanksgiving is usually reserved for family gatherings.”

Friendsgiving tends to be one of those fun bonus holidays that you’re sincerely looking forward to. Whether you celebrate before or after Thanksgiving, here are three ways you can make sure this year’s Friendsgiving is one you’ll never forget.

Leftovers aren’t always the best idea.

We’re all familiar with potluck style dinners, and they’re a hit for a reason. They make the life of the host/hostess much easier. Plus, you get to try out new dishes you’ve maybe never had before. But if you’re not thrilled about bringing your mom’s potato casserole leftovers, a 28-year old Kansas City restaurateur turned travel writer has the perfect dish for your Friendsgiving.

Jakob Polaco, whose name may sound familiar from Ink’s 30 Under 30, draws culinary inspiration from Southeast Asia, where he worked at top restaurants in Bangkok and Indonesia. We asked him what might be the perfect dish this holiday season. Scroll down for a recipe sure to get you invited to next year's Friendsgiving.

Bring the host a gift.

Putting together any kind of event can be a little stressful for the host. While you may be showing up as a guest with tasty tapas or a side dish in hand, think about the preparation your pal had to do before you arrived on their doorstep. This holiday is all about gratitude, so show a little.

•Consider a beautifully crafted Thank You card from Hammerpress.

Boulevard’s new City Market Cider is a great seasonal choice and brand spanking new!

•And scented candles are locally-made when they’re from 5B&Co. Candlemakers


Games are a must.

With a belly full of delicious food and your second, third (or fourth) glass of an adult beverage in hand, it might be difficult to fight the urge to pass out on your friends couch for a little snooze. Don’t be a party pooper though… this isn’t Thanksgiving with the relatives you see a few times a year, on this day you’re surrounded by the people you actually enjoy the company of.

I really enjoy a solid board or card game to keep the fun flowing. I’m sure by now most of us have played Cards Against Humanity, but if you’d really like to impress your pals you could arrive with these new games in hand.

Game of Phones is a unique card game that brings smartphones to the party.

Buffalo is where players race to identify people or characters that match the descriptions of two cards as fast as they can.

What’s yours like? Tell it like it is and you’ll excel at this one.


Now, your new favorite Friendsgiving dish, according to Jakob Polaco.

I generally avoid the staple dishes since someone else will probably bring it anyways. Call me crazy but I like more variety than three different green bean casseroles. I'm thinking pork belly!

On my recent trip to Southern Thailand, I spent much of my time in Old Phuket Town, taking in the amazing colonial architecture and being amazed by the delicious regional cuisine. That brings me to this rich and satisfying Phuketian stewed pork dish. I know what you’re thinking, Thai food for Thanksgiving? Stick with me here... Because of the Sino-Portugeuse history of this dish (thanks colonialism), it is technically of the Western persuasion. This means it will play nicely with the turkey, cranberry sauce and even the stuffing. Plus, this little fact will totally make you sound like an adult when explaining your super sophisticated offering to your awestruck peers. So there it is, skip the ham and opt instead for this lovely braised pork dish that is sure to make you the undisputed turkey day master! No harm, no fowl.

This dish, along with so many others, will be featured in my upcoming cookbook "The Spice Vagrant Cookbook" based on my travels in Southeast Asia.


Phuketian stewed pork

(serves 4-6)

2 pounds pork belly(skin on)

1 yellow onion, large dice

3 cloves of garlic, woody stem removed

1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 quarts chicken stock

1 star anise

1 stick cinnamon

3 cloves

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

1 teaspoon black soy sauce

1 teaspoon black vinegar

1/4 cup Shaoxing rice

3 Indonesian bay leaves

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salt to taste


Fill large, heavy bottomed pot with water and place over high heat. Cover and bring to boil. Meanwhile, on a clean cutting board with a wet towel underneath for stability, place the pork belly skin side down. Using a sharp knife, begin cutting the pork into roughly two inch cubes, depending on thickness.

When the water is boiling, place the belly in a few cubes at a time to help the heat of the water to recover quickly.  Repeat this process in succession until all of the pork is in. When the water returns to a boil, wait just one minute to bring out impurities. Strain and rinse in cold water.

In a small dry pan, heat peppercorns and cumin seed over medium heat. Toast, stirring constantly, until very aromatic and cumin has darkened slightly. This will take about 2 to 3 minutes. Pound spices in a mortar and pestle until a coarse powder is achieved.

Meanwhile, in the same pot the pork was boiled in, warm one tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, pepper and cumin. Sweat these aromatics for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the shaoxing rice wine and boil, stirring often, until a syrupy texture is achieved. Add the remaining liquid ingredients, including the tomato sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the pork and simmer over medium heat for about an hour, or until skin separates easily and pork is tender.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the pork from the liquid and transfer to a large bowl to reserve. To the pot, add the anise, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. Reduce the braising liquid over medium heat until a thickened gravy texture is achieved. This should take about another thirty minutes or so. Pass the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and reserve. Return the strained liquid and pork to the empty pot and combine gently over low heat. This dish is ready to serve when all ingredients are nice and hot.


Wishing you a fun, and festive Friendsgiving!