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Surviving Thanksgiving in SF: The $30 Budget Basic Bird Day Belt Buster

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It’s your first Thanksgiving away from your family. You’re one of the few people that stayed behind in the city. Because of this, most of us have handselected our own non-nuclear family consisting of voluntarily insane friends. But while we don’t crave the tradition of being grilled by our family members about our unconventional lifestyle – because let’s face it, if you ended up in SF you’re the black sheep of your family – we crave the tradition of nostalgia. Nostalgia: that warm blanket of memories that can send your brain into a frenzy from a mere whiff of spices, the way the corner of 15th and Valencia looks in the rain, the sound of a nearby church bell while your living room curtains flow in the breeze. Ah, nostalgia…she’s a bitch. These – along with a moment of temporary insanity – are the feelings that make you want to recreate a holiday feast…on a budget.


It can happen!

First, situate the transportation issue. You’re not getting out alive without some type of vehicular movement: cab, rental, saintly friend w/ a VW hatchback, old lady hand cart to take on the bus and piss people off. One of these is happening, don’t kid yourself. Second, this post ain’t for vegans/vegetarians. But this one is!

Safeway used to sell turkeys for $5, $7 and $9; with the purchase of $25 worth of other necessary TG staples. They don’t do that anymore, mofos, but they do sell their turkeys for $0.69 per pound. Still with the purchase of $25 or more (which does not include the cost of your turkey). Food 52 claims that 1#-1.5# of meat per person is sufficient enough to keep that person’s maternity pants (which they turned into Thanksgiving pants) from completely busting. With that being said, a 12# bird will feed roughly 10 people and that is under $10 for a bird.

How do you spend the other $25? Why, on the other fixin’s, of course.

Roasted Garnet Yams – Which people also call sweet potatoes. That’s another story. I roast them whole, in a pan, in their skins, for one hour @ 350 F. Slice open and place scooped flesh in a bowl. Too simple? Why not try BAS Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potato Recipe?

Cornbread Dressing (Stuffing) – I straight up use Jiffy cornbread mix. I’m not ashamed to admit this. It’s been the only brand that my mother and grandmother have ever used and I don’t have time to make my own scratch cornbread, only to dry it the fuck out and mix it in with stale croutons. Two boxes of Jiffy, follow the box directions to bake, leave out overnight. Next day, saute a small onion, garlic and three stalks of celery (reserve celery leaves) in 1/2 stick butter. Did you find some rosemary along the sidewalk while you were walking home? Chuck that shit in too. Add one 14oz can of Swanson chicken stock. With your fingers, break cornbread into large chunks, place into a bowl, pour generic plain Stuffing Mix Croutons (make sure it has the seasoning packet, unless you have all of that at home) into same bowl. Ladle all of the aromatic stock water over the cornbread + croutons. Whisk one egg, toss into dressing mixture. Toss mixture w/ reserved celery leaves. Season it. Top it with a little more water if it looks too dry. Chuck it into a pan and bake @ 350 for 25-30 mins.


Do not pack the stuffing into the pan. You want it to be slightly loose so that it isn’t mush and develops a crust on those exposed edges.


2 boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix
Rainbo Stuffing Mix Croutons
Canned Stock
Something herby – parsley, rosemary, thyme

Papas – Buy a 5# bag of Russets. Or, splurge for Yukons and you don’t even have to peel those.

Add peeled papas to a pot of cold water, bring to boil, bring down to a simmer and cover, 10-12mins. Will be extremely soft. Drain. Put back into their boiling pot and let the residual heat of the burner pull out moisture. Take off heat, pour in milk/half and half/cream (or stock), butter, salt and whisk + mash until it looks like a cloud and tastes like a heart attack.


Dairy (or stock)
Salt + Pepper

Gravy –
Did you know Trader Joe’s has a 17 oz container of turkey gravy for $1.49?

Melt 2 TB butter in a hot pan on low heat, don’t let it brown. Whisk in 2 TB flour. Cook for about 2-3 mins, should see the roux turn a little golden; blond roux. Add 14 oz can of stock a little at a time until watery, let simmer and bubble until reduced and thick. Add a few drops of soy sauce. Season. Add optional herbage. Add splash of dairy for lusciousness.

Will moderately serve about 8 people.


Stock (or dairy)
Soy Sauce

Haricot Verts (Green Beans)

Wash + trim end of beans. Boil beans in salted water 2-5 mins. Remove beans and place into ice water. Drain. Congrats, you just blanched. Melt butter in pan on med-high heat. Chuck beans into butter pan and toss and season. Feeling fancy? Throw some slivered almonds into the pan with the butter and beans. This can be done a day in advance, just stop after blanching, and heat the next day.


Green Beans
Slivered Almonds (optional)

The meal: Roasted Turkey, Mashed Potatoes w/Gravy, Roasted Sweet Potatoes/Yams and Green Bean Amandine. Don’t forget the rolls. And if you can’t make it happen for under $30, you’re looking at the eye-level portion of the shelves.

Be patient, take your time, exhaust all resources. And always remember what you’re thankful for. Me? I’m thankful for Carmen, Che, Kiki and Stuie. Without them, I’d surely be wandering the streets leaving people to decide if I was a philosopher or just outright insane.


Photos courtesy of Food 52 + Crepes of Wrath


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