I have to be really careful with my social media scrolling for many reasons, but one thing that’s been coming up for me ta lo recently is kitchen envy. I’ll see a photo of some mixing bowls on marble countertops, pots of loveliness bubbling away on a gorgeous stove, tons of natural light pouring through, and even though the poster is, like, “What a mess!” my brain registers it as a humblebrag about their palatial kitchen. I have to remind myself that maybe they really are embarrassed of the mess and trying to be authentic and show real life because they live in a place where everybody has a huge kitchen so it’s not even on their radar as A Thing.
As the holidays draw near and people start posting about their Thanksgiving prep, I feel kind of left out. I daydream sometimes about having a life and a home in which I host friends and family for dinner parties and holiday meals, but from my perch in New York City, it feels really far away. Of course, I need to be real with myself—having zero hosting responsibility certainly has its perks, and setting low expectations certainly makes it hard to disappoint. As with many things in life, though, if you want to make it work, you do, and that includes city-dweller holiday meals.
For many people, hosting Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving) is an important milestone to becoming a functional adult who longer calls it “adulting” and just calls it “life.” Even if you have hosted before, when you move into a new home, that first Thanksgiving can help you feel like you’ve finally settled into a space. What to do, though, if you live in a small apartment or have a tiny kitchen?
Because I have never hosted Thanksgiving and am not the expert on coordinating a holiday meal in a little kitchen, I reached out to HelloFresh head chef Claudia Sidoti, whom I spoke with earlier this year about the kitchen must-haves of Millennial homebuyers. The company is rolling out some adorable Thanksgiving boxes this year, which promise “Dinner For 8 In Under 4 Hours” and come with instructions to help with timing. Here, she answers my questions about preparing a delicious dinner even when you’re short on space.
Jess Cording: Is it possible to host Thanksgiving in a small apartment?
Claudia Sidoti: Absolutely! As a native New Yorker, I’ve been cooking, hosting, and entertaining in small apartment kitchens my entire life.
Jess: Any tips for how to deal when you have limited counter space? Oven space?
Claudia: Counter space is valuable real estate where all of the prep work happens. If you don’t have much to start with, I recommend purchasing a rolling cart to create additional space, which then can easily be moved if necessary when the festivities are over. I also recommend displaying only those items that you need to use that day on the counter, such as knife blocks, cooking utensils, a dish drying rack (if you don’t have a coveted dishwasher), and paper towels to quickly clean up any mess. Otherwise, put your appliances away to free up space.
Jess: Do you think assigning different people to bring each dish on the day of the gathering is a good way to get around the challenge of having a small space?
Claudia: Absolutely —there’s nothing wrong with turning Thanksgiving dinner into a potluck. Friends and family will always ask what they can bring. Don’t be afraid to let them help! It’ll be cheaper and significantly less work for you, plus it makes everyone feel they helped contribute. I love cut up fruit trays, fresh berries, nice cheese, or dessert.
Jess: How do you practice food safety when you have limited oven and fridge space to keep things the proper temperature?
Claudia: To save on fridge space, you don’t have to be entirely focused on fresh ingredients for every dish as they’ll be priced higher during the holidays. Stocks, canned soups, and vegetables are often on sale this time of year and can be used in dishes for several months following Thanksgiving.
Jess: What’s your favorite easy side/appetizer or dessert for when you don’t have time or space to make something that requires a lot of prep?
Claudia: For dessert, use leftover Halloween candy to bake fun cookies, blondies, or brownies. Chop finely and you get a mix-in for some of your favorite classic cookie recipes! You can even simply add them to a mix if you’re in a time crunch. For an appetizer, crudite doubles as a colorful centerpiece, so you can skip buying arrangements. Use a variety of brightly-hued veggies (think cherry tomatoes, carrots, a rainbow of peppers, squash and zucchini). You can also get creative with presentation, using baskets or wooden crates that you already have. Veggies complement Thanksgiving’s main courses really well since they offer a little break from heavy side dishes.
Thank you, Claudia!
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish? I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m all about the turkey!