One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the fact that, for my entire life, someone else has done the heavy lifting for me. Sure, I'd pitch in and help my mom prep her famous meatballs or set the table, but the work—and stress—was always off my back. And I liked it that way.
It doesn't help that I've heard about so many Turkey Day disasters, from burnt pumpkin pie and dry macaroni and cheese (the horror) to all the times when folks forget to thaw their turkey (although there's apparently a quick way to do it day-of). That's why, even though I'm generally pretty comfortable in the kitchen, I've always been hesitant to host so much as a small Friendsgiving.
So when I was given the chance to try the Thanksgiving Box from popular meal kit delivery service, HelloFresh—advertised as both "stress-free" and "delicious"—I figured now was as good a time as any to take a Thanksgiving test drive.
They've also teamed up with Jessica Alba to share her go-to holiday hosting tips, and the picture of her holding a perfectly roasted turkey, with flawless hair and makeup, flashing her breezy, cool-girl smile, made me think: Yeah, that could be me.
Even though I didn't turn into Jessica Alba (bummer), I've got to say this box makes Thanksgiving absurdly easy. When ordering, you've got two options for the meaty main: a turkey big enough to feed almost 10 people or peppercorn-crusted beef tenderloin for a slightly smaller crowd.
Both boxes come with all the fresh ingredients you'll need for three side dishes—garlic mashed potatoes, classic green bean casserole, and ciabatta and sausage stuffing—plus cranberry sauce, and a ginger apple crisp for dessert. Considering that the whole shebang comes in just two (admittedly very heavy) boxes, it's a lot of food; I sent each of my friends home with leftovers.
The six-page pamphlet that comes with the box, starring (my hero) Jessica Alba on the cover, has all the info you'll need to execute Thanksgiving: recipes, essentials tools and cookware, notes on what you can make ahead of time, and even a handy diagram that shows you how to carve a turkey (which I have zero skills at).
I took Jessica's advice and made the cranberry sauce, toasted the ciabatta cubes for the stuffing, and fully baked the ginger apple crisp the day before—which meant fewer things to worry about the morning of.
On the day, I followed the four-hour game plan (which included making myself coffee!) and got to work on the turkey. This was where I encountered my one and only hiccup: the turkey wasn't totally thawed. Oops? I ignored conventional wisdom (and the article that tells you how to thaw a turkey in a hurry) and ran to the grocery store to buy a roast chicken instead. Everything still turned out great, but I couldn't help feeling that Jessica was disappointed in me. (I ended up roasting the turkey two days later, so I can tell you it takes at least four days to fully thaw in the fridge.)
The rest, though, was pretty a much breeze. By the time my friends arrived, the roast turkey chicken was resting, the stuffing and green bean casserole were getting warmed up in the oven, and the gravy was on deck (I whipped it up as we sipped wine and caught up).
Once it was time to serve, I gave my friend Nic the honors of slicing up the bird (and made a mental note to buy a proper carving knife someday) and let everyone serve themselves, family-style.
The mashed potatoes were appropriately buttery and garlicky, the stuffing was fluffy and flavorful (thanks to a few slices of jalapeño and dried cranberries), and the green bean casserole tasted just as good as the one my mom makes (which, for what it's worth, does call for Campbell's Cream of Mushroom).
The turkey, when I eventually roasted it, was actually quite tender, with a salty-crispy skin that I ate entirely on its own, alone in my kitchen. Jessica would likely have been appalled at this behavior.
As for the ginger apple crisp, well, it was lovely after a quick trip to the oven and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Still, if I were to do it all over again, I'd probably pick up a pumpkin pie—it really isn't Thanksgiving without one.
Best of all, my friends were seriously impressed with the amount of food I'd pulled off in my compact kitchen, making it a point to also remark how not-stressed I appeared.
Which is why the HelloFresh Thanksgiving Box is perfect if A) you've never hosted the holiday before and are kind of freaked out at the prospect, B) you want to host a low-key Friendsgiving, or C) you simply want someone else to do a chunk of the work (like grocery shopping) for you.
The box is also pretty budget-friendly if you break it down to price per person. The turkey and sides box feeds up to 10 people and costs $152, plus $6.99 for shipping; and the beef tenderloin and sides option feeds around six people for $132, plus $6.99 for shipping. That's roughly $16 a person for the bigger box, and $23 a person for the smaller box. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
So, if you're considering giving it a try this year, here are a few things you need to know: Orders are open until November 21, for delivery through November 24th; you'll also probably want your box delivered about five days before Thanksgiving to give the bird enough time to thaw. Oh, and you don't need to sign up for a HelloFresh subscription to order—though you may want to consider their monthly wine subscription, because it's wine delivered straight to your door.
Would you try a meal kit Thanksgiving? Tell us in the comments below!
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Food52’s Automagic Thanksgiving Menu Maker
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Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.