I Made Rachel Green's Thanksgiving Trifle & Lived

by Rachel Semigran

When it comes to my diet, I am what you might call a Joey Tribbianist — I will pretty much eat everything and if it comes in sandwich form, you can almost see the cartoon hearts form inside my eyes. That is until this past weekend, when I was challenged to make Rachel Green's infamous Thanksgiving trifle from the Friends episode, "The One Where Ross Got High." Any Central Perk resident will remember the stifled horror of Monica, Ross, Phoebe, and Chandler when they discover that Rachel, despite her best efforts, managed to mix together the recipe for a traditional English trifle and shepherd's pie.

Going into this challenge, I felt a lot like Joey — unfazed. I thought to myself, "I mean, what's not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, gooooood." However, the closer I got to consuming the, shall we say, "acquired taste" dish, the more I lost faith in my gastrointestinal abilities. Somehow, I managed to convince a handful of my friends to try the concoction, even though I was not even remotely capable of making it taste good. "Guys," I said to my brave comrades. "This is probably going to be disgusting, and you don't have to try it if you don't want to."

But one by one, my friends at our very own Friendsgiving stepped up to the plate. The results ranged from spitting it into the garbage to going back for seconds. There may have even been a bird that just came down and swiped it out of someone's hands. Nevertheless, we all lived to tell the tale.

Here's how it all went down (and thankfully, not back up):

The One Where Rachel Makes a Grocery Store Employee Very Concerned

A few substitutions had to be made, since the Acme in South Philadelphia did not have lady fingers or custard. Nilla wafers and vanilla pudding were my stand-ins, and ultimately, did a fine job.

The One Where Rachel Makes the Recipe

It was like staring down the bar barrel a very bad decision. I found it best to prep the shepherd's pie first. Now the recipe calls for:

  • "First there's lady fingers" — I substituted with Nilla Wafers here, but if you're going for the real deal, you can purchase some online here or go to your nearest gourmet/specialty grocer. Place a row of lady fingers on the bottom of your serving dish.
  • "Then a layer of jam" — spoon plentifully. I would suggest purchasing an 18 oz. jar of raspberry, strawberry, or blackberry jam.
  • "Then custard, which I made from scratch" — vanilla pudding does just as well if your grocer doesn't carry custard. A homemade real proper custard calls for milk, cream, vanilla extract, 4 egg yolks, corn flour, and caster (or super-fine) sugar. Custard is thinner than pudding so it will drizzle to the bottom.
  • "Then raspberries" — self-explanatory.
  • "More lady fingers" — carb it up!
  • "Then beef sautéed with peas and onions" — I purchased just 1/3 pound of ground beef, one white onion, and one small bag of green peas. Prepare the shepherd's pie filling before putting the whole dish together. First I sautéed the onions in 1 tbsp. of olive oil to caramelize, then I added the peas, then the beef to finish. Season with salt and pepper.
  • "More custard" — go on.
  • "Bananas" — 2 bananas should be enough. Slice roughly 1/2 inch thick pieces.
  • "And I still have to put whipped cream on top" — Spray can or tub, you can't go wrong!

Now this was a tough call — do I put the sautéed beef, onions, and peas into the dish hot or do I chill them? I decided to chill them and I'm not sure if I did anyone any favors with that.

The One where Rachel Intentionally Ruins Friendsgiving

Nilla wafers and jam? Good!

Custard and raspberries? GOOD.

Beef, peas, and onions? NOT GOOD. THIS IS NOT GOOD.

Bananas... dear lord.

The whole dish? It could only be worse if Ugly Naked Guy made it while lunging.

The One Where Everyone Hates Rachel... Except for Diana

Since I was the one who made this monstrosity, it's only fair that I take the first bite. It tastes as gross as it looks.

Dan's face says it all. But in his own words: "It tastes like a garbage disposal... I have a pretty strong stomach and that made me almost throw up."

Kelsey did not pull a Ross and try to save face. "It's the pop of the pea that weirds me out."

Into the garbage. "The onions really killed me."

My BFF Diana is more of a Phoebe/Monica hybrid, but tonight she was our Joey. "It's not that bad!" She even went back for seconds. My friend Brandon remained ever the optimist, too. "You just have to swallow it. That's when it tastes good."

My dear friend Hannah, who traveled all the way from London to have an American Thanksgiving with me, couldn't even hide her disgust, despite her absolute Englishness. "It tastes nice... apart from the meat."

Caroline, another champion of champions. "I've had worse things!"

So there you have it folks. I can't say I blame the Friends gang for wanting to flush the trifle down the toilet or dump it off the side of a balcony. But much like Rachel Green, I, Rachel Semigran, have some pretty incredible friends who are willing to push their stomach's limits just because I made something. That dear readers, is something I am truly thankful for this year. And antacids.

I'm really thankful for antacids.

Images: NBC, popsugar/Tumblr, wifflegif