Talking turkey with Sam Sifton

Forget following Sifton into the kitchen.?After reading the calm yet uplifting “Thanksgiving,” you’d follow him into war.

Sam Sifton has had one doozy of a November.

As the national editor of the New York Times, he’s overseen the election, Hurricane Sandy and the Petraeus scandal all in the past two weeks. And as the author of the new book “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well,” he’s also had to expound on how to handle various gravy dilemmas.

“It’s a little bit like being in a centrifuge,”?he says about tackling his day job as well as the publication of his second book. “The last couple of weeks of going back and forth between the elections, Sandy and troubled cranberry sauce has been fascinating.”

But for the purposes of this article, Sifton — who, before becoming the national editor was the Times’ food critic and one-man Thanksgiving helpline for panicked readers — is talking turkey. “I wanted to lay out the basics of how to make this holiday work. I wanted to remove some of the stress that people feel cooking it, hosting it and attending it,” he says about “Thanksgiving,” an immensely readable how-to guide on the epicurean holiday.

In order to pull off the best Thanksgiving to date, Sifton says to stay away from the siren call of the latest Thanksgiving Day trends.

“It makes me out to be something of a culinary conservative that I make this argument for a traditional Thanksgiving,” he notes. “The fact of the matter is people in the media always need to provide the shiny, glittery new thing: Here’s a new side dish. Here’s a new way to cook the turkey. The argument of my book is to say, ‘Hey, whoa: Let’s make the turkey right. Let’s make terrific mashed potatoes. Make a perfect cranberry sauce. Declare that we can make brussels sprouts so delicious that even the kids will eat them and cream our onions until they’re perfect. You can put together a terrific Thanksgiving meal. Do not freak out.’”

Feeling uplifted? Hopeful that you can pull this off? Good. Because on Thursday, you do not want to be distracted by gifts (although “Thanksgiving”?could be a good one, jokes Sifton). You do not want fireworks and radical turkeys.

For your Thanksgiving, all you should aim for, says Sifton, is to “cook it well.”

Thanksgiving recipe

Basic cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce should be sweet but not cloying, and tart without causing pucker and anguish. It should have a jelly-like quality, but should owe more to the appearance of jam.

The key element to making cranberry sauce is to understand that cranberries are high in pectin, a carbohydrate that exists in many fruits and which is released by the berries when they are heated and the cells of the fruit break down. In the presence of sugar, which we add to cranberry sauce to offset its tanginess and acid, which is why the berries are tangy in the first place, the pectin molecules bond to one another, forming a kind of gel. The longer you cook a cranberry sauce, the more pectin is released and liquid is evaporated, and the stiffer the result will be.

Science! Sometimes it’s helpful. So is spice. Some like a clove or two added to their cranberry sauce. (I am not one of them.) Others, a whisper of ginger and a small handful of nuts, for texture. Of this, I approve.

Ingredients:
1 12-ounce bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
Zest of orange, to taste

Directions:
1. Place cranberries in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and pour over these the sugar and orange juice. Stir to combine.

2. Cook until sugar is entirely melted and cranberries begin to burst in the heat, four to six minutes. Stir again, add zest, and cook for two or three minutes longer, turn off heat, cover pan and allow to cool.

3. Put cranberry mixture in a serving bowl, cover and place in refrigerator until cold — at least two hours, or until you need it.

— Excerpted from “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well” by Sam Sifton. Copyright © 2012 by Sam Sifton. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Going Out

5 things to do in NYC this weekend…

FILM Lebowski Fest Aug. 22-23, 8 p.m. Various locations, Manhattan $20-$30, www.lebowskifest.com The Dude abides — for 48 hours to celebrate the 1998 Coen brothers classic.…

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

NFL

Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…