Because of the tension of the national election and the concern for those hit by Hurricane Sandy, Thanksgiving has slipped up on me this year. My nerves started to fray under the pressure of getting my ducks in a row. Then I found the calming voice of Sam Sifton, author of the new book: “Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.”
Now national editor at The New York Times, previously Times restaurant critic, culture editor and editor of the Dining section, Sifton spent a number of years manning the Times’ Thanksgiving Day Desk, where he answered any and all questions. This came easy to a man who cooked 25 years of Thanksgiving dinners. And so, when Sam Sifton tells you that there is no need to worry because his book will lead you to a Thanksgiving Day that you can both plan easily and enjoy, you believe him.
The beauty of the book may be its simplicity. Sifton starts with “Getting Started,” a few things that you will need in the pantry, the pans and the requisite for success: turkey stock — easy to make on the day, easier to make ahead.
He moves straight to the star of the meal, the turkey, giving the who, what, when and how.
Side dishes follow, with the instruction that this is no time to experiment with the latest magazine creation. Stick to the family’s tried-and-true for happy results.
Gravy and cranberry sauce get their own chapter, as does one titled Setting the Table, Serving the Food, and Some Questions of Etiquette. Sifton makes dessert a matter-of-fact affair, advocating pie. And his final chapter addresses the finale of the day: Cleanup and Leftovers. “Before the first guest even arrives,” he writes, “think about your holiday end game.”
At the end, you do realize that with Sifton and this small book of 130 pages at hand, “you can cook Thanksgiving and not lose your mind,” whether it is your first time, or like me, you’re just running late. Hardcover. Random House. $18.
Reach Marion Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.