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How To Cook It Well

by Sam Sifton and Sarah C. Rutherford

Hardcover, 133 pages, Random House Inc, List Price: $18 |


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How To Cook It Well
Sam Sifton and Sarah C. Rutherford

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Book Summary

A former New York Times restaurant critic and Thanksgiving Help Line contact presents an accessible and authoritative guide to cooking and surviving a stylish Thanksgiving dinner, drawing on his extensive experiences to counsel home cooks on everything from different ways to prepare a turkey and selecting accompanying wines to managing difficult relatives and timing side dishes.

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well


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.

1 12- ounce bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries

34 cup sugar

34 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed

Zest of 1 orange, or to taste

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, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir again, add zest, and cook for 2 or 3 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 2 hours, or until you need it.


Another dish that lends itself well to non-Thanksgiving preparations, this cobbler is terrific with raspberries or blackberries, depending on the season, and with mixtures of berries and apples, berries and pears, apples and pears. It takes its name from the cobblestone appearance of the dough on top of the fruit. The addition of a spray of diced candied ginger to the fruit before you lay down the pieces of dough will yield a fragrance and fiery excellence that is very close to fancy grade.

212 pounds pears, peeled and cored, then cut into wedges (6–8 medium- sized pears will do it)

12 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons diced candied ginger (optional)

2 cups all- purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

12 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

1 large egg

12 cup whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or 8-inch square baking dish. Place the fruit in a large bowl, and add 1⁄2 cup sugar and the lemon juice and zest. Gently mix until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to the skillet and top with candied ginger, if using.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add the butter and, using a fork, work it together with the dry ingredients until the mixture is coarse. In a separate bowl, stir the egg and milk until combined. Pour over the flour and butter mixture and stir to combine into a smooth dough.

3. Using your fingers, place clumps of dough the size of golf balls on top of the fruit mixture, pressing down slightly to create a rough-textured, cobbled crust. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.


It is important to note that this dish does not have an anchovy flavor. Indeed, there is no reason ever to tell anyone who eats this dish that there are anchovies in it. The taste is merely salty and rich — and reflects beautifully off the sweet, creamy taste of the cauliflower beneath its slightly crunchy bread crumb topping.

2 heads cauliflower

8 to 10 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped

Zest of 2 lemons

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the anchovy bread crumbs

14 cup extra- virgin olive oil

8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 shallot, peeled and diced

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Break cauliflower into florets and toss in a bowl with sage, lemon zest, sugar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and spread out on a large baking sheet. Place in oven and cook until tender and golden, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare bread crumbs. Heat olive oil in a saute pan set over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add the anchovies, garlic, shallot, and bread crumbs. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until golden.

3. In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower and bread crumbs and serve on a warmed platter.

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.