The Only Thanksgiving Guide You’ll Ever Need

This year I’m giving thanks for Sam Sifton’s new book Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well. “Thanksgiving is not easy,” writes the former New York Times food critic. And I couldn’t agree more. Things can get mighty stressful as you plan and cook this mega-meal, but that’s where Sifton’s book comes in.

Sifton has cooked many Thanksgiving meals of his own over the years, and he used to man the Thanksgiving Help Line for the Times, where he answered questions and resolved crises for cooks across America. His expertise and sound advice appear in this collection along with his simple, fool-proof recipes for everything from the turkey to the mashed potatoes and the pumpkin pie. The Reader’s Digest version: Sifton will help you cook the best traditional Thanksgiving meal possible while staying sane.

And if you’re still looking for a dessert to add to your Turkey Day menu, try this recipe from the book:

• 2 1/2 pounds pears, peeled and cored, then cut into wedges (6–8 medium- sized pears will do it)

• 1⁄2 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

• 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

• 1 large egg

• 1⁄2 cup whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. 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.

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.

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