Sam Sifton’s Thanksgiving Essentials: Roasted Turkey, Lots of Wine, Classic Desserts

By Lindsey Antis Nov 13, 2012

Sam Sifton, the former New York Times restaurant critic and author of the new cookbook “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well,” sat down with Mario Batali today to discuss his Thanksgiving menu.
For Sifton, the holiday starts long before his family sits down at the table.  It begins early in the morning with the rich smell of roasting turkey.
“At about 10 am the turkey starts to give off that scent, the kids start waking up and the kids padding down stairs and the day is off to a good start,” he said.
Over the years, Sifton has tried a number of different methods for cooking the turkey, including frying it.  After all his experimentation he settled on roasting.  Before he pops it in the oven he suggests drying the turkey well.  Only then will you “get the burnished glow you want.”
Then finish off your bird with a homemade gravy.  Sifton likes to make his the day of in the roasting pan with the drippings and fresh turkey stock.  However, the gravy can be made ahead of time and your family won’t be disappointed.
Next to the turkey, a great dessert is essential for a successful Thanksgiving meal.  When it comes to desserts Sifton is “a traditionalist  - you have to have an apple pie, you have to have a pumpkin pie, [and] you have to have a pecan pie.”  Thanksgiving is not the time to try something new or experimental, he said.  Go with the crowd pleasers.
A great glass of wine is perfect accompaniment to all courses and an important conversation starter.  While most people don’t live in New York and have access to some of the best sommeliers in the world, not to worry. Sifton believes “the most important thing about wine is quantity.”
A nice, interesting wine can add another dimension to the dinnertime conversation, but it’s more important to make sure to have lots of whatever wine you choose.
Most importantly, Sifton sees the holiday as “the one big family meal” for a lot of working Americans.  In house the whole family pitches in. “Everyone’s got a job, it’s a moment of collaboration for the family that we don’t really get to do all that often,” he said.

Watch part two of the interview here.