“You are going to page through this book … and then you are going to cook and serve a meal that will bring praise down upon you like showers of rose petals.” – Sam Sifton, “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well”

There’s a lot of Thanksgiving information out there. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want 15 recipes for cranberry sauce. I want one truly great one that I can make every year so that I can focus on other things. Like pie.

Sam Sifton’s “Thanksgiving” is a collection of 50 foolproof recipes (and advice) written by a former New York Times restaurant critic who spent years manning the paper’s Thanksgiving Day hotline, answering questions from panicked readers. This is the man you want to have talking you through the Big Meal – an opinionated expert who wants you to feel like a Thanksgiving rock star and set the table the way God intended, you hobo. (I got the distinct feeling that, if you served Thanksgiving buffet-style, he might show up at the front door and slap you silly.)

I made Sifton’s Basic Cranberry Sauce, and the mixture of cranberries, sugar, orange juice and orange zest was everything cranberry sauce should be: ruby red and jammy, with the perfect balance of tart and sweet. Ten minutes at the stove; two hours in the fridge. Done and done.

Surprisingly, he’s OK with canned cranberry sauce being on the table next to the real deal “so long as you slice it into coins and don’t spoon it out into a bowl as if it were dog food.”

(Insert mic drop here.)

Basic Cranberry Sauce

Reprinted with permission from Sam Sifton’s “Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well” (Random House, 2012)

  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 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.
  3. Stir again, add zest, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes longer. Turn off heat, cover pan, and allow to cool.
  4. Put cranberry mixture in a serving bowl, cover, and place in refrigerator until cold, at least 2 hours, or until you need it.