How to cook your fantasy Thanksgiving dinner

Sam Sifton knows Thanksgiving can be hard, not for him, for you. The food editor at The New York Times and the founder of NYTCooking appeared on “Salon Talks” to walk Salon through the basics of preparing the most-anticipated meal of the year and imbue us with the confidence we’ll need to not just survive the night, but deliver a meal folks will remember for years to come.

Sifton has been running the show on Thanksgiving since he was a young man with more ambition for the meal than experience preparing it. Early on, he and a squad of newly minted college graduates, and the odd doctoral candidate thrown in for good measure, committed to making a proper sit down dinner to celebrate our hinkty national harvest myth, even if fashioning a table for 20 required removing a couple of doors off their hinges and festooning them with bed sheets. That was then.

Now he has written the book. “Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well” is the last word on the subject. Sifton’s enthusiasm for the holiday—akin to that of a war-weary career field officer—is still somehow wonderfully infectious.

The turkey talk is exciting and occasionally even startling, and Sifton makes one pronouncement that puts a halt to a practice that has become the bedrock of modern Thanksgiving kitchen stratagems—brining.

“We have a story in the Times this week by Kim Severson that explores the two decades long run of brining, and her reporting indicates that it is the food media elites who have prosthelytized the most about brining, and some people continue to believe that brining is part of the religious experience of the Thanksgiving feast,” Sifton told SalonTV’s Manny Howard on “Salon Talks.”

“For myself, at this point? I don’t have time. Look. You have a turkey the size of a toddler that you now have to keep cold in a liquid, saline, environment for like 48 hours. I don’t have time. Because at the end of that time you will have a bird, yes, a little moister. Yes, a little saltier. Perhaps sweeter. And definitely spongier. So you have some textural issues. So, guess what? I’m not brining.”

Rather, directs Sifton, “Salt the outside of the bird. Put it in the fridge, allow the surface of the bird to dry for as long as you can, and then get it into a hot oven.”

Watch the episode above to learn more of Sifton’s Thanksgiving tips and to hear about his deep frying turkey experiment.

“Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well” is available now.

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