The former ‘New York Times’ restaurant critic and author of the new book Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well, tells us how to make a Turkey Day classic—basic cranberry sauce—and encourages us to try something new—roasted cauliflower with anchovy bread crumbs. Plus, he gives Katie Baker some tips on how to cook an epic feast.
Basic Cranberry Sauce
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
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. 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.
Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Bread Crumbs
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
1⁄4 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 sauté 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.
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.