North Fork man wrote the book on turkey this Thanksgiving

11/22/2012 12:00 PM |

Greenport resident Sam Sifton, national editor for The new York Times where he previously served as a food critic, recently published his first cookbook, ‘Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.’

Greenport Village resident Sam Sifton, national editor of The New York Times, has been talking lots of turkey this holiday season.

A former restaurant critic for the Times, Mr. Sifton chose preparing a great Thanksgiving dinner as the theme for his first cookbook, “Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well.”

In the book, Mr. Sifton, 46, who served as the Times’ restaurant critic from 2009 to 2011, mostly uses the written word to describe the perfect holiday dinner, though he does include a few line drawings. He said he avoided lavish photographs in the book, released by Random House this October, because he wanted to stick with a theme as timeless and traditional as the holiday itself.

“The thing about those food porn books, as good as they are sometimes at getting you excited to cook, it goes out of fashion after a little while,” Mr. Sifton said this week. “What I’m arguing for is not the new trend of turkey… The only people who really need new ideas for the turkey and new ideas for the side dishes are the people that put out food pages in newspapers and magazines. Those of us at home just need to know how to make a really good plate of mashed potatoes or a sweet potato dish or a good roasted turkey. That’s what this book is about.”

SAM SIFTON

In addition to providing traditional recipes, Mr. Sifton writes about certain things he believes should be eliminated from the holiday feast. He doesn’t support the idea of serving appetizers at Thanksgiving because he believes they get in the way of the meal by taking up valuable stomach space, wasting dishes and forcing you to spend extra time cleaning.

Mr. Sifton suggests serving oysters to kick off your Turkey Day meal.

“Laying in a few dozen bivalves to eat while the turkey rests on a sidebar is in my view a brilliant solution to the fidgety issue of serving food in advance of the Thanksgiving meal,” Mr. Sifton writes. “Consumed with a sparkling wine, outdoors if possible, oysters provide a direct and visceral connection to aquatic harvest, and to the true history of Thanksgiving in America.”

If you get your oysters from Pipe’s Cove, vegetables from Latham’s in Orient and a fresh turkey from Miloski’s Poultry Farm in Calverton, Mr. Sifton said, he believes your holiday dinner will be “pretty marvelous.”

Taking a walk after the meal, spending some time outside and sparking the fireplace also contribute to making a holiday dinner extra special, he said.

“[That’s] Thanksgiving on the North Fork,” Mr. Sifton said. “There’s no better time of the year out here.”

Mr. Sifton and his wife, Tina Fallon, a real estate agent and theater producer in Brooklyn, currently reside in the Red Hook neighborhood there and have also lived in Greenport Village part-time since 1999. They’ve bought and sold a few houses there over the years, and they’ve spent many Thanksgivings in the village with their two young daughters.

Mr. Sifton’s love affair with the maritime village began sometime in the mid-1990s when he was desperate to find a custom part for a boat he kept in Sag Harbor.

While he waited for the part, Mr. Sifton said, he bumped into an old friend, David Berson, captain of the Greenport-based electric tour boat Glory.

“I had known him when I was in high school because I worked on the schooner Pioneer at the South Street Seaport Museum from the time I was in middle school until the time I was in college,” Mr. Sifton said. “I knew him from the harbor. There were a lot of other New York Harbor rats that washed up in Greenport.”

Mr. Sifton said Greenport has had a special place in his heart since that day.

Over the years, the village has also become a part-time home to his in-laws, who stay with him and his wife when not in Florida.

“I’m out here to cook in my house with my family and take advantage of the great farms and fish and the bounty of the North Fork,” he said.

Although he enjoys dining out, Mr. Sifton said, he’s no longer in the business of naming his favorite restaurants. And since becoming the Times’ national editor a year ago, he now has to pay for his own meals.

“I can’t imagine a bigger change than from being the restaurant critic, where you’re out six nights a week eating in restaurants all over the city and all over the globe, to being national editor, when you’re in the newsroom many, many hours a day, every day, and not writing so much,” he said.

Mr. Sifton has been promoting his book the past few weeks, making talk show appearances in between covering Hurricane Sandy and the election.

When asked how his own Thanksgiving preparations have been going, he said “terrible.” As of last Friday afternoon, he hadn’t called Miloski’s to order his turkey.

“In every interview I give, in every appearance I’ve made, I talk about the importance of planning, the importance of gaming everything out, and this year I have done none of that,” he said. “I’ve got to play a little catch up if I’m going to have a good Thanksgiving.”

jennifer@timesreview.com