Sam Sifton’s Thanksgiving Pear Cobbler

Talk about waiting until the last minute…

Most food blogs and websites have inundated you with Thanksgiving recipes for WEEKS and here I am, the day before Thanksgiving, offering you up a recipe for cobbler. But maybe you’re still figuring out dessert? And maybe you haven’t heard about Sam Sifton’s Thanksgiving book yet? If the latter is true, you better hurry out and score yourself a copy. What the former New York Times restaurant critic has written is pretty much the essential Thanksgiving cookbook. It’s full of good advice and smart, straight-forward recipes for turkey (roasted, brined, deep-fried, smoked), cranberry sauce, the works. My eye, of course, went straight to dessert where a pear cobbler caught my fancy. And last weekend I served it for dessert at a dinner party, to lots of acclaim.

The pears came from the Upper East Side farmer’s market, a tiny little cluster of tents on 82nd street between 1st and York. I chose Boscs:


On my walk back, I realized I didn’t have a baking dish here in New York so I popped into Sur La Table and bought a pretty ceramic one on sale for $20. It’s actually the wrong dimensions for the recipe—the recipe says 8 X 8, and this was more like 8 X 13—which meant a thinner layer of fruit and more biscuit topping per bite. Nothing wrong with that!

The cobbler recipe proceeds as most cobbler recipes do, with one key difference. You start by peeling your fruit:


Get rid of the cores, cut the pears into wedges:


And now for the key difference, a wonderful secret ingredient that makes this cobbler one you’ll want to make again and again…candied ginger.


Actually: I should say crystallized ginger. The store where I bought this had both candied ginger and crystallized ginger and the candied ginger looked more like cough drops and the ingredients had corn syrup listed. Crystallized ginger, I’m pretty sure, is just ginger cured in sugar. That’s what you want.

So you chop up two tablespoons worth and sprinkle it over the pears after tossing those pears in sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. I also dotted the pears with some butter, a technique I stole from another favorite cobbler recipe.

As for the topping, you’re basically making biscuits. You cut cold butter into flour, baking powder and salt:


Then you add a liquid mixture of milk whisked with egg, gently combine it all with the dry ingredients and drop the biscuit topping on top of the fruit, sprinkling everything, at the end, with sugar:


Into a hot oven it goes and out it comes 40 minutes later, making your whole apartment (or your parents’ apartment, as in my case) smell like Thanksgiving.

Our dinner guests, J.S. and Joseph, were lured in by the aroma of cobbler (and also dinner, which they’re eating here):


The fennel/apple salad was good, as was the porcini tortellini I made from Agata and Valentina. But dessert really was the star of the show, served up with vanilla ice cream:


So there’s your last minute dessert, if you don’t have one. One tip: cook it as long as you can before the top gets too dark, so the fruit gets fully cooked. My pears were on the al dente side.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Whether you’re doing the cooking or someone’s cooking for you, stuff yourselves silly and remember to be thankful. See you back here on Friday.

Recipe: Sam Sifton’s Thanksgiving Pear Cobbler

Summary: A winning recipe from Sam Sifton’s new Thanksgiving cookbook.


  • 2 1⁄2 pounds pears, peeled and cored, then cut into wedges (6–8 medium- sized pears will do it)
  • 1⁄2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons diced candied (look for crystallized) ginger (optional)
  • 2 cups all- purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1⁄2 cup whole milk


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9- inch cast- iron skillet or 8- inch square baking dish. Place the fruit in a large bowl, and add 1⁄2 cup sugar and the lemon juice and zest. Gently mix until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to the skillet and top with candied ginger, if using.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add the butter and, using a fork, work it together with the dry ingredients until the mixture is coarse. In a separate bowl, stir the egg and milk until combined. Pour over the flour and butter mixture and stir to combine into a smooth dough.
  3. Using your fingers, place clumps of dough the size of golf balls on top of the fruit mixture, pressing down slightly to create a rough- textured, cobbled crust. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 40 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

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