Roast Turkey and Chestnut Stuffing

They ate by candlelight, the candles of all shapes and sizes flickering around the kitchen. Their plates were piled high with turkey and chestnut stuffing, candied yams and potatoes, peas and gravy.
—Still Life

Makes 8 generous servings, with leftovers roast turkey

For Brining and Roasting the Turkey

  • One 12- to 14-pound (5.5-kg) fresh turkey
  • 1½ cups kosher salt
  • ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1 large bunch fresh sage leaves (save a few for the stuffing)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and left whole
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed and left whole
  • 3 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters through the core
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Stuffing

  • One 1-pound (450-g) loaf of coarse-textured country bread, crusts left on, whole loaf cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) dice–about 8 cups/2 liters (Note: a mix of country bread and soft bread, such as challah, can be nice, too.)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
  • 1½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 5 to 6 ounces (150 g) dried chestnuts (about 1 cup), coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (230 ml) chicken broth, preferable homemade
  • ½ cup (120 ml) light or heavy cream
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Prep and brine the turkey: Remove the turkey from its wrapping and remove the package containing the gizzards, liver, etc. Also, look for the neck (sometimes left loose in the cavity) and check the “crop” (the opening on the neck end). Refrigerate the gizzards and neck. Reserve the liver separately if you plan to use it for something else, as it will not be part of the gravy. Rinse the turkey well, inside and out, under cold running water and let drain thoroughly in the sink.

2. Choose a large (10-quart/10-liter or so) pot and pour in 8 cups (2 liters) of room- temperature water. Stir in the kosher salt, sugar, and all but a few of the sage leaves. Make sure the salt and sugar have dissolved, then put the turkey in the pot. Pour in additional water, if needed, to completely cover the turkey. Refrigerate at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.

NOTE: The entire brining process can be omitted. Instead, season the turkey well, inside and out, with sea salt in addition to the pepper and butter. Roast on a “rack” of vegetables and gizzards as described above.

3. While the turkey is brining, make the stuffing: Put the bread into a large bowl. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion and celery, the sage and thyme, and the chestnuts. Cook, stirring often, until the onion and celery have softened, about 8 minutes. Scrape the chestnut mixture over the bread in the bowl, slowly pour in the chicken broth and cream while tossing to moisten the bread evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the stuffing to a heavy baking dish (a 14-inch (36-cm) oval dish works well). Refrigerate until you remove the turkey from the refrigerator and brine to bring it to room temperature, and preheat the oven.

4. Scatter the whole carrots and celery, the onion wedges, and the neck and gizzards (no liver!) over the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey comfortably. Carefully drain the turkey in the sink. Pat it dry, inside and out, with paper towels and set on the bed of vegetables and gizzards in the pan. Season inside and out with black pepper and smear the skin with the butter. (Don’t worry about covering the skin evenly; the butter is mostly to enrich the pan sauce later.)

5. With the rack set in the lower third of the oven, preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Let the turkey come up to room temperature while the oven is preheating. Roast the turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone reads 170°F (80°C). To be sure the turkey is fully cooked, test both thighs and also the joint where the wing connects to the breastbone. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 30 minutes. As soon as the turkey comes out of the oven, put in the stuffing; it will take about 30 minutes to brown and cook.

6. Transfer the turkey to a carving board, first tipping the turkey slightly so the juices inside dribble into the pan. (A sturdy wooden spoon and large metal spatula or fork are helpful for tipping the turkey and transferring it to the board.)

7. Pour the chicken broth into the pan and heat over low heat, stirring, until the little brown bits stuck to the pan have loosened. Strain the sauce into a small saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

8. After the turkey has rested for about 30 minutes, and the stuffing is ready, carve the turkey and arrange it on a platter. Pass the stuffing and pan gravy separately.

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Discussion on “Roast Turkey and Chestnut Stuffing

  1. Linda Peerson says:

    That is definitely something I love about the book series, the food. It is always described so wonderfully . And I love the fact that they share this food together, in good times and in bad. I feel if/when I make any of these meals that they must be shared with family and friends.

  2. Elina Mavromatis says:

    What a delicious read to start my day!!!

    The only suggestion I have is the use of a metal turkey sling! So helpful in getting the turkey out of the hot pan…of course, nothing is perfect, and getting the turkey off the sling can be interesting!

    • Julie says:

      Yes, and I’m not sure about placing the metal sling on top of the vegetables in the bottom of the pan… but I use one all the time and it does make it easier to get the turkey out of the pan at least – then I usually roll it onto a serving platter…

    • Christiane Dufour says:

      I use a string sling using butcher twine: a long string, folded in half, knottted at the open end. Near the centre, I make 2 additional knots, turkey-back-length apart. Slip under the turkey back and you can now slide the resulting hoops at each end over the bird. They are ready to be grabbed to pull the bird out when done.

  3. Sue Jackson says:

    Vive Gamache! Thank you for this series on the food of Three Pines. Your descriptions of the food, the meals, and the friendships that go along are as interesting as the plot itself.

  4. David G Decker says:

    Looks great! Been wanting an excuse to have turkey. This is a good enough reason. Thanks

  5. Joyce Golbourn says:

    Not even 9:00 a.m. and my mouth is watering. This is going to be a great series great lead-up to the new book. Classy again Louise Penny.

  6. I am so into brining. It is definitely worth doing and there is something so satisfying about it. It is a great way to resurrect a not so great bird and it is very hard to overcook or dry out a brined turkey. I use a big old cooler and I keep it in the cool basement overnight. It’s nice to use similar flavouring to your stuffing. So yes sage is great but you can also try cardamum, star anise, orange, bay leaves and I always add real Canadian maple syrup. I think that Olivier is a brine kinda guy. I can see him saving the rinds of cheese and the ends of parsley stalks for just such a purpose.

    • R Wheat says:

      Lovely alternatives for the brine! Never thought of cardamon, although I love the flavor. Thanks!

    • Amy L says:

      Oh, I think so – Olivier is a “brine kind of guy.” Love the idea of using a bit of real maple syrup for sweetness. But wasn’t the turkey in Still Life a meal at Clara and Peter’s house? Well – that’s a good enough reason to go back and read the book again, I think!

    • Constance Hayes says:

      I put a V shaped rack on top of the vegetables in the roast pan, and set the oven temp. to 425. The brined turkey goes in the rack breast side down for the first 30-45 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325, and turn turkey, breast side up for the rest of roasting time.

    • sheryl Taylor says:

      Hi Danny: Just found out you were into Brine..

      love it

  7. Debbie Gilbert says:

    I’m so excited about this food series! The village of Three Pines has become so real in my mind! I so want to sit and have a meal in The Bistro – now I can savor some of the meals! Thank you!!!!

  8. Cynthia Kershner says:

    Bon appetit!

  9. Linda Degnan says:

    No need to add or change anything. Sounds succulent and delicious! Thank you so much for doing this. Have been waiting ever since you mentioned it in you Newsletter . Looking forward to a Three Pines Turkey feast!

  10. Fran Wheeler says:

    Love this idea! I’m looking forward to more of these recipes.
    Viva Gamache!

  11. Judith Gleim says:

    From the beginning, Louise Penny has drawn us into the Gamache series through all our senses – we smell the smells, we hear the sounds, we see Three Pines… How wonderful that we can now actually taste some of these recipes for ourselves. Thank you, Louise, for always keeping us in mind.

  12. Linda Price says:

    Love the books and am now can’t wait to receive the wonderful recipes from these stories!! Only problem with the books is that you don’t write fast enough!! Keep them coming!!

  13. JUDY COLLINS says:

    Simple, straight forward, scrumptious! Easter turkey just might be coming up this weekend!
    Thanks Louise!

  14. Margaret says:

    Agh, not fair! You really should warn about the prep of the chestnuts. Childhood memories. Which is why I love your stories, childhood memories.

    • Another Margaret says:

      Yes, I wondered about the chestnut preparation, too. The chestnuts are best if local and roasted first. Those vacuum-packed or canned ones from off-shore are not appealing.

    • Fran says:

      Oh dear. We in the southern USA did not encounter chestnuts until we grew up and got a cone of them roasted in NYC. WHAT is involved in prepping them? The recipe does not give a hint of hidden horrors.

  15. Theresa Cross says:

    YES!!! Truly a dream come true! THANK YOU! I do hope those luscious croissants will be part of the recipe book…I can still smell and taste them…just from the description! Bless you!

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