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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


StillLife 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


  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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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I am immersed in the first Inspector Gamache books. It gives me something to look forward to when there is a chance to relax during troubling times.

Oh I love the village, and when someone has a croissant from the patisserie I usually say out loud, You’re killing me! I am lucky to have a patisserie where I can get a croissant that brings me right to the story. Food is such a powerful connection we all can have to a place and story.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly enjoy Louise Penny’s books even more. My daughter and I had been having a discussion about what wonderful friends we have in Three Pines and how they always seemed to be eating and drinking something delicious. I’m looking for Peter’s disgusting looking leftover turkey casserole recipe.

I’ve introduced your books to a few friends noting that they shouldn’t read Penny books on an empty stomach. I’ve described your books as a sensual experience and I tell them. Just read you will learn what I mean. Thank you for this.

This is a marvelous idea, but please don’t stop writing more novels about Three Pines and all these wonderful characters who have become friends.

We have always stuffed the turkey before baking. The differrence in flavor and texture is significant. Why bake them separately? We do remove every bit of the stuffing before storing the leftovers, no salmonella. Another kudo for the recipes. I need a cup of tea and a scone to read the books; otherwise the drool is distracting. Thank you, Louise.

After 58 years of marriage I have passed on the cooking of turkeys at large family gatherings to the next generation. I still have the memories of turkey misadventures and cooking for up to 25.
Nowadays large gatherings are potluck and outside in our garden, like the 80th birthday party last summer for my husband– 44 people all related in some way.
I would love to have tried brining but wouldn’t have anywhere to refrigerate a large brined turkey!!

Oh my gosh! I am looking forward to all the recipes. I have been wondering what it would be like to live in a place like Three Pines, with all the wonderful unique character. And eating at the Bistro. So sad one of my favorite characters died, Miss Jane Neal. Would like to read a story about Jane.

What a lovely addition to the novels. Those who love food and cooking so enjoy the descriptions of food and the eating of it. The cafe with the breakfasts, lunches, pastries and dinners are mouth watering. You can skip Ruth’s recipes though. Again I thank you

Darn it! I swore off roasting turkeys forever and ever a few years ago! Now I am in my car on my way to find an organic fresh turkey. Easter is gone but have an important birthday in the family soon. What a wonderful idea. Thank you

What a wonderful idea to do these recipes! I love reading recipes almost as much as I love reading the Inspector Gamache series. I’ll look forward to each one. Many, many thanks for all the extra work involved.

So often while reading the Three Pines books I’ve wanted the recipes for the dishes deliciously described by Ms. Penny. The Nature of the Feast posts are perfect! Thank you for sharing photos with the recipes too.

I have never put a turkey in brine, never even thought of it till reading this. Thank you for a lovely idea and will try this on my next turkey! Would probably also work on the two super large roasting chickens I have in my freezer, right?

Love, love, love this idea. Have to keep this short and sweet because I need to get that turkey out of the freezer and make it ready for Sunday dinner.

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