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. Mark Wheeler says:

    So close to easter for this and now we will just change from ham to have a bistro styled stuffed roast turkey, I am told . . . looking forward to every delicious mouthful. Thanks and blessings.

  2. Yummy. I will have to try the chestnuts. I loved the communal quality of their meal, such joy. Wish you could have someone create Myrna’a bouquet. As to the turkey, I now use a dry brine that I rub on the turkey the night before and then rinse off before prepping it for the oven. My aunt gave me 2 large fork skewers that are an immense help with the bird. I like to start my turkey upside down, the breast meat gets juices flowing into it and the dark meat is exposed to more heat and cooks better. Oh, again I long for a community like 3 Pines.

  3. Patricia R. says:

    This is such a great idea!!! Thank you!!!

  4. Lynda Eaton says:

    Aren’t you an interesting lady Louise Penny……. Look at all that you have created.

  5. Pass the stuffing, please. I could make a meal of just the stuffing. I love the idea of recipes for the wonderful dishes we have read about.
    Hi to all. Please join us at The Bistro. We have a great time discussing LP, her books and much more.

  6. Ginger Holsted says:

    I would love to spend a week or so in the area and go to cooking classes featuring these recipes! What an adventure! Living in the southern Plains, trees are a precious commodity. Hiking through the forests Ms. Penny describes would bring it all to life. I love to cook and would love to learn the local cuisine of my favorite series!

  7. Joan Small says:

    Replace the water in the brining with dry white wine—delicious!!!

  8. Kate Grace says:

    Could you please present these so they can be printed?

    • Paul Hochman says:

      Yes. Print functionality is in development now. Thanks!

    • Michele H. says:

      If you have a Pinterest account, you can create a Three Pines board as I did, and then save your recipes there. You can refer to them anytime and from wherever you go through this electronic account.

      • Julie says:

        Aren’t you smart? I’ll be doing that right away. I’ve shied away from Pinterest of late because I stand strongly against copyright infringement. Instead of posting things that people can follow and copy, I now have only private boards only I can see, and use them as my own private scrap books – it’s almost more of a bookmarking page that way.

  9. Ellen George says:

    Wonderful! I love the series and what a lovely idea to post recipes!!!
    This is one series I wait for-Thank you for the place we all want to live and Inspector Gamache!
    Don’t you picture him as Tom Selleck??

  10. Lilian Laird says:

    Can we have the recipe for candied yams too please ??!! Being British we don’t do things like that !! Thanks.

  11. Frank Maitoza says:

    mmmm…Now I can close my eyes as I eat these delectable goodies and imagine myself in Three Pines sitting with all the people I now know and love who in the midst of solving a murder bring the essence of love, peace and neighborliness to the world.

  12. Elle Baker says:

    Turkey is one of my all time favorite foods, so you could not have chosen better. Looking forward to trying the chestnut stuffing and the brining.
    When the time comes, some of the Bistro sandwich offerings would be lovely to have the recipes for. It is great fun to imagine myself sitting on one of the ‘for sale’ comfortable chairs near the fire enjoying one of the decadent sandwiches.

  13. Michele H. says:

    Wonderful! I created a “Three Pines Recipes” board on Pinterest to save them. Thank you for your generosity!

  14. Elizabeth Moore says:

    I quickly scanned the Turkey and jumped into the stuffing. Nothing ever changes!
    Merci!

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