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. Marty Wall says:

    Thank you! I get so excited whenever the characters enter the bistro. The description of the food makes my mouth water just reading about it. I SO wish I could sit there next to the fireplace, devour the food and drink, and just watch everything unfold.

  2. Marie says:

    Could you next share that recipe Peter once did with holiday leftovers? The one that apparently ”looked like a mess but tasted divine”. I’ve been wondering for years what that would taste like!

  3. Donna Haynes Robertson says:

    So excited to be getting these recipes! I love the books and all the social interaction of the characters. Thanks for going this extra step for your fans.

  4. Susan Craver says:

    I just love this!! Thank you so much.

  5. Anna says:

    I have only ever eaten turkey when in Canada, thanks Michele! Sounds delicious. I would like to try Danny’s variation with the cardamom and star anise. Perhaps I could do that with chicken?

    • Julie says:

      Anna, I think any and all of these suggestions would be just as good with chicken… I always brine all chicken and turkey and truly love what it does for the end result.

  6. Kathleen Kline says:

    The minute the canned peas were mentioned I was hooked. My favorite brand!

  7. Julie says:

    Wonderful – I can smell that turkey cooking now! And see all the shining faces of the villagers around the table as they discuss Jane and her art…

  8. Pamela Bekins says:

    Thanks – these recipes will help, but I still long to move to Three Pines!

  9. Cathy Trecek says:

    This is a lovely surprise! As I was reading about Gabri last night I was wishing/hoping for a glass of wine and some cashews and a roaring fire – a bit of that spring cold had descended. So these recipes are one step closer to being there (although as I recall the turkey was eaten at the Morrows.)

    • R Wheat says:

      Yes! I, too, often wish for a visit to the Bistro to enjoy the food, conversation and companionship of the books. I think it says so much of Louise that we can nearly be there!

  10. Susan Hurd says:

    Great plan this on-line, Three Pines recipe book. Please sign me up!

  11. R Wheat says:

    I understand some people’s aversion to the liver, but there are a few of us who like it! I leave it large so it gets passed to a liver lover by the person dipping it up – not without comments, I admit!
    I’ve been brining poultry for only 5 years or so, but it makes such an improved result. My solution to the problem of having a container large enough for a turkey of the size I sometimes bake is to have a 5-gallon drywall compound bucket, with cover, that I’ve cleaned. I reserve it’s use exclusively for food and find that it works well. Usually in our house turkey is served during the colder months so I can put the covered bucket on our screened porch during brining, adding ice periodically if necessary to keep it cold enough (one of the benefits of being this far north).

  12. Marj Sparrow says:

    Yes, (small?) cookbook so they will all be together!

    A turkey roasting pan with a cover cuts roast time by a lot.
    Thank you so much .

  13. Nyoka Beer says:

    Great idea! Would love an actual cookbook. Looking forward to more recipes.

  14. Judith Sigler says:

    I have anxiously been awaiting THE FIRST OF THE RECIPES!! WOOHOO! IT’S HERE! Can’t wait to get that turkey in the brine! NATURE OF THE FEAST is such a DELICIOUS IDEA, and I’m so, so happy to see it coming to fruition! I know that there’ll be many “happy tastebuds” enjoying this and upcoming dishes! BON APETIT! And many thanks for “pulling this together”! :-)).

  15. Carol Murray says:

    I can’t wait to try all the recipes. It’s one thing to read but so much better when you can share.

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