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. Paul Hochman says:

    Great to see so many folks here! Don’t forget to sign up for the Newsletter (Towards the top, right hand side of this page). This way you’ll be notified as to the next recipe!

  2. Francoise L. Upton says:

    Recipe sounds yummy!

  3. Margaret Nelson says:

    There are so many facets to a Louise Penny novel that draw you in and won’t let you go until the end of the book. One facet being her descriptions of what people are eating while thinking about how to solve the crime! What a terrific dimension to add to her repertoire!

  4. Sue Barrett says:

    I would love to be a part of Nature of the Feast. I already am on the newsletter list, so no worries there.. Let me know when new recipes are about! Thank you!

  5. Michael Glennon says:

    Love the “eating” times in all of the books, and there are
    several, good appetites I guess. Keep up the great works!!
    Look forward to more recipes. I really do want to move to
    Three Pines!!!

  6. Therese says:

    Unless you want to present the bird at the table or somewhere for show I highly recommend cooking the turkey upside down! I’ve been doing this for years since I read that the moister dark meat which is usually on the bottom, when turned upside down and now being on top actually acts as a natural “baster” for the drier white meat which winds up on the bottom. Letting the bird rest for an hour or two is also very helpful. I then flip the bird over (not so hard as it sounds but a bit slippery!) and carve it up. I cook mine the day before, cover with the skin and ladle lots of the juices over the slices. Cover really well and refrigerate. The next day you have perfect moist turkey and the mess has been dealt with so you can just sit and enjoy along with everybody else while you warm your turkey in the oven! This provides a really great turkey unless as mentioned you need to have it on display to bring to table.

  7. Bev Anthony says:


  8. M. Lynne Taleff says:

    What a marvelous addition to the mystery series. I eagerly await each book and now will be eagerly anticipating the recipes as well. Thank you.

  9. Nathalie says:

    Brining a turkey? I have never done. I will give it try for Thanksgiving. It sounds interesting!
    Thank you

  10. Mary W. says:

    I am so excited about the inauguration of recipes from the Gamache series. This turkey recipe looks lovely, and several good tips from readers. I have just one small request (at least I hope it’s small). Can you provide a “Print” option for the recipes? While the picture is lovely, it would save a reader a lot of time in copying and reformatting (I like to keep my recipes in a ring binder in the kitchen.)

  11. Pam Tomaino says:

    What a fabulous idea. I can’t wait to see and try all the recipes that will be posted. I drool as I anxiously await the new tantalizing smells and aromas of the Bistro and it’s marvelous sounding dishes. Now in some small way, it’s like being in the Bistro itself. Thank you for always considering your many fans!

  12. Pam says:

    Count me in ! Another great idea ! Soooo enjoy all the Gamache adventures………Louise Penny, you’re the BEST !
    Many wonderful Blessings to you and your family !

  13. Liz Rhoades says:

    Yes, yes! Please make that cookbook happen. I love those recipes, especially on a cold winter night. And keep writing those wonderful mysteries.

  14. Serafina Gagliardi says:

    I am so trilled to have the recipes for all the delicious food Louise describes. Mouth watering,desserts, etc…. I grew up picking chestnuts in Calabria Italy. Boiled or Roasted they are delicious.
    Molto Bene.. Boun Appettito…

  15. Janice and Thomas Dixon says:

    Since Inspector Ganache is one of my wife’s favorite literary characters and the food plays an integral part in each store, we decided to prepare this for Easter dinner – and it was great! The only change, since chestnuts are not readily available in eastern Washington this time of year, we substituted cashews (they actually worked having a similar texture and flavor). Everything turned out wonderful. The turkey was nicely browned and juicy and the dressing (though being different than our traditional Thanksgiving side dish) was delicious. This is a nice way to do turkey anytime and we definitely will prepare it again. Thank you Louise Penny for this terrific recipe, we are looking forward to more.

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