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. Bonnie Baird says:

    Looking forward to the recipes from the books. Each book has gotten better than the one before it. Hope you do publish a collection of the recipes.

  2. Joanna Robertson says:

    I can’t wait to try the turkey with chestnut stuffing. Louise, I told you a long time ago that I would like to have dinner at the Bistro, so this is the second best thing. I am just missing the familiar company.

  3. Theresa Mekoola says:

    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.

  4. Marlene Banks says:

    Would love to receive recipes. I am a devoted fan.

  5. Cal Cramton says:

    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?

  6. Linda Chudej says:

    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.

  7. Linda Lovell says:

    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.

  8. Connie Gray says:

    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

  9. Elle's Astle says:

    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

  10. Lory Jane George says:

    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.

  11. Thank you! Am looking forward to more recipes. Bless you!

  12. Sharon Bishop says:

    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!!

  13. Ramona C says:

    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.

  14. Joan Rissler says:

    This looks interesting.

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