Turkey with Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves:

    14 to 18

    with the breast, 8 to 10 without the breast (see page 201)

Appears in

I have been making turkey every year for the past fifteen years. Although we always celebrate Thanksgiving at Aunt Margaret’s or at cousin Marion and Marty’s, my turkey tradition got started after I married Elliott and discovered he received an annual gift of a large turkey. It always seemed to arrive at a time when I was most busy, yet I have never resisted the temptation of stopping whatever I was doing to prepare it together with all the trimmings!

Over the years I have experimented with different roasting techniques and stuffings. One year I read in a magazine that Julia Child liked to remove the breast and cook it separately. She explained that with the traditional method, by the time the rest of the bird was cooked, the breast was overcooked. Since I thoroughly agreed, I tried the technique and loved it. Removing the breast but leaving the skin intact provides lots more room for the stuffing, which I like to bake in the bird for extra flavor. If your family prefers dark meat you can simply slice the breast and freeze it to use in place of veal for scaloppine. But for white meat lovers, my friend Rick Rodgers, author of The Turkey Cookbook (Harper Collins), has created a special recipe that produces a moist flavorful breast that can be baked alongside the turkey.

The stuffing has also evolved over the years. Chestnuts add an earthy spicy and sweet note that I adore. My husband likes the extra crunch and flavor of walnuts. We both like the giblets (though the kids never did and always went hunting through their stuffing to pick them out and fork them over to us). I prefer a somewhat dry stuffing with each component separate as opposed to a moist pasty one. Of course more liquid can be added if you prefer a moister stuffing. I also happen to prefer the texture and flavor of prepared seasoned bread cubes to making my own, though I do add extra fresh thyme and sage. My daughter, Beth, added the technique of shaping the sausage into tiny balls. This somehow adds to the flavor.

The nicest thing I can tell you about this stuffing, however, happened one year when Beth made Thanksgiving. When I tasted her stuffing I proclaimed it the best I had tasted. Her answer was, “It’s your recipe!”

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Preheat the oven to: 325°F.
Roasting time: 4 to 5 hours
Resting time: 30 minutes to 2 hours
Internal temperature (thigh): 175°F
INGREDIENTS MEASURE WEIGHT
volume ounces/pounds grams/kilograms
1 turkey 17 pounds 7 kilograms, 711 grams
2cloves garlic, halved and peeled
goose fat or butter 2 tablespoons 1 ounce 28 grams
salt 1 teaspoon 0.25 ounce 6.7 grams
pepper, freshly ground several grindings
Turkey Stock
reserved turkey breast bones, gizzard and neck
goose fat or vegetable oil 2 tablespoons
1 large onion, coarsely chopped 2 cups 9 ounces 255 grams
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped 1 cup 4 ounces 113 grams
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped 1 cup 4 ounces 113 grams
water 2 liquid cups
4 parsley sprigs
dried thyme ½ teaspoon
5 black peppercorns ¼ teaspoon
1 bay leaf
Stuffing
2 pounds fresh chestnuts, shelled and peeled* 4 cups pounds (peeled) 567 grams (peeled)
milk 2 liquid cups
seasoned bread cubes 8 cups (preferably 1 7-ounce bag of cubes + 4 ounces cornbread) 11 ounces 312 grams
OPTIONAL: reserved turkey giblets
sweet sage sausage, casings removed if necessary 1 pound 454 grams

*This amount takes into account that a few will be bad and have to be discarded. Chestnuts can be spoiled without showing any indication on the shell. Look for solid, glossy chestnuts or use peeled frozen or vacuum-packed jarred ones. Fresh chestnuts in the shell will keep refrigerated for about a month.

Packaged unsweetened cornbread for stuffing, not corn muffins.

INGREDIENTS MEASURE WEIGHT
volume ounces/pounds grams/kilograms
goose fat or butter, divided 6 tablespoons 3 ounces 85 grams
1 large onion, coarsely chopped 2 cups 9 ounces 255 grams
sugar a pinch
fresh mushrooms, sliced 5 cups 1 pound 454 grams
coarsely chopped walnuts 2 cups 8 ounces 228 grams
fresh sage, chopped 3 tablespoons 0.35 ounce 7 grams
fresh thyme, leaves ¼ cup 0.25 ounce 8 grams
black pepper, freshly ground 1 teaspoon, or to taste
cayenne pepper a pinch
reserved turkey stock (page 197) or chicken broth (preferably College Inn) ¼ liquid cup*
Gravy
reserved turkey stock (page 197) or chicken broth 4 liquid cups
unsalted butter 2 tablespoons 1 ounce 28 grams
all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons 0.66 ounce 18.5 grams

*If baking the stuffing separately, increase the chicken broth by ¼ cup (or use water to bake the stuffing).

If desired, prepare the turkey and some of the stuffing components the night before and refrigerate. Note that to make the Rolled Herbed Turkey Breast at the same time as the turkey, you need two ovens.

Method

At least 15 minutes ahead of roasting, preheat the oven to 325°F.

Rinse the turkey with cold running water and drain well.

Using sharp scissors, make a longitudinal cut through the breast skin, from the point of the breast all the way to the neck opening. Pull back the skin so that the entire breast section is exposed, being careful not to tear the skin. Use sharp shears to cut off each section of breast meat, including the bone. Use a sharp knife to slice the breast meat from the bone, keeping each breast whole, and reserve the bones for the stock. Wrap and refrigerate the breasts for later use.

Using a trussing needle or a large needle and heavy brown thread, stitch together the breast skin, using an overhand stitch. Sew the neck skin flap to the back of the turkey: This will become what is usually the neck cavity.

Turkey Stock

Using a heavy cleaver or knife, chop the breast bones into 2-inch pieces.

In a large saucepan, heat the goose fat over medium-high heat. Add the giblets (not the liver), breast bones and neck and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until the onions are softened. Pour in the water and bring to a simmer. Skim off any foam on the surface.

Add the parsley, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered, for at least 4, preferably 6, hours. If you plan to use the gizzard and neck in your stuffing or gravy, remove them when they are tender. The neck takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes, the gizzard about 1½ hours. Remove the meat from the neck and return the bones to the stock. Finely chop the meat and refrigerate. If you like turkey liver in your stuffing or gravy, add it during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.

Strain the stock, discarding the bones and vegetables but reserving the liver if desired. Cut the gizzard and liver into small cubes. Cover and refrigerate.

Measure the stock. You should have 6 cups. If you have more, boil to reduce it to 6 cups. If less, add water to bring it to 6 cups. Cool the stock to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate.

When the fat has solidified on the surface of the stock, scrape it off. You will need 4 cups of stock for the gravy, 1 cup for the turkey breast rolls and ¾ to 1 cup for the stuffing.

Stuffing

Peel and cook the chestnuts (this can be done up to 3 days ahead).

Using a chestnut cutter or a sharp paring knife, cut an X through the skin on the flat side of each chestnut. In a large saucepan, place the chestnuts and cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, then turn off the heat. Remove the chestnuts a few at time, for peeling. Remove both the outer shell and as much of the inner skin as possible. I like to use scissors to cut through the shell, especially the hard top part.

Rinse out the saucepan, and add the peeled chestnuts and milk. Simmer, covered, until the chestnuts are easily pierced with a cake tester, 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how dry the chestnuts are. Add more milk if necessary to keep them barely covered. Cool and then drain the chestnuts, discarding the milk.

Into a gallon-size bowl, crumble the cooked chestnuts. Add the bread cubes and optional cooked giblets (liver, neck and gizzard) and set aside.

Into a large frying pan, over medium heat, pinch off small pieces of the sausage, about ½ inch in size. Fry the sausage pieces until lightly browned. Remove them to the bowl of chestnuts, using a slotted spoon, and drain away the fat.

Add 4 tablespoons of the goose fat or butter to the frying pan and melt over medium heat. Add the onion and sprinkle with the pinch of sugar. Fry, stirring often, until golden brown and caramelized. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook, covered, for about 3 minutes or until they exude their liquid. Uncover and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown. Transfer this mixture to the stuffing bowl. Add the walnuts, sage, thyme, black pepper and cayenne. Toss the mixture to blend it well.

Heat the reserved ¾ cup of broth with the remaining 2 tablespoons of goose fat or butter and sprinkle it over the stuffing in four additions, tossing lightly each time. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. The stuffing will be very dry at this point because it will not have absorbed the juices from the turkey. Makes 12 cups.

Spoon the stuffing into the turkey. Do not pack in the stuffing as it will expand during baking. (Any leftover can be sprinkled with a little extra broth or water and baked in a separate pan, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes. Removing the cover for the last 15 minutes gives a crunchy top.) Tuck the turkey legs into the band of skin (the “hock lock” usually provided) and tie the wings to the sides of the bird, or truss in the following manner: Place a long piece of twine under the turkey, near the tail. Bring it up over the ends of the legs, cross it over and bring each piece down under the leg ends, bringing the legs together. Pull each end of the twine toward the back of the bird so that the twine runs along the sides of the bird, under each leg and across the wings, holding them in place. Knot the twine securely at the back of the bird. If you like crisp back skin, place a strong rack in the roasting pan to support the turkey. Place the turkey on the rack or directly in the pan. Rub the cut sides of the garlic cloves all over the turkey and then rub it with the 2 tablespoons of goose fat or butter. Sprinkle it all over with the 1 teaspoon of salt and the ground pepper.

Roast the turkey for 3 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh (not touching the bone) reads 175°F. If the turkey starts getting too brown, tent it with a piece of aluminum foil, preferably heavy duty. Allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Gravy

Pour off the pan drippings into a glass measuring cup or bowl and let them stand for 5 minutes. Skim off the fat that rises to the surface. Return the juices to the roasting pan and pour in the 4 cups of the reserved turkey stock. Place the roasting pan on the range and reduce the juices to 2 cups, stirring and scraping often to dislodge the delicious browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pan, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Whisk in the 2 tablespoons of flour and cook, without browning, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.

Whisk in the reduced stock and bring it to a boil. Cook, whisking often, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour the gravy into a sauceboat.

NOTE: I do not include salt in the list of stuffing ingredients because commercial bread crumbs contain salt and the stock may also be salty. Season to taste.

If you are not making gravy, reduce the stock to 1 cup and freeze it for the next turkey.

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