I love chestnut stuffing for the added sweetness chestnuts bring. What I've always hated about stuffing the bird though was that it seems that by the time the stuffing is hot enough to be safe to eat from the bird, the turkey would be a bit dry. I didn't like not only dirtying another baking dish cooking the stuffing outside the bird, but I could do without the crust that forms. I came up with a few solutions this year, and the end result was amazing!
Notes from the Test Kitchen:
Yum! This delicious turkey will be the spotlight of your Thanksgiving table. Brining assures you'll have a very moist turkey. The aroma while the chestnut stuffing simmering is amazing. The chestnuts and mushrooms add texture to the stuffing. Both the turkey and the stuffing are delicious and perfectly cooked.
FOR TURKEY BRINE
whole turkey, thawed
juice and zest from one orange
each of allspice, whole black pepper, and whole cloves
about 3 pounds of ice
FOR TURKEY OVEN PREP
unsalted butter, softened
fresh thyme, finely chopped
salt and pepper
FOR CHESTNUT STUFFING
whole cremini mushrooms
3 - 4
stalks of celery; chopped
a handful of parsley, chopped (about a quarter cup)
FOR TURKEY BRINE:
Combine all brine ingredients except for turkey and ice in a large stockpot, or work in even batches in a smaller pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then bring down to a simmer for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Pour brine into a container wide enough so that the turkey can lay breast side down. Remove giblets from turkey and reserve for gravy or another use. Lower turkey into brine, and add ice. Cover and let stand overnight.
Meanwhile, prep the stuffing for the following day by first, roasting chestnuts. Pre-heat oven to 425. Cut a shallow cross into the flat side of each chestnut, careful not to pierce the shell through to the flesh. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 15 mins. Chestnuts are easier to peel when they are still hot, so let them cool just enough to handle them before peeling with your hands. Make sure to get all the shells and peels off completely. Coarsely chop the flesh.
Mix the chestnuts and the chopped onion and celery, cover, and chill until ready to use.
Spread the bread slices, six at a time, on a baking sheet. Pre-heat broiler and broil bread in two batches, about 2-3 minutes on each side until bread is an even tan on both sides.
Let the bread cool completely before cubing each slice into 1/2 in cubes. Pour bread and any loose crumbs into a large bowl and let sit overnight to completely dry out.
Rub a brush or paper towel over cremini mushrooms to remove any dirt and moisture. Make sure they are completely dry. Slice mushrooms to a medium thickness and spread on a paper plate. Cover with a second paper plate and place into the coldest part of your refrigerator; away from any humidity or moisture.
When turkey is ready to be removed from the brine, first remove the chestnut/veggie mixture from the fridge. Combine mixture with mushrooms. Heat oil in a very large saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat. Carefully stir in mixture. Stir and simmer until vegetables are just soft. Stir in toasted bread and crumbs, seasonings and parsley. Heat for about a minute more, then stir in broth. Continue to heat and stir until mixture is combined, hot, and moist, about three minutes. Remove from heat, cover,and keep very warm.
For turkey oven prep, mix thyme and unsalted butter. Loosen turkey skin in breasts and drumsticks, and spread butter mixture under the skin, pressing so that the turkey is as evenly covered as possible. Turn turkey breast side down and lay neck skin flat so neck cavity is exposed.
Using gloves, stuff turkey neck cavity ONLY with very warm stuffing, filling in as much as possible. Pull neck skin up to wings to hold stuffing in place. Fold wings over neck skin and tie with kitchen string to hold them in place --- using metal skewers or poultry pins if necessary.
Turn turkey breast side up and tie legs together with kitchen string. Brush vermouth over entire surface of turkey skin and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pre-heat oven to 350 and roast turkey in a large roasting pan on a roasting rack for 4-6 hours or until thermometer reading from a thigh reaches 160 degrees. Baste turkey when fat renders, but only about once an hour. Let turkey rest about 40 minutes before carving. Remove wings and carve neck side first, and get a little bit of stuffing inside each slice. Serve with giblet gravy.