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Sep 28, 2012 11:39 AM

Ballottine of Chicken - questions

So,I have a 7 lb roasting chicken I would like to de-bone and turn into a ballottine. Never did this before. What I have gleaned from several cookbooks, a ballottine is a roasted stuffed, boneless fowl served while hot while a gallantine is a poached stuffed, bonesless fowl usually served cold. Looking to do a trial run on a chicken as practice for Thanksgiving turkey.

Questions - there seem to be 2 options to de-boning the fowl - cut through backbone first and roll up OR keep the skin whole and de-bone. Any thoughts on which method is easier?

The forcemeat recipes I have found call for pork sausage, ham or other pork-related products.Can't eat pork, any suggestions for forcemeat using other products? Do plan to use de-boned fowl but need some savory items like ground veal? ground beef? corned beef? pickled tongue? to add to the mixture.

Can I prepare the ballottine up to cooking it in advance? I would like to prepare a day ahead, refrigerate overnight and cook to order on night of party. Scary because of all the admonitions about food poisoning?

Anyone have experience doing this method willing to share tips? How to carve so it won't fall apart? Thanks!

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  1. Diane, I haven't boned fowl for a long time but need to bring it back into the rotation. My first was a Thanksgiving turkey and a resounding success. It was easy to carve as a roll of bologna! After that, I became more proficient and switched to smaller birds. BTW, the larger the bird, the easier this is because of the margin for error. You want to be especially careful in the center of the breast, where the meat is thinnest.

    A couple of thoughts: I prefer to cut out the backbone and scrape the meat from the carcass, keeping the skin perfectly intact, beginning at the back and working towards the (dreaded) center of each breast side. I have usually opted to chop off the drumsticks, keeping the thighs which are also boned out. I pull them into the chicken which creates a sort of puckered spot on each side of the bird but provides some dark meat for those who wish. The skin makes a lovely envelope for the chicken and browns nicely; just sew it up the back like a zipper or tie him up like a parcel. Do not be put off by the gelatinous mess that a boned chicken presents on your cutting board! It is extremely accomodating. Pierced skin can be repaired with skin patches (taken from the back or the drumsticks) and the whole thing can be shaped however you like it - long or round are my two favored shapes. I wrap the bird in cheesecloth for cooking which helps to keep the shape.

    RE: stuffings: my favorite uses bits of chicken (scraped off the carcass) ground w/ scallions, tarragon, ham (which you'll omit) and breadcrumbs bound with mayonnaise! Yes, I know it sounds odd but the oil & eggs provide moisture with some piquancy. You certainly could substitute heavy cream. I would suggest making the stuffing and chilling it very well. After the chicken is boned, return it to the fridge (on a very clean platter) to chill. Stuff it when all parts of the process are very cold, then return it to the fridge on a new clean platter. If common sense and good food handling procedures are followed, there should be no problem with doing this bit ahead of time. I've never had any trouble but I am careful to make certain everything stays cold and very clean.
    NB: flavor the stuffing any way you wish. One year I added nuts (pistachios as I remember) and dried fruit another time. A splash of spirits would not be amiss either.

    Please note these are very general guidelines. I seem to remember that Julia Child had a detailed boned bird in one of her lesser known books titled something about ".... and Company", perhaps it was "Julia and Company" but I'm not certain.

    The loveliest part of boning the bird is that all the work is accomplished ahead of time. Slicing is a breeze, which is why I did this the first time (long story involving some rather nasty family dynamics involving a bossy MIL, etc). Thanks for reminding me about boned fowl. I think a boneless turkey will make its appearance on my Thanksgiving table this year. Let me know how this turns out.

    1. Jacques Pepin has a very instructive video:
      A colleague followed the video and the recipe in Essential Pepin (spinach and cheese stuffing, to which he added mushrooms) when he and his wife had me over for dinner and it was simply outstanding.

      1. I usually debone a chicken starting at the cavity and work my way forward. Wings are cut off. When I reach the thigh bone, I detach it from the carcass and leave the leg alone until I have remove the skeleton. Turning to the legs, I cut through the skin at the very end of the leg and then work the flesh loose from the leg bone up to the joint with the thigh bone and by then I can pull the rest of the bone out. I've done this enough times that I can do this in about 10-15 minutes. Skin is intact and once its stuffed, I only have to close up the back and neck cavity. The only time I cut along the back bone and debone the chicken is if I'm planning on grilling/pan searing the chicken. That's just my preference. Various pork products are typically used as stuffing, but no reason you couldn't use something else. I suggest you use something with a high fat content. Maybe lamb. If you use lean meat, add additional fat like butter if that possible or a good quality olive oil. Preparing in advance and keeping in the fridge is fine. Make sure to use a thermometer to ensure the inside is fully cooked.

        1. Obviously cutting into the skin is going to be the easier method, but it ruins the beautiful presentation of slicing into a whole ballotine. If you have the patience, try deboning whole. Dislocating the joints before hand will make the bird more flexible and easy to bone out. I start with the leg, running my boning knife along the flesh to also remove the ligaments. Once the legs are done, I make two incisions lateral to the sternum and use my finer to separate the breast from the rib cage. You will need to dislocate the pelvis and the coracoid from the rib cage in order to remove the latter. After that it's a simple matter of using your boning knife to get access to the pelvic bones (be careful as there is very little flesh so it is easy to penetrate the skin here), clavicle and wishbone. I leave the wings intact for presentation (and because I am lazy).

          The filling needs to be something that can retain moisture. You can use ground veal (beef is too strong) or ground turkey or splurge on a duxelles mixture with cream in the vein of beef Wellington.