Well! It’s been awhile since I’ve actually managed a Daring Cooks challenge, but over the Easter weekend, I actually got it together and jumped back in — and I’m super-glad I did!
For the April Daring Cooks Challenge, Lisa from Parsley, Sage and Sweet has challenged us to debone a whole chicken, using this video by Jacques Pepin as our guide; then stuff it, tie it and roast it, to create a Chicken Ballotine.
After taking a mini knife course back last November, it was kind of fun to have a challenge that pokes me to remember what I’d been taught… and also goes on to the next level! The only chicken we had in the freezer was the last of Stacey’s churkeys– an 8 pound beast of a fowl! — so that’s what I worked with. There may have been a couple moments when I cursed at Jacques as I worked my way over the carcass: after all, what easily gets pulled off on a 2 or 3 pound bird is a bit different on a larger specimen! Still, if Audax can do a turkey, I guess I shouldn’t get too bent out of shape.
Anyway, it took me about an hour (including the several times I had to stop to rewatch bits of the video) but I got it done:
It was actually surprisingly straightforward; I think deboning chicken thighs separately from the carcass was trickier for me than this was. I did do a little modification in the breast and thighs to even out the thickness of meat over the whole, but that was all pretty obvious once the bird was laid out flat. The best part? I got to make stock with all the “bits” the same day… in time to have some to use to make the sauce! (Usually I wait until I’ve got 2 or 3 carcasses, but these churkeys are so big, I can do it with just one.)
Anyway, it wouldn’t be much of a ballotine without some stuffing, so let’s talk about that. I went with the spinach-cheese-bread one listed in the challenge, mostly because it was all stuff I had in the fridge. (Hurray for my CSA’s greenhouse! Fresh spinach greens!)
Spinach, Cheese, and Bread Stuffing
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) finely chopped garlic — I used a biggish clove, so I probably had more
5 ounces (140 gm)
baby spinach leaves — it was just normal spinach, so I chopped it up
1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) (½ gm) freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (240 ml) grated Gruyère or mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces/115 gm) — I used cubed fresh mozza
1 1/2 cups cubed (1/2-inch) (1¼ cm) bread
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Add the garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute to soften the garlic and wilt the spinach.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
Once it cooled, I spread the spinach filling over the meat, then spread out the mozza and bread cubes. Pretty! Getting it wrapped up was less trouble than I’d anticipated (I was definitely preparing myself to have to keep cramming stuffing back into the roll as I tied it) although trying to tie the legs without any bones* was a bit of a challenge. In the end, I got tricky with the twine, and it all worked out.
* I know Jacques said to leave the tips of the drumsticks in, but again: bigger bird. There was no way I could break those leg bones (and I tried!), so I just pulled them out completely. Maybe I should consider asking for a cleaver for Christmas? Hmm…
Ballotine of Chicken
Servings: 4 -6
1 chicken (about 3-3/4 pounds) (1-3/4 kg), boned — mine was about 5lbs after deboning
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) (1¼ gm) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) (½ gm) freshly ground black pepper
Stuffing (I used Spinach, Cheese, and Bread Stuffing (see above))
Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.
Lay the chicken skin side down on the work surface and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spread the cool spinach mixture evenly over the chicken – stuffing the legs too. Sprinkle the cheese and bread cubes on top of the spinach. Roll the chicken up, tie it with kitchen string, and place it in a roasting pan.
Roast the ballotine for about 1 hour or until the temperature is 160-165 degrees F in the center of the ballotine. I took mine out after 50 minutes and let it sit until it reached 165. This turned out to not be enough (temperature was hard to measure with the stuffing in — do be careful!) to cook through the middle of the roast, though the ends were fine.
Lift it from the pan and place it on a platter.
Totally forgot to season the meat before throwing the stuffing in (whoops) which I regret, but I think it still worked out alright. After reading Lisa’s comments about her chicken not crisping it up, I slathered a little fat on it before roasting, bumped the time up a few minutes (maybe 70 minutes in total) and let her go.
It was a good looking ballotine!
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry red wine (you can substitute stock or fruit juice, such as grape)
1 celery stalk (2 oz) (60 gm), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (1¼ cm) dice (1/2 cup) (120 ml)
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 carrot (2 oz) (60 gm), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (1¼ cm) dice (1/3 cup) (80 ml)
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) corn/potato starch (4 gm), dissolved in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (4 gm) chopped fresh parsley
Skim off and discard most of the fat from the drippings in the pan. Add the water and wine to the drippings to deglaze the pan, and heat over medium heat, stirring to loosen and melt the solidified juices.
Strain the juices into a saucepan. Add the celery, onion, and carrot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and boil gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the dissolved potato starch and soy sauce and bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring, to thicken it. Remove from the heat.
Transfer the ballotine to a cutting board and remove the string. Cut half of it into 4 or 5 slices, each about 1 inch thick. Return the uncut half of the ballotine to the serving platter and arrange the cut slices in front of it. Pour the sauce over and around the ballotine, garnish with the parsley, and serve. Cut additional slices of ballotine as needed at the table.
Now, I have to be honest, here. I did prepare this sauce (more or less*) and while it was very tasty… I found that it clashed horribly with the spinach-mozza stuffing. I would definitely use this sauce, especially on an all white meat roast where the flavour boost is needed, but I think it was actually a really unfortunate pairing with this ballotine because the filling already had so much flavour.
*I can not be bothered with measuring the liquids used to deglaze a pan: I just throw some in and start scraping at the gooey bits. I am also morally against boiling vegetables in a sauce. So I pan-fried the veggies while the roast was finishing up, then added the drippings and pan-bits and starch, let it all thicken up, and poured that over the roast. Very tasty.
Overall it was very nice and made for a fun, semi-fancy Easter dinner. The Boy gave his approval, although I have to document that he may have been swayed by the presence of the roasties; he has definite potato bias. Would I make it again? Yes! This would be a great choice if I was trying to make a nice, slightly different roast. I’d like to try another stuffing, maybe a mushroom-rice one or something, and as stated above, would go easy on the sauce. I might make a traditional gravy for anyone who felt their slice was a bit dry (no one at our table!) but I’d steer clear of anything fighting with the stuffing for attention.
Thanks again to Lisa for hosting this challenge!