Making A Ballotine

 

The word ballotine comes from the French ballot, meaning bundle, a neat parcel of stuffing encased in lean, boneless poultry meat. Here, a whole bird is boned and then stuffed with a forcemeat mixture. Poultry breast meat or truffles are sometimes included in stuffings for ballotines, so too are whole or chopped nuts or stoned olives.

BONING THE BIRD

Ballotines are usually made with duck, turkey or, as here, chicken, but game birds such as pheasant or grouse are also suitable. You can ask your butcher to bone the bird for you, or do it yourself following the techniques shown here. Reserve the carcass for stock. A ballotine is almost always served cold, so start making it the day before you wish to serve it to allow time for the meat to settle and cool after cooking.

1. Dislocate each leg by breaking it at the thigh joint. Carefully remove the wishbone with a boning knife.

2. With the bird breast-side down on the cutting board, cut down the centre of the backbone from the neck to the tail end.

3. Working from the front of the bird to the back, carefully scrape away the flesh on one side of the backbone, cutting into the bird to expose the ribcage.

4. Repeat on the other side of the backbone, being careful not to pierce the breast skin with the knife. Pull the rib and backbone from the flesh of the bird.

5. Scrape away the flesh from each thigh bone and cut away the bone at the joint with a knife or poultry shears. Scrape all the flesh away from the wings up to the first joint.

6. Remove the exposed wing bone by cutting away the rest of the wing at the joint. Cut away the tendon from each fillet and breast. The chicken is now ready for stuffing and rolling.

STUFFING AND ROLLING

After careful boning and stuffing, the bird is rolled into a neat sausage shape, wrapped in baking parchment, and foil, then tied securely with string. This holds the meat and stuffing tightly and makes a neat shape for easy slicing.

1. Season the inside of the whole boned bird with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing evenly over the inside of the bird and pull up the sides of the bird to cover the stuffing.

2. Stitch the bird closed from the tail to neck end with a trussing needle and thread. Season the outside of the bird by rubbing the skin with salt and pepper.

3. Dampen a large piece of baking parchment with water. Place the stuffed bird parallel to one long end of the paper, and roll the paper tightly around it, to make a cylinder. Twist the ends to seal. Place the wrapped bird on a large piece of foil and roll up in a similar way.

4. Cut a piece of kitchen string about 1 metre long. Wrap the string first around the length of the cylinder, then several times around its width at regular intervals, securing the ends of the string with double knots.

POACHING AND SLICING

Ballotines are usually poached very slowly in water, stock or another flavoured liquid, then left overnight and served cold. Cooling the meat in its wrapping allows it to set in the cylinder shape and as a result makes slicing easier. Ballotines can also be braised on a bed of vegetables, in which case they are rolled and tied but left unwrapped and generally served hot.

1. Weigh the ballotine and calculate the cooking time, allowing 20 minutes per 450 g. Place in a pan, cover with stock and weight it down if necessary. Bring to the boil, then lower heat and poach for the calculated time.

2. Let the ballotine cool in the liquid. Lift out of the pan, cut string and unwrap. Snip one end of the thread and pull it out. Slice the ballotine and serve cold, with a garnish of your choice.