“C’est actuellement aussi une roulade de viande, de gibier, de volaille ou de poisson, farcie, puis pochée, servie chaude ou froide en gelée”
Dictionnaire du Gastronome, Jean Vitaux et Benoît France
I chose a ballottine of chicken as my main course when I was lucky enough to be dining at the Jardin D’Alice a month or so ago. What came did not disappoint, both in terms of flavour, but also in terms of impressive visual impact.
What is a ballottine?
What is a ballottine? It really means ‘little ball’ and originally it was deboned meat made into small meatballs, but these days the term has also become used for a stuffed meat, chicken or fish roulade which is poached, and then either served hot, or cold with aspic. Effectively, the ballottine in this modern sense is really a sort of mini-galantine – which involves deboning the entire chicken, and then stuffing, poaching etc. My French Gastronomic Dictionary spells it with two ‘t’s – but it’s often spelt with just one.
It’s not difficult
Stuff. Roll. Poach. It sounds relatively simple, and the good news is that, once you know what you are doing, it is relatively simple.
What to serve it with and what to do with the leftovers
Serve this with new potatoes (go here to find out why not to plunge these into boiling water)and cumined-cabbage. You may have a few potatoes and a little cabbage left over – turn them into Italian bubble and squeak, top with a poached egg (go here for the easiest method for these) and enjoy for lunch the following day.
Recipe for ballotine of chicken, cumined-cabbage and new potatoes
• 2 large chicken breasts – 450g/1 lb each. If you have a nice butcher ask him to slice nearly (not completely) through, and then hammer thin. Otherwise I explain how to do it yourself below
• 100g/4 oz pork mince
• 2 Portabella mushrooms
• 4 tbsps Philadelphia cream cheese
• 1 large banana shallot, peeled and chopped small
• 25g/1 oz flat-leaved parsley
• 240ml/1 cup chicken stock made with 1 chicken stock cube or a heaped tsp of chicken stock powder
• 100g/4 oz butter
• 1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
• 2 tbsp dry vermouth
• 240 ml/1 cup double cream
• 500g/1 lb 4 oz new potatoes
• 2 tbsps rape seed oil
• One small cabbage
• 2 tsps cumin seeds
• Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
1. Put a large saucepan of water, covered, on to boil
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C
3. If you don’t have the nice butcher, then slice each chicken breast through but NOT COMPLETELY, approaching longwise and using a very sharp knife. See photo. You ought to be able to open it out like a book.
4. Open it out and lay it on a board between two big sheets of clingfilm. Bash it with the rolling pin to get it very thin – it will be about twice the size and half the thickness it was. Take away the clingfilm and lay the chicken back on the board.
5. Make the stuffing by mixing the mince, the mushrooms, the cream cheeseand half the shallot. Snip in about a third of your parsley.
6. Put the remaining shallot into a small saucepan together with a walnut or so of butter and the garlic. Fry gently until it just begins to soften – three or four minutes.
7. Meanwhile, lay some of the stuffing along the length of the flattened chicken, you will find you only use about half of it, and roll up each piece of chicken around it so that it overlaps itself by about an inch (couple of cm) or so. You will have a couple of sausage shapes.
8. Wrap the two ‘sausages’ up tightly in very generously cut pieces of clingfilm – if you don’t have enough clingfilm it will unwind and the chicken may unwind and become dry. Twist the ends tightly to create a sort of cracker shape and then, if possible wind the two ends together.
9. Put the two parcels into the now boiling water, reduce to a simmer (otherwise the chicken will become tough), and cook for twenty minutes. Take out and put on a board when done – keep them warm by covering with foil.
10. Wash the new potatoes, put into a medium sized saucepan, cover with generously salted water to an inch (couple of cm) or so above the top of the potatoes, cover, and bring to the boil. Boil for twenty to twenty-five minutes (depending on size) until they are done. Drain and add a couple of walnuts of butter and a little salt.
11. Add the vermouth to the shallot and garlic, reduce, and then add the stock. Simmer gently for about ten minutes until it is about half the volume.
12. Put the rest of the stuffing into a small oven proof dish and bake in the oven for about half an hour – until the mince is cooked through.
13. Add 180ml/¾ cup of the cream to the sauce, return it to a simmer, take it off the heat, and snip in and stir in another third of your parsley. Set aside and keep warm.
14. Add a couple of tbsps. of rapeseed oil to a wok and heat.
15. Shred your cabbage quite finely.
16. Add the cumin seed to the wok, and then add the shredded cabbage. Add a generous amount of salt and snip in the rest of your parsley.
17. Stir fry for three or four minutes, then add 60ml/¼ cup cream. Stir through to warm the cream, set aside and keep warm.
18. Carefully unpack the chicken, keeping its sausage shape intact. With a VERY sharp knife cut down through it, slightly on the diagonal, into slices approximately 1” (couple of cms) thick.
19. Arrange on plates, pour over the sauce, add a desert spoon or so of the stuffing on each plate, the cabbage and the new potatoes.