Sunday, April 14, 2013

April Daring Cooks' Challenge - Chicken Ballotine

You will not believe this month's challenge.

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.

Chicken Ballotine is a whole deboned chicken, stuffed, rolled, trussed and cooked - either roasted or grilled.

Did you read that first part?

A whole chicken. Deboned.

Yeah, take a whole chicken, remove all the bones, and leave the meat and skin in tact.

Now watch that video and see how easy Jacques Pepin makes it look. He says that it should take about a minute to completed debone a chicken. And he can probably do it blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back. Seriously impressive.


I am not Jacques Pepin.

Here's how it went for me.

Watch the video about a dozen times. Finally get the courage to try. Sterilize counter and get everything set up.

Cutting board, sharp knives, metal bowl to set aside bones, stack of pre-seaparated paper towels... check, check, check.

Now start.  Step one: remove the wishbone.

Success! Broke the wishbone in the process, but got it out without any fuss or injury. To me. I'm sure it would have hurt the chicken...

Then comes the hard part - disjointing the wings, pulling out the wing bones and removing the carcass.

Okay... umm...  yeah.

This was not easy.  Took way more than a minute just to do the wings, so I knew I was way behind Jacques already.  I don't know what was up with my chicken, but it did not want to part with its bones. It must have had really strong ligaments. Or tendons.  Or something.

Let's just say there was a lot of pulling.

But finally...

Carcass removed! All that's left there are the leg bones.

And the way to take those out?

Scrape the meat off. Sounds weird, but it was actually the smoothest part of the process for me.

All bones removed (and it only took me 25 minutes... not too bad for a first try...), it was time to stuff.  The possibilities are endless for stuffings here. Vegetables, other meats, grains  - anything that you want.  I asked daddy what his thoughts were for stuffing and he said... stuffing! So we made a classic bread-based stuffing to which I added sauteed onion and sweet peppers (of assorted colors).

Once the stuffing is spread onto the chicken (and pushed down into the bone-free drumsticks!), the whole thing has to be rolled up and trussed. That's right, tied up. Using a classic half-hitch technique.

And this is where I almost started to cry.

Every time I slipped the string under the rolled chicken, more and more stuffing slipped out.

But somehow, after a few deep breaths and a few more minutes, I had it.

Woo hoo!

I then brushed the skin with a tablespoon of melted butter, sprinkled on a few spices, and popped my work of art... I mean... Ballotine into the oven.

And an hour later, this is what greeted me as I opened the oven.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I have never achieved that beautiful color on a roasted chicken before.

And then I cut it.

Umm... can you say YUM?

I kid you not, this was delicious. More delicious than I thought it would be.  In fact... more delicious than I wanted it to be.

Why? Because it was so good that I want to do it again. Even with the stress. And the strong ligamented chicken. And the almost crying.

It was just. that. good.

Lisa, I can't thank you enough for this challenge. I wouldn't have even attempted it for anyone else.  Your support during this challenge (sorry for all the texts!) was invaluable and I couldn't have done it without you.

I don't have a recipe to share with this one, since the main focus here was the process of deboning and trussing the chicken. (Seriously - I winged the stuffing than roasted it for an hour at 400 degrees... that's as close to a recipe as I have...)  To see the challenge as it was presented, and the associated suggested recipes, check it out here.

And to see the truly amazing Ballotines created by the other truly Daring Cooks this month, check them out here.

And I dare you to try this. It's so worth it.


  1. What a wonderful result it looks like you did master the art of making ballotine. And yes I think ballotine browns so much better than the normal bird. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. Shelley, first off ROTFLOL@ I don't know what was up with my chicken, but it did not want to part with its bones. OMG, my stomach hurts from laughing..that is a priceless line! Secondly, I enjoyed every moment texting with made work go by quick since I was so engrossed in your process! I still maintain you got chicken with super tough ligaments!! Your ballotine is SO beautiful - the color is perfect...hence why I wished I'd used butter like I usually do. What a time to switch to oil, huh? Also, your stuffing looks incredible! I'm going to have to pick your brain on that one!! xo

  3. I don't know how Jacques does this so quickly!

    Your chicken looks great - and you would never know that you had any issues trussing. Perfect!

  4. Congratulations, you chicken looks gorgeous! I also laughed at the part where Jacques says the whole process should take no more than minute!

  5. Your chicken is so tasty looking and beautiful! I am so taken by the perfect color! What a great job you did. I de-boned my bird in just about 2 minutes BUT I had to make a video and speed it up by 8 times. HAHA

  6. Shelly that looks incredible! You truss job is perfect - I never would have guessed it was almost tears-inducing. I can't wait to try this myself :)

  7. Uffff the color of your chicken is amazing... I trust you when you say it tasted better that you could imagine....

  8. AMAZING job, Shelley! Your ballotine looks perfect - what gorgeous color, and the stuffing!! Seriously, awesome job! It was definitely worth almost tears! And I definitely agree with you - I almost wanted this to be horrible so I wouldn't have to make it again! LOL

  9. Fantastic! And 25 mins is awesome for a first try - it took me an hour, I kid you not. But it was still worth it :-) Your finished ballotine looks perfect - yum!

  10. Pretty good timing! Funny, my first try was a small(ish) free range chicken that was much easier to debone. My second one was slightly larger but I also had a hard time with the strong ligaments (or whatever). Your ballotine looks perfect even if it almost made you cry, would have been in vain, see?
    A wonderful job on the challenge!

  11. That looks GORGEOUS, that colour! Haha, I loved reading your post - it seems we had a lot of the same issues. I spent a lot of time just pulling at the bones & then wailing as the stuffing tried to escape. You'd never imagine you had any trouble though - your ballotine looks absolutely perfect. That photo of it sitting in its roasting juices is wonderful.


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