About a year ago, Jacques Pepin came to speak at a college in the area. My mom was kind enough to buy us tickets. We were far, far away from Mr. Pepin but I was still impressed and in awe. Amongst the many things he demonstrated was to de-bone an entire chicken in a matter of minutes.
It sounded delicious and he made it look easy. Armed with 6 or 7 knives, a whole defrosted chicken, and an empty garbage bag, I made my first attempt. It is only now, a year later, that I am starting to become comfortable with it.
It does involve cracking bones and ripping skin, which is rather uncomfortable. But take courage! It will be delicious and beautiful.
Ballontine of chicken, as Jacques Pepin calls it, can be prepared a few days before you plan to serve. What’s even nicer is you can stuff it with whatever you have in the fridge. This particular time I used 1/2 c of chopped kale, 1/3 c white rice, a few bites of zucchini, half a biscuit, and a mound of grated Pecorino cheese.
I took copious pictures of the de-boning process, which I have uploaded to Flickr so as not to traumatize anyone unnecessarily. You can also check out this clip, which I normally leave on repeat while carving. (Sometimes I repeat the instructions to myself with a French accent because I find it comforting…zen you take ze knife and you slide it along ze chicken…)
Ballottine of Chicken
Adapted from Jacques Pepin
1 chicken, de-boned
2 c stuffing, a combination of grains and vegetables (bread, rice, quinoa, etc.)
1/2 c grated cheese, preferably a flavorful one like Parmesan, Pecorino, or cheddar
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Lay the chicken out, skin side down. Salt and pepper the meat. Stuff, making sure to get stuffing into the legs and wings of the chicken as well as the center. Roll the chicken up and secure closed with butcher’s string.
Place in oven and roast for 1 hour. Skin should become beautifully golden but the meat will remain moist. Allow to rest and then serve in 1-1 1/2
If you wish, you can make a sauce from the juices in the roasting pan. Add a few tablespoons of flour and cook down till it thickens. I like to serve it with bread to mop up the juices left behind, although it isn’t particularly dignified.