In my opinion the knife work involved in this dish makes it one of the most challenging chicken dishes in the world. It is also a dish that is sure to wow everyone at your dinner party. A Ballotine calls for using a whole chicken which has been deboned, stuffed, then trussed and tied up before being roasted. Deboning a whole chicken without breaking it down is something that no one gets right the first time.
If you are a visual-type of person there are several videos on the internet that will help you along.
This recipe is written up under the assumption that you will be doing this alone. As such you will want to make the stuffing in advance of deboning the chicken. If you have a partner in the kitchen they can work on making the spinach stuffing while you debone the chicken.
When sourcing the chicken keep in mind to find a young bird that has never been frozen.
1 whole chicken, deboned
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper
2 tablespoon of coconut oil
½ of a yellow onion, diced
1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon of fresh rosemary, chopped fine
½ teaspoon of fresh Greek oregano, chopped
Here is how to make a delicious Chicken Ballotine
Step 1: Place a large sauce pan over medium heat. Pour in the coconut oil and add the onions.
Step 2: After 2 minutes lay the spinach over top. Cover and allow it to cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the spinach starts to wilt.
Step 3: Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the lid and toss to incorporate the mixture as well as release some of the heat.
Step 4: Place the stuffing in a medium work bowl while you debone the chicken
Procedure for Deboning a Chicken
Step 1: Lay the whole chicken on a secure cutting board.
Step 2: Remove the wing tips and the wing while leaving the chicken’s humerus bone still attached to the carcass.
Step 3: Use a paring knife to make shallow cuts along the wish bone. Pull the wishbone out.
Step 4: Make a slash through the skin on the back of the carcass. You want the cut to go all the way down to expose the bones.
Step 5: Find the shoulder joint of the chicken wing. Slide your knife through the meat and into the tiny gap in the joint. Cut through the joint and stop before cutting through the meat and skin on the other side. Repeat this on the other side.
Step 6: Stand the chicken up. Use your thumb on your non-dominant hand to hold the rib cage of the carcass. Take a firm grip in the shoulder of the wing and pull slowly but firmly on the carcass. The meat from the rest of the chicken should accompany your pull. Keep pulling down, flaying the carcass until you see the oysters on the back. Repeat this for both sides.
Note: This is the step where you are most likely to have a problem. Take your time and pull smoothly. If you notice a particular piece of connective tissue causing a problem, stop and trim it with a paring knife.
Step 7: The front of the chicken will now be loose up to sternum. Hook your first two fingers on each side of the sternum and pull the breast meat free.
Step 8: Keep pulling until the meat of the front of the chicken has come free in one clean sheet. Stop pulling when you are at the hip joint of the thigh.
Step 9: Use a paring knife to cut around the hip joint. Then bend the leg to expose the joint and cut through the connective tissue just like you did with the shoulder.
Step 10: Grip the thigh firmly and pull it from the carcass. Repeat this on the other side. At this point you should now have a sort of sheet of chicken meat and skin with the leg quarters still holding on.
Step 11: Use a paring knife to slice along the thigh bone towards the knee. You should try to do this in 7-8 slices instead of just a few. When you are done the thigh bone should be relatively clean.
Step 12: Use the paring knife to cut around the knee. It’s probably easier to leave a little excess meat behind on the knee than it is to cut it completely clean.
Step 13: Continue using multiple cuts along the bone until you are into the drumstick.
Step 14: Use the back of your chef’s knife or a tack hammer to break the bone at the end of the drumstick. You want to leave roughly 2 inches of bone at the end. This will help keep the skin intact during cooking.
Step 15: Pull the drumstick bone out.
Step 16: You now have a sheet of chicken meat with just two small bone nubs at the end of the legs.
Step 17: Lay the chicken skin side down on the cutting board. Sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper, paprika, rosemary, oregano and thyme. Gently massage the herbs and seasoning into the meat.
Step 18: By now the stuffing should be cool enough to handle. Work some into the empty pockets inside the meat of the legs.
Step 19: Spoon the rest into the middle of the body of the chicken.
Step 20: Fold the edges of each side of the chicken into the middle. The skin and meat should just barely overlap.
Step 21: Cradle the chicken in your hands and turn it over.
Step 22: Tuck the skin flaps at the top and bottom. Then cross the legs. You can now begin trussing the chick with butchers twine like you would any other roast or roulade.
Step 23: Slide the butcher’s twine under the bird and tie the legs together where you left the two bone nubs.
Step 24: Make a half hitch loop and slide the length of butcher’s twine down the body of the bird. Tuck the tag of the twine under and repeat.
Step 25: Continue trussing the bird so with an inch or so of space between each row of twine.
Step 26: When you get to the end of the bird, cut the tag end of the twin off so that you still have 12 to 14 inches of twine left.
Step 27: Roll the bird over so the cut end is now facing up. Tuck the skin flap at the top of the bird and loop the long tag through each row of twine.
Step 28: Roll the bird back over and tie the two tag ends of twine together.
Step 29: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Step 30: Carefully move the chicken ballotine to a roasting pan.
Step 31: Gently season the skin of the bird with smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
Step 32: Place the roasting pan in the oven and roast for 1 hour.
Step 33: Insert a probe thermometer into the ballotine after 1 hour. The temperature will probably be somewhere in the 140 degree range. Continue roasting until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Step 34: Remove the ballotine from the oven. Tent with foil and allow it to rest for 10 to 12 minutes before carving.
Step 35: Remove the ballotine from the pan using a tongs and a long bladed spatula. Place it on a carving platter.
Step 36: Use a basic kitchen shears to snip through the butcher’s twine. Then use a serrated knife to cut off 1 inch thick slices.
There are a lot of different sauces and sides you can pair with this. A balsamic reduction sauce along with a side of sautéed mushrooms is a nice touch.