French cooking is just one of those things that, as you progress as a cook, you look forward to doing more and more to learn techniques from. And that is exactly what this recipe is for me! Whenever I challenge myself on a new cooking technique, I like to do so on the weekend so that I can have the luxury of time learn, understand and most importantly care about the process. There’s nothing worse about rushing through a new technique and not being happy with your first attempt!
Considering this recipe is all about the ballotine, I went ahead with a very simple mixed mushroom and spinach stuffing. It’s always important to get the cooking technique right before being too creative with the ingredients! You always start to paint with a 5 colour palette before you venture out to the thousands of other shades. And to round off the flavours in true French style, I like to finish off veges with a knob of butter please!
Note: Whenever you think there you’ve used too much butter, there is no such thing. I remember seeing Matt Stone using about 100grams of butter (half a slab) on a medium sized pan of roasted carrots with no fuss! So be generous and don’t be scared to use more in this instance.
But a dish isn’t complete with just the protein as the star. The sides or the accompaniments are just as important and here I’ve created a pumpkin and carrot puree and pickled radishes. These are two things that, a few years ago, I would be quite scared of but it’s actually one of the easiest things to accomplish.
- To achieve an extremely smooth puree, run the boiled/roasted/cooked veges through a sieve. Only add the cream at the very end.
- Pickling vegetables are a great alternative to preparing your veges. You cook the veges through the acid in vinegar to remove the ‘raw’ taste yet keep the flavours clean and true to the product. A lot of people think pickling is just for preservation but there’s alternate ways to use it as such. Check out how to made a pickling liquid on my techniques section here.
So what exactly is a ballotine? A ballotine is traditionally a boned thigh part of the chicken (or poultry), which is then rolled with stuffing and then tied to hold its shape. A ballotine is often shaped like a sausage and in recent times, you will also usually see the ballotine wrapped with an intact chicken skin. That means taking off the whole chicken skin in one piece. And to me, that was my ultimate challenge today. Once I made my feat, I tenderized my chicken breast and then placed the skin, chicken and stuffing on top of each other and then prepared myself to roll it into a sausage like shape.
Only use industry grade cling wrap as normal household clingwrap will simply melt from the boiling water through the poaching. You can purchase these at any cooking/culinary stores.
Last but not least, I could not serve a full chicken dish with no sauce! Hence, I made a white wine jus (pronounced as ‘Jew’). I’ve learned in my recent journey with food that to produce a good base of flavours for stocks/sauce, the 4-6 ingredients that you must need are:
- Celery stalks
- Chicken bones
- Fennel and coriander seeds (if available)
More detail of how to make jus can be found on my technique section here.
- 200g button mushrooms
- 100g shitake mushrooms
- 1 bunch of english spinach
- 150g salted butter
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 1 whole chicken, medium sized
- Kitchen string and industrial grade clingwrap. Available at any cooking/culinary store.
- 1 bunch watercress
- 2 tbs Red wine vinegar
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 4 big carrots
- ½ Japanese pumpkin
- 50g thickened cream
- Bunch of baby radish
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp pickling mix (peppercorns, coriander seeds, fennel seeds)
- Chicken bones
- 1 white onion
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chicken stock
- First, prepare your ballotine mixture as this needs to be cool. Chopped mushrooms roughly. Heat pan with oil and fry off your garlic until fragrant. Add mushrooms and thyme. Cook for about 5 mins or until mushrooms are soft.
- Remove mushrooms from pan. Add a little bit more oil and the shallots until fragrant. Add spinach leaves and cook for 1 min until wilted. Add the cooked mushrooms back in and the knob of butter. Cook until flavours mix well, around 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Chop the pumpkin and carrots into cubes and boil until extremely soft.
- Clean the radishes and cut off 2mm off the bottom so that they have a flat end to sit on a plate. Trim off the extra long beards so you only have 1 inch left for aesthetics.
- Preparing the pickling liquid by adding your sugar, white wine vinegar, water and pickling mix and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 5 mins to infuse the flavours. Take off the heat and pour over your radishes. Let it cool in the fridge until ready for plating.
- Now time for the chicken. The first thing you need to do is remove the skin off the chicken in one piece. Place skin aside flat.
- Slice off both chicken breasts and keep the bones and thigh pieces aside. We won’t need the thigh pieces in this recipe so place them in the fridge. Chop the bones roughly and we will use this for a stock later.
- Tenderize the chicken breasts by placing clingwrap on top of it and using a tenderizer mallet.
- Using industrial clingwrap, lay 2 pieces (about 30cm long) down on a clean surface. Place your chicken skin down first, then the flat chicken breast and then the stuffing. Roll into a sausage shape and tie the ends tightly. Using kitchen string, wrap the body of the sausage just enough to hold its shape, do not tie it tightly!
- Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the two chicken ballotines to poach in a light simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes and remove the wrap.
- To cook the jus, place the olive oil in the pan and add the fennel and coriander seeds. Cook for about 1 minute. Then add the chicken bones, onion, carrots and celery and caramelize (brown outer later skin). Cook on medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes.
- Once caramelized, deglaze the pan with the white wine. It will start to bubble and let the wine reduce until about ⅓rd of its original volume. Add the chicken stock after and cook for another 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper accordingly.
- Using the watercress, mix the olive oil and white wine vinegar. Season with and salt and pepper.
- Heat a pan and melt the butter. Cook the chicken ballotines in butter and using a spoon, baste the ballotines until the skin is brown and cook on low-medium heat for about 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan and using a themometer, check that it meets 60 degrees. Rest for 5 minutes and only slice when everything else is on the plate. And now you’re ready to plate!