Stinky's Kitchen: Smoked Chicken Ballotine.
Ever since I made my first Turducken deboning a whole bird has been something on my 'must learn how to' list. For whatever reason even after making two turducken's and sheepishly asking the butcher to do the deboning for me I'd never actually followed through with this.
Until now. I recently watched a great youtube video
of the venerable Jacques Pepin demonstrating the technique. I went out right away and bought the cheapest chicken I could find and had a practice run at it. It's actually a very simple technique I was a little clumsy at it but give me another hundred or so and I reckon I'd be able to do it blindfolded. I might still be a ways off cutting up a chicken into primals in 18 seconds
Ballotine is a french technique where you bone out a chicken, stuff it and then poach or roast it. The result is a kind of large chicken sausage or meatloaf that can be eaten either hot, or cold.
I won't try to explain the deboning technique. Watch the youtube video
a few times, then follow it carefully when you debone your first bird. You'll be surprised after doing it just once you'll be able to do it the second time without the video. I didn't bother to remove the wings and do the lollypop trick as I wanted the bird to look as whole as possible, but I did remove the legbones and stuff them with the sausage meat.
The chicken I used for this recipe was a pastured chicken which was quite small, actually a little bit too small for the stuffing I used which is why the sausage layer is uneven (I had to remove some to get the bird to close properly). Next time I'll use an older/larger bird. If you do have a much larger chicken you can just use more sausage to fill out the difference, or you could also do an extra layer of thin veal steaks, bacon, etc.
- 1 deboned chicken
- 1 pork tenderloin
- 1-1.5 kg (2-3 pounds ) lamb sausage ( skins removed ).
- a bunch of Collard Greens ( or any large leaf )
- Salt and pepper
Blanch your greens for a few seconds in salted boiling water, rinse quickly in iced water to stop it cooking and then pat it dry with a paper towel.
Plop your chicken out on a cutting board skin side down and season the exposed flesh with salt and pepper. Stuff some of the lamb sausage into the cavities left by the missing leg bones. This will help the legs keep some shape when the chicken is trussed.
Next lay down a few leaves of the greens to fully cover the exposed flesh. Next spread out a layer of the lamb sausage on the greens and place the tenderloin on top. You'll probably need to cut the tenderloin to the correct length, season it generously with salt and pepper when you do so.
Now carefully roll up the stuffing, making sure the leaves completely encase the meats. Once this is done fold over one side of the bird, followed by the other making sure they overlap slightly. Flip the chicken over so it is cut side down and truss the bird following the instruction from the Pepin video above. Don't worry too much if there's some exposed greens (see the picture below), they'll help protect the stuffing from direct exposure to the cooking. then wrap the chicken tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
If you're fancy and have some Transglutaminase lying around the house you can use it between the layers and the cut in the chicken to glue it back together which will mean you can cook it untrussed for a slightly nicer looking finish.
Bring your smoker up to a steady temperature of 110C ( 225F ) with lump charcoal ( mesquite is my preferred wood for poultry ). Give the chicken a quick run down with salt and pepper or your favourite BBQ rub ( just a little though, you want to add a touch of flavour, not overpower the chicken ) and place it cut side down in the smoker. I also added a few rosemary sticks to the charcoal to add a slightly herby taste to the smoke.
Smoke the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of about 80C (180F). Remove it from the smoker and leave out to rest for about an hour. While the chicken is resting put a cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat it to your oven's highest temperature setting.
Give the chicken a quick baste with melted butter and put it in the pan in the oven. Wait about 5 minutes, baste it again and turn it. This will help crisp up the chicken skin a bit and lessen the rubbery texture chicken skin can take on when it's smoked at low temperature.
Remove the trussing and serve the chicken whole at the table. Carve it crossways to show off the cross-section. With any luck you'll have tricked your guests into thinking they're just getting a plain chicken and will get an 'oooo' moment when they see you make the first cut and expose the cross-section.
I also cooked some corn in the smoker ( unshucked ), some new potatoes, a loaf of home-made sourdough 'Wurzelbrot', some Roast Chicken and Vinho Verde Gravy, and a quick leafy salad.