A ballotine refers to poultry (usually chicken or duck) that has been boned and stuffed, normally with meat but sometimes with cheese and/or vegetables. This is a great way of turning a whole chicken which normally feeds three or four people into a feast that easily feeds at least double that crowd. To make this, you will need your butcher to “glove-bone” a chicken for you, where the chicken’s breast bone, backbone, neck, and thigh bones are removed, all while keeping the chicken’s skin intact. It’s not a terribly difficult procedure for a butcher, but it does require a bit of time, which could slightly increase the cost of the bird. Serve with roast potatoes and a leafy green salad.
1 cup dried figs (about 10 pieces), tip removed and quartered lengthwise
1 cup Madeira
1.5 lbs ground pork
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
pinch ground clove
pinch ground nutmeg
3 tbsp white wine
1 chicken, about 3.5 lbs, glove boned (ask your butcher to do this), wing tips removed
1 liter chicken stock
3 tbsp soft butter
3 branches fresh thyme
to taste salt and pepper
squeeze lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cold water
- In a small bowl, soak the dried figs in the Madeira for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- In a work bowl, mix the ground pork with 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, the clove, nutmeg, and white wine. Mix well. Using a slotted spoon, remove half of the figs from the Madeira and mix them into the pork. Reserve the rest of the figs in Madeira.
- Form the ground pork into a football shape, then stuff it into the cavity of the glove-boned chicken. Fold the drumsticks in an “x” around the back of the bird, then loop and tie a piece of twine around the equator of the chicken to truss it.
- Place the stuffed chicken breast up on an elevated rack on a roasting pan. Season well with salt and pepper, then smear the 3 tbsp of soft butter all over the bird. Add the thyme and the liter of chicken stock into the roasting pan, then cover with tin foil. Place in the hot oven and roast for three hours, or until an internal thermometer reads 155°F. Take the roasting pan out of the oven.
- Turn the oven up to 400°F. Remove the foil from the pan, and using a spoon or ladle remove and reserve the roasting juices. When the oven is hot, place the chicken back in and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until an internal thermometer plunged into the center of the chicken reads 165°F, and the chicken is golden brown all over. Remove and rest for ten minutes, covered.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small pot over a medium heat, bring the remaining figs and Madeira to a simmer. Reduce by ¼, then add the roasting juices from the chicken. Bring to a simmer and taste for seasoning, adjusting with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness.
- Whisk the cornstarch and water together to make a slurry, then whisk it into the fig sauce to thicken. Reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Pour the sauce into a gravy boat.
- To serve, first carve the chicken. Cut away the drumsticks and the chicken wings, then slice the bird in ¼ inch slices. Arrange artfully on a platter and serve the sauce on the side.