Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cajun Collard Stuffed Chicken Ballottine

So Yonetta sent me an email with a recipe for chicken galantine linked, which was a not very subtle way of telling me to either shit or get off the pot with this stuffed chicken idea. She's a fan of cajun food, collard greens, and nuts so this one totally appealed to her while I wasn't quite stoked about it. But hey, you gotta start somewhere and it might be badass. I wasn't getting anywhere just talking about how I should try it sometime.

Before starting, I had to read the recipe quite a few times as it is written like the author is talking to you as you act as sous chef in the kitchen. Good at following explicit directions, this was an exercise for me in more ways than one!

The original recipe didn't have measurements for most ingredients, so I did my best to annotate quantities I used. I rearranged the order of items on the list from first to last used. Otherwise I did the best I could to follow the directions.

Cajun Collard Stuffed Chicken Ballottine*
adapted from Kinderhook Farm Kitchen
click to print

1 whole chicken, about 4.5 lbs
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 c chicken stock
3 c collard greens, chopped, about 1/2" pieces
1 c walnuts
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
maple syrup
1 c ricotta cheese
4 tbsp schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)

Rinse the chicken and dry the skin and cavity well with paper towel. Bone it out. Reserve bones to make stock now or later.

This took me 30 minutes. I am glad I practiced this in some shape or form, not on one, or two, but three different occasions. Watch this video!

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions, stirring to coat, and cook until translucent.

Add garlic and stir, cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add collard greens and stock to the onions. Salt and pepper. Stir to coat evenly. Cover and let simmer.

At this point I realized that my disagreement with nature wasn't winning me anything and I turned the lights on. Amazing how I could actually see then what the stirred collards looked like.

Meanwhile lightly toast walnuts in the oven about 5-7 minutes, or when just fragrant. Chop while warm.

Walnuts ready to go into the oven.

Toss chopped nuts with maple syrup, cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, and thyme.

I put the warm nuts and spiced in a bowl that has a lid. A small quantity of syrup was added, the lid snapped on, the bowl shaken, and more syrup added. This continued until the seasonings stuck to the nuts but the nuts weren't wet.

Turn oven up to 400°F.

After the collards have sufficiently cooked down to yield a soft texture, about 20-30 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the collard greens to a medium bowl. Add the ricotta cheese and seasoned walnuts, stirring to combine.

I wish I'd tasted this mixture now to adjust the seasonings. I'd have added a LOT more.

Smooth the stuffing over the breasts and stuff some into each leg and wing.

I realized there was a gap between the breasts exposing neck skin. Filleting the breasts slightly allowed the gap to be covered, just as Pepin described in the video linked above. The stuffing was then packed into the appendages and over the breasts.

Carefully roll up the stuffed chicken.

If the chicken skin is damp even just a tiny bit, the skin will be slippery and refuse to stick to itself. Tucking a sheet of paper towel under each long half of the bird I managed to dry the skin and roll the bird up. Once done, the dry skin stuck to itself such that the bird could be handled enough to tie with twine. And seeing the bird stuffed like this caused me to laugh hysterically for many minutes because 1) it looks crazy, and 2) I imagined this is pretty much how I'd look on a beach, minus the lengthwise incision.

Tie with some cooking twine.

This was done just as Pepin showed in the video. Doing it with the incision side down was pretty easy, the hardest part being the wing section. After turning the bird over, I saw that one wing was tucked under twine (evidenced by the stuffing having been forced out) and the other wing sticking out entirely. Managing the neck skin to seal in the stuffing took a little bit of doing but was not impossible.

Transfer chicken to a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Rub some fat over the chicken skin, salt and pepper.

I rubbed chicken fat collected from the batch of stock I had simmering on the stove over my stuffed boneless chicken.

Roast the chicken uncovered for about 2 to 2.5 hours. Check to see that the juices run clear.

I roasted the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes and then though I should put in a temperature probe. But I wasn't sure where to put it! In the flesh or right through the middle of the stuffing? The location where I finally stuck it (shoulder? breast? stuffing?) indicated 170°F but the temperature started dropping immediately. I put the chicken back in the oven for another 50 minutes and then pulled it out, afraid I was drying it out. Stupid me, I hadn't even left the probe in so have no clue what the temperature was.

Let chicken rest before slicing; serve hot.

Aaaalright. Ooookay. What to say. I overcooked the crap out of this underseasoned bird.

Before I get to those details, let me just say that this preparation was a little overwhelming, particularly when I had a hard time rolling the bird up. Getting past that hurdle, things came together well; Pepin's instructions were great. I wish I had good advice for where to put the temperature probe, but I'm guessing right down the middle would be fine. Put it in at the beginning and wait until 165°F is reached, anticipating an increase in temperature during standing/resting. If any of you have feedback on this, please share!

As for the seasonings, I could've easily doubled them. As it was, the cajun flavor was almost non-existent. Collard greens and nuts both have strong flavors, the cajun should've had more showing. I am not sure how much cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, and thyme I used, maybe just 1/2 tsp each.
The total quantity of stuffing was perfect. I had expected it to squirt out any available opening during the rolling and twining steps. The only loss was because of the pinched wing. The nuts could've been chopped a little finer as I found them too big.

Slicing the bird, weird not to have to work around bone, yielded quite an impressive look! So impressive that I'm definitely going to try this technique again but with different stuffing. Collards and nuts just aren't my thing. The skin was fantastically pretty, crispy, and tasty while the flesh was dry. Two hours and ten minutes for a 4.5 lb bird was serious overkill.

Overall, I'm glad to have tried it. Once I get chicken mastered I'll have to work on duck. Eventually, I might be able to swing a turducken!

  • chicken: $11.36
  • butter: $0.06
  • onion: $0.54
  • garlic cloves: $0.15
  • chicken stock: $0.32
  • collard greens: $1.49
  • walnuts: $1.40
  • ricotta cheese: $1.75

Total: $17.07 or about $2.85 for each of six pretty big servings.

*What is a gallantine and how does it differ from ballottine? Per Pepin:
A galantine is a boned bird, usually a duck or chicken, filled with a force-meat mixture and alternate layers of liver, truffles and the like. The boned, stuffed bird is poached in broth, cooled off and served with its own aspic. A ballottine is essentially the same except the stuffed bird is roasted instead of poached and served hot with a sauce.