Sunday, April 14, 2013

Good Stuff


For the April Daring Cooks Challenge, Lisa from Parsley, Sage and Sweet has challenged us to debone a whole chicken, using this video by Jacques Pepin as our guide; then stuff it, tie it and roast it, to create a Chicken Ballotine.
(Thanks Lisa – this was a great challenge, an opportunity to learn a new and useful technique and we’ll definitely be doing this again!)

This was a real treat for us – something that we never ever would have considered trying. If we’d seen the video prior to the challenge, we would have scoffed and remarked that certainly a trained chef could bone a chicken that easily, but no mere home cook could possibly ever do that.

Since there are two of us Chez Monkeyshines, we tried the challenge twice: Mrs. Monkeyshines started off with a chicken, then so that the Monkey could also experience it, we boned a duck (on a different night – we aren’t that voracious here!).

Chicken Ballotine

We watched the video several times through, then armed with a small paring knife, the iPad, and one chicken, headed into the kitchen. We agreed that it is required to narrate each action while affecting Jacques Pepin’s French accent.

The Monkey offered moral support, coaching and paused and replayed the video multiple times while I hacked up the chicken. In all, it took about 30 minutes to complete, including all the starts and stops and photos, whoops of triumph, etc.

Our hapless chicken before the procedure

I won’t recount all the steps as the video really does an excellent job of walking you through it. I was honestly surprised how little knifework was involved. Honestly, it was very satisfying to conquer such a daunting task and learn that, like most things, it’s merely a matter of knowing where to cut.

And after boning

The result was fantastic! Once the chicken was opened up, we lined the meat with prosciutto. The layered that evenly with a stuffing made from:

2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
6 oz spinach leaves, shredded
6 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil to saute it all gently

The stuffing hides my pathetic butchering..and tastes phenomenal

We tied up the chicken and roasted it for 45 min at 425 degrees F. It tasted fantastic and was a lovely, and very impressive presentation. Honestly, I am not a big fan of eating chicken on the bone – I don’t like having to dissect my dinner. I know that I’ll be making ballotine again.

Et Voila!



Ballotine of duck with wild rice, morel mushroom and leek stuffing

The duck seemed to be a bit more challenging than chicken, mainly due to the thick layer of fat covering the bird – and although it perhaps wasn’t the prettiest deboned bird, it still tasted really good.

We found some nice morel mushrooms – first of the season! – and made the stuffing as follows:


1/4 lb Morel mushrooms (or as many as you can afford – there are never enough mushrooms…)
1 oz butter
1 medium leek
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
2 cloves green garlic (if you’re using regular garlic rather than its more mild springtime version, you may want to cut this down to 1 clove)
Small bunch parsley
Salt and pepper

Simmer the wild rice for ~45 minutes (or until done) over low hear. Meanwhile, wash the morel mushrooms really well and chop them, then sauté over medium heat 4-5 minutes (no need to add oil, they will cook nicely in their own juices.) Remove from the pan, add the butter and sauté the finely chopped leek and green garlic until soft and translucent. Add the chopped parsley and season to taste.

Here’s the duck in various stages of being broken down and stuffed:

ducks copy

And the finished product (you can see a sliced version at the top of this post):


We served this with a mustard green peppercorn sauce – not pictured, but here’s the recipe since it was really good. We adapted this from an old recipe for saddle of venison, but the flavor profile goes really well with duck too…

1 baby leek, minced
1/2 oz butter
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp green peppercorns
2 oz cream
2 oz chicken stock
ground black pepper

Easy as can be – saute the leeks in the butter until soft, stir in the other ingredients and reduce over low heat until ready to serve.


  1. ohlala, the duck with morel mushrooms must be excellent !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I wasn't brave enough to try deboning a duck but will definitely try it in the future. Love, love, love your stuffings! Will have to borrow the proschiutto idea, sounds yummy! Hats off to you!

  3. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall watching both of you do the 'bone removal thing' (Yes, I'm still enjoying that one very much!). You both have such a zest for all things culinary and it's so fun to read about - since no task is ever 'too much' for either of you. Your excitement and eagerness shines (Monkeyshines!) and it peaks when you amaze us all with your final results, which you did in spades with your duck and chicken ballotines! OK, I'm really getting corny I'll just say thank you so much for taking part in my challenge and I'm thrilled you had such success and love this new skill/technique! I can't wait to try your mustard green peppercorn sauce!

  4. Fantastic! The thought of you both talking with comedy French accents whilst covered in chicken goop and wielding knives made me smile :-) And you achieved fantastic results - they look delicious.

  5. Both your chicken and duck look delectable. My son and I found the boning process to be pretty darn funny and laughing that hard with a sharp knife can make the process even more difficult. What a wonderful job you both did! I am going to borrow some of your stuffing ideas.

  6. As always a fabulous effort and I adore how you did two versions superb work. I just loved this challenge (I think one of the best so far) I noticed that most people did two versions which is high praise already. The colour for the final birds are impressive. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  7. Both ballotines are impressive, but that duck one with the morels??? Wowee! I briefly loitered by the ducks in the shop, just wondering if I should, but I didn't dare in the end... it looks magnificent though.

  8. The chicken and the duck both look mouth watering good and those stuffings! Wow!
    Wonderful job as always on this challenge