First off, I must apologize for posting this late. Somehow life caught up with me and I just didn’t have time to put a post together. Now that I finally have a little bit of a breather, I present to you my commentary on deboning a chicken.
For those who don’t know why someone would try this sort of thing out of the blue, it has to do with a charming little online society I joined called The Daring Kitchen. Each month, this group sends out a challenge which subscribers then attempt to create in their own kitchens.
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.
First impressions: Upon hearing about this challenge, and watching the video, I was more than a little nervous. My history with chickens has been limited to being chased by angry roosters and eating pre-cut selections. When a whole cooked chicken is brought into the house my dad or my brother generally start slicing and dicing. Previous experience has taught them when they give me the knife the chicken ends up looking like some sort of confetti mashup. Of course, Pepin makes taking the whole thing apart look so simple…with no other choice but to dive in, I watched the video several times, figured out when I was going to be home next (cooking a whole bird for just me seemed silly), and went to buy a chicken.
A second glance: I decided to try deboning my first chicken when I went home for Easter. I bought my chicken, ingredients for stuffing (I kept it simple – a box of Stove Top Stuffing with celery, onion, and hot sausage added to the mix), and carried the laptop into the kitchen. Things started going wrong right from the get go – once I found the wishbone I managed to snap it into not two, but three pieces in an attempt to extract it. After I managed to get it out things got a lot better – it was actually very straight forward, and since I’d watched the video several times I didn’t have to keep rinsing my hands to replay sections. My sister came in to laugh at me, and provide helpful insight (such as “the oyster is the part that guy in Amelie likes to eat”…thanks sis). Every time I started getting frustrated and begin muttering under my breath, she would start mimicking me – “It should not take you more than one minute to debone a chicken” in a little French accent, which resulted in laughter every time (you may have to watch the video to understand why I was muttering this).
Long story short, 15 minutes after I started wrestling with this carcass, I has a completely deboned chicken. I shoved it full of stuffing, making sure to tuck some into the legs and wings, and wrapped the whole thing up. You’ll note mine is actually tied off with garden twine – this is because I forgot to pick up a heavy duty cotton blend, and when choosing between garden twine and knitting yarns decided on the one without dye. It was a little harder to remove after cooking, but did the trick. Then it was into the oven with the bird – I checked on it a few times, basted a bit towards the end, but basically left it alone to bake.
Here’s my baby all wrapped up and ready for the oven!
Looking back: This thing was a big hit. It came out a beautiful golden brown, the meat was juicy and tender – my dad even asked for a second serving of white meat, which he normally avoids, claiming it’s to dry for his taste. Oddly enough, I was the only one who wasn’t raving about the final product, but that may have been because I wasn’t feeling particularly well and it was a bit rich for my stomach. I will say that I cannot wait to try this technique with a turkey for Thanksgiving.
Final comments: This whole process was not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be. It does require a fair amount of hand strength though – you are literally pulling the chicken apart with your fingers. And I couldn’t make the lollipops at all – I just couldn’t get the joint to break the way Pepin did. That may be because I’m pretty timid compared to him. This challenge was a lot of fun, and definitely something I’m glad to have in my kitchen arsenal! Check out my finished product below!