Les skills pour une Ballotine de Poulet

Did you watch that de-boning video? Skills yo indeed! I had to try it for myself and trust me, it is not as easy as it looks.

In it Jaques Pépin demonstrates how to debone a chicken for use in a Ballotine or Galantine. Yes those words are French and both mean “meat rolled into a circular shape and stuffed to enhance the flavour”. From what I gather, the difference is a Galantine is wrapped in cheese cloth, poached in a broth and then served cold while a Ballotine is served hot.

The de-boning process I had (go on, get it out of your system now) was easy enough but in no way did I finish as quickly. And I think I would have massacred that bird had it not been for the video. An interested note, the tenderloins did not come off in one piece as demonstrated. They broke apart even with the little force I used.

Before getting my hand covered in slim and chicken guts I made a mushroom, zucchini and spinach stuffing. Spreading it all over and stuffing the legs was child’s play, but without a doubt the worst part was tying up that damned stuffed chicken. I thought I was going to pop a gasket. Ask Terra, she helped keep the chicken, and me, together. No matter how hard I tried the stuffing kept coming out the front! Way too many analogies so I’ll spare you. I was swearing, sweating and getting more and more aggravated. But we had a good time right Terra? In the end it wasn’t as pretty but we finally got it tied, in a pan and roasted the thing. The end product was gorgeous and tasted fantastic! Totally worth the effort. We served the chicken with some pan roasted broccoli.

The experience made me appreciate JP’s skills even more. I watched the video again after the bird went into oven and could only shake my head. It was good to review, I picked out little steps I missed and will apply next time. The important thing is Terra and I had a relaxing afternoon in the kitchen together. I’m sure she’s looking forward to the next time.


My mission: meet Jacques Pépin

Jacques Pépin’s cooking shows are completely unlike what’s popular on today’s TV for foodies. Newer shows tend to be loud and obnoxious or heavy on aggressive competition. If not that they’re about someone eating very exotic food or putting away massive amounts of diner chow. To each his own, of course, but when I rot in front of the TV I want to learn something, and no one does that better than Jacques Pépin.

I grew up watching PBS cooking shows, and still do, never tiring of repeats after all these years. In fact, these days I value them more than ever. They’ve been like school for me and inspired my love of food. In my weekend mock culinary academy Jacques Pépin is Dean, Professor and of course, Head Chef.

Jacques typically demonstrates classic methods for most dishes and from there he’ll experiment. During his shows you can always count on zoom-ins to his chopping and cutting because his speed is amazing to watch. He also has incredible tips on using everything like freezing vegetable peelings, meat scraps and bones for stock. I remember one show where he sprinkled roasted ground cherry pits on top of a dessert. What I enjoy the most is his expertise and I appreciate watching something done so well.

Skills yo!

One evening last month I was thinking how rare it is to meet a personal hero. For most people, the opportunity never comes or just isn’t attempted. I thought, I should try and meet my hero Jacques Pépin! I told Terra my idea and suddenly we were discussing how to go about it.

I started by researching credits from Jacques’s past shows. I found a publicist’s name and emailed my heart-felt dream. I didn’t think I would hear anything back but that same night I got a reply. Success! I was sure it would contain details about Jacques being moved by my email and personally inviting me to his home to cook together for an afternoon. Sadly it didn’t but it was positive nonetheless. I found out I had not contacted the right person on this attempt but my email had been forwarded to Jacques’s publicist who I would hear from soon. Sure enough, ten minutes later, that’s who wrote me. I was told to check back in the fall for Jacques’s appearance schedule.

Really, I know I won’t be invited to his home to cook together. When sending the email I was actually concerned that I would come across like some nut. I only hope to have the privilege of meeting him this year, shake his hand and thank him for so much great instruction and inspiration.