A big side hobby of mine is cooking, primarily French and Italian with an occasional foray into Chinese (Hunan) and Cape Cod seafood classics. This winter I’ve been working my way through Michael Ruhlman’s excellent book on charcuterie – the ancient art of preserving, curing, and preparing meat – and yesterday I tackled the hardest recipe yet: chicken galantine.
The first step was to skin, in a single piece, a fresh organic chicken. This requires getting very intimate with the bird and a sharp boning knife. In the end it was easier than expected and I wound up with a rough rectangle of skin about 18″ wide and 10″ high. I laid it flat, unwrinkled on some plastic wrap, covered with another sheet, and tossed it into the freezer.
Then I butchered and deboned the filets, thighs and drums from the skinned carcass, turning the bones into a chicken stock which simmered for six hours.
I excised the tenderloins, sautéed them in olive oil, and ran the remainder of the breasts and dark meat through a fine sieve meat grinder. That all went into the food processor, along with a couple tablespoons of sautéed garlic and shallots deglazed with a cup of Madeira, two egg whites and a tablespoon of kosher salt and ground pepper. That all was ground to a fine paste for three minutes, then I folded in a cup of heavy cream, a half cup of fresh tarragon, chives and parsley and a pound of sliced sautéed organic mushrooms. Not a heart friendly recipe.
On a two-foot long, double thick piece of cheesecloth I laid out the frozen skin, scraping off the fat deposits while it thawed to a pliable state, then with a rubber spatula laid down a thick rectangle of the chicken meat mixture. Into that I laid down the previously browned tenderloins end-to-end and covered them with the remainder of the mixture. I rolled the skin around the mixture (a bit sloppy as there wasn’t enough skin to make a complete casing). I tied off the ends of the cheesecloth tube with string. Bound three thin strips of cheese cloth around the circumference of the long tube for support, then poached the whole affair in the chicken broth for an hour until the internal temperature of the galantine hit 160 fahrenheit – the magic number for poultry.
I let the galantine cool in the broth, opened it up six hours later, took a slice and ….
Not bad. I basically made a big herb flavored chicken sausage. A classic French “cold cut”, transforming an entire chicken, bones and all, into a compact tube about 12″ long and three inches across. Tarragon is a treacherous herb – too much and everything tastes like tarragon, but this isn’t too bad. The mushrooms held up and didn’t come off to slippery and slimy. This would be good with a summer salad, as an appetizer, maybe as the basis of a high end sandwich on a good Pullman loaf with homemade mayonnaise. If I was really fancy I’d cover it with aspic and do some aspic art stuff, but Escoffier I am not.
If you are into cooking challenges, get a copy of Ruhlman’s book, and I recommend his blog as well. Next challenge is duck confit – I finally found some duck legs at the local market ($3.80 apiece) and Ruhlman advises that one can cure them in olive oil, not the daunting quarts of duck fat that are all but impossible to find unless one renders their own ducks down. I have had some success this winter with cassoulet, and duck confit is a primary piece of that bean stew of goodness.
And if anyone knows a good source of pork back fat – I need it. The butchers on Cape Cod dread my appearances (“Any veal bones? Any uncured pork belly? Any back fat?”)