Chicken Ballotine is the ultimate main course for a date night or dinner party. Crispy chicken skin filled with a buttery, savory blend of chicken, vegetables and spices, it's a restaurant worthy dish that is beautiful on the plate and a pleasure to eat.
It was a recipe by Michael Ruhlman that Keith came across one day that started our obsession with this dish. As Ruhlman says, “It’s basically chicken sausage wrapped in chicken skin. How can you go wrong?” Exactly.
Ingredients You Need to Make Chicken Ballotine
- Bone-In Skin-On Chicken Thighs: Ideally with ample skin intact.
- Butter: Ideally high fat, European style butter, salted or unsalted.
- Shallot: Look for a plump, firm shallot with shiny taught skin.
- Carrot: With or without peel, your choice.
- Garlic: Look for a firm, plump, silvery white head without wrinkled or brown spots.
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
I stuck to the method and components of Ruhlman's recipe, but added more precise instructions. Though always entertaining, he offers loose recipe instructions like calling for "another aggressive blast of salt" and offering various temperature options and cooking methods. Here I'll give you specifics, a baseline recipe to start with. And, as always, I encourage you to add your own spin the next time you make it.
Chicken Ballotine FAQ
Ballotine comes from the French word 'balle' meaning bundle or package.
Chicken Ballotine recipes vary widely in complexity and method. They all involve de-boned chicken stuffed with seasoned, finely ground meat and often vegetables and aromatics rolled and secured into a bundle. Some recipes call for chicken breasts or thighs, others for the whole chicken.
This version is the simplest to prepare, with just 5 ingredients plus salt and pepper, yet is spectacularly flavorful.
Tips for Success
- Look for bone-in skin-on chicken thighs with plenty of skin intact, i.e., not overly trimmmed. You'll use it to enclose the filling and it's much easier if there's ample skin to work with.
- I recommend assembling these several hours in advance, not just for convenience, but to allow the flavors to meld. And roasting in the oven with zero stove top time means you can finish up the other elements of your meal while they cook to crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside perfection.
What to Serve Alongside
- Lyonnaise Potatoes or Fondant Potatoes and Celery Root Remoulade
- Skillet Potatoes and Mixed Green Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
- Mashed Red Potatoes and Arugula Salad
How to Make Chicken Ballotine
Step 1: In a large skillet, cook shallot, carrot, garlic seasoned with ½ teaspoon kosher salt in butter until softened. Remove from heat.
Step 2: Carefully remove skin from thighs and debone with a sharp knife; reserve skin. Cut meat into large chunks.
Step 3: In a food processor combine meat, shallot mixture, and salt and pepper; process until finely ground.
Step 4: Scoop ¼ of meat mixture into center of one piece of thigh skin. Wrap edges of skin around mixture and roll over into a ball. Place on oiled rack in baking sheet and season with salt and ground pepper. Repeat with remaining meat mixture. Season bundles with salt and pepper.
Step 5: Roast at 425˚F for 25 to 30 minutes until crispy outside and reach at least 165˚F internal temperature on an instant read thermometer. Serve.
Chicken Balloting Recipe Video
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium shallot finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot finely chopped
- 3 medium cloves garlic finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt divided, plus more for seasoning skin
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning skin
- olive oil or other vegetable oil, for brushing rack
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (Recipe note #1)
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add shallot, carrot, garlic, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Cook and stir until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy cleanup) and place an oven safe baking rack on top. Lightly brush rack with oil to prevent sticking. (Recipe note #2)
- Carefully remove skin from chicken thighs in one piece, using a sharp paring knife as needed and reserve. (Recipe note #3)
- Turn chicken thigh so that bone is visible. With the tip of a sharp paring knife, carefully cut along the length of the bone on each side. Continue cutting along the bone on each side until it's fully exposed. When you've cut most of the meat from the bone, pull the bone away and use the knife as needed to remove it completely. (Be very careful to protect your fingers during this process!) Cut thigh meat into large chunks (4 to 6 pieces). Repeat with remaining chicken thighs.
- Add thigh meat, vegetables, remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until meat is finely ground (not pureed) and ingredients well combined.
- Spread thigh skins, top side down on a large cutting board. Divide meat mixture into 4 equal portions and place one portion in center of each skin. Starting on one side and working all the way around, pull edges of skin over meat mixture to wrap completely (edges will overlap); place on rack in baking sheet, edges down. Season skin with salt and pepper. Roast 25 to 30 minutes, or until skin is crisp and golden brown with an interior temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Serve.
- Look for thighs with ample skin for stuffing. Avoid those that are closely trimmed.
- If you don't have a baking rack, place chicken bundles directly on parchment paper.
- I like to lay them out flat and stack on a clean plate until I'm ready to begin stuffing them.