Ballottines and Galantines

Ballottine of chicken stuffed with truffles, pork and pistachios
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Oh no, you're in culinary school!

Or preparing to leave on a themed cruise of some kind. Or maybe you're just a time-traveler (either direction).

The point is, you want to know about galantines and ballottines and what is the difference between them, and so on. Well, ballottines are a subset of galantines, so let's talk about galantines first.

A galantine is an elaborate preparation that dates back to 17th century France.

They were originally prepared by deboning a whole chicken, then combining its meat with minced veal, truffles, pork fat and other ingredients, plus a lot of seasonings, to make what's called a forcemeat, and then stuffing this forcemeat into the skin of the chicken. It was then tied up, wrapped in bacon and poached in a rich stock that would eventually jell when cooled.

The idea is very similar to the way foods were preserved in aspic or confit.

Indeed, like the aforementioned dishes, galantines were typically served cold, accompanied by the cold gelatinized stock and garnishes such as truffles, pistachios, and bacon.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

Well, if you were a connected person in 17th century France, that sort of thing would be your usual fare. 

Galantines were originally made specifically from chicken. (If you speak Spanish, you know that the word gallina means hen, and the words come from the same root.) But eventually the technique would be applied to other poultry and game birds such as turkey, partridge, pheasant, pigeon and so on.

Galantines are a classic example of the traditional art of garde manger, which includes making sausages, pâtés, terrines, and many other kinds of smoked, cured, pickled or otherwise preserved foods. Indeed, once cooled, a galantine could be stored for several days in a cool room.

As a matter of fact, it's fair to say that galantines are a form of sausage.

After all, think about it: Both are basically a bunch of chopped up stuff, heavily seasoned, squeezed into some sort of wrapper and then cooked.

The same could be said about the Scottish dish haggis, for that matter. Unlike galantines, however, which are wrapped up in the skin of the chicken, haggis is prepared in a casing made from a sheep's stomach. Still just another form of sausage, though.

But about ballottines. Ballottines are galantines that are served hot rather than cold. After boning out the bird and combining the meat with additional ingredients as described above to make the forcemeat, the filling is wrapped in the skin and then tied in cheesecloth and braised until cooked through.

The braising liquid is then reduced to form a glaze, which is then brushed onto the ballottine before browning it in the oven. Ballottines could be served with either a light sauce such as veloute or supreme or a dark sauce such as espagnole.

A petite ballottine is what you'd get if you decided to make a ballottine using only the leg instead of the whole chicken.

And so for one thing, it's the entire leg of the chicken — the thigh plus the drumstick. After separating the leg from the rest of the carcass, you debone it, keeping the skin intact, then remove the meat and chop it up with other stuff and then wrap it back up in the skin and cook it.

Ballottines could also be prepared from other meats, such as lamb or veal, in which case it would involve deboning the shoulder and then rolling it around a stuffing of forcemeat and then tied with string rather than wrapping it in poultry skin.