Boning a chicken isn’t actually that hard, so long as you have a sharp flexible knife and you have some instructions and take your time. The most important thing is to keep the skin as free from holes as possible. Here is how to do it;
- Place the chicken backbone upwards on a chopping board.
- Make a cut through the skin along the entire length of the bird.
- Slowly, keeping the knife blade close to the rib bones of the bird, cut and scrape away so that the leg and wing joints are exposed.
- Break through the joints and continue to cut and scrape the meat away from the ribs and backbone.
- Taking care, cut the breasts away from the breastbone, without cutting through the skin.
- Next, cut and scrape the flesh from the thigh bones and down the drumsticks. Again, try not to cut through the skin.
- If they have not been removed already, cut through the ankle bones and remove the lower bone.
- Grasp the leg bones and pull them out from the meat and skin, like peeling off a sock.
- Cut through the wing joints, but leave the upper wing bone in place. Scrape away the flesh and pull away the bones.
- You now have a boned chicken, ideally only with holes at the ends of the legs and on the wings.
- Trim off any fat and that is then ready for use.
At this point you can stuff, roll and tie the chicken into a neat parcel as above. This is what is known as a Ballotine. What you must not do is throw the bones and trimmings away. These should be used to make chicken stock. I used a leek, a stick of celery, a couple of carrots, bay leaves, parskey, rosemary and black peppercorns as flavourings. First you should fry the bones and trimmings in some flavourless oil to colour them, then you add in the roughly chopped vegetables, fry them and then add the herbs and water, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour of so. Then, sieve this, throw the bones etc away and, once it is cool, skim off the fat from the top of the stock. Do not add salt, because if you intend to reduce this you will end up with too-salty stock.
You can use all kinds of stuffings. Sausagemeat is always a good one, particularly with apricots or prunes, or with mushrooms. You can also stuff it with a breadcrumb and herb stuffing, or with rice and chorizo. There are so many options here.
My stuffing was sausagemeat mixed with breadcrumbs and some chopped and sautéed garlic, shallots and mushrooms, with some chopped parsley, salt and pepper and half a teaspoon of Épices Rabelais to finish things off and add seasoning. The small holes around the wings and feet can be pushed inside and the rest of the skin should cover them once the bird is rolled up and tied.
Once prepared, I seasoned the chicken and roasted in at 180C for around 60-70 minutes, after which time it looked like this.
I roasted some small new potatoes in the pan with the chicken and cooked some carrots and also some peas and asparagus with little gem lettuce to accompany the chicken.
I also made a nice gravy, using the pan residue (after pouring off the fat), thickened with flour and with Noilly Prat and the fresh chicken stock as the liquid.
You want a nice wine with this, because the dish is quite refined and delicate in flavour. You could drink a white wine, a lightly-oaked white Burgundy or a white Rioja would be excellent but you can also drink a red wine, but not something too heavy or full-bodied. You want refinement, some age and good fruit but also delicacy. We had a bottle of 2008 Santenay Les Gravieres, a Premier Cru red Burgundy. This was excellent, lots of well-integrated tannin, good Pinot Noir flavour and depth, but not at all overpowering or in your face.