I’ve been fascinated by galantines for a long time. Maybe because this attractive and tasty dish seems almost magical. Of course, compared to the fancy arrangements of food depicted in books from the 19th century, the galantines seen today are relatively tame. But still, when placed alongside the platters of food that adorn our modern banquets, galantines can easily steal the show.

Besides the galantine, there’s another dish in French cuisine with a similar sounding name: ballotine. Judging from some of the recipes I’ve found, the two terms can refer to the same dish. Recipes with either name usually are for a forcemeat cooked inside another meat. Some books make a distinction between the two dishes, but some only describe one or the other. Prosper Montagné goes as far as stating that the term ballotine “should only apply to a piece of butcher’s meat, boned, stuffed, and rolled, but it is in fact also applied to various dishes which are actually galantines.” [Montagné, Prosper. Larousse Gastronomique. Translated by Patience Gray, Nina Froud, Maud Murdoch, Barbara Macre Taylor. Edited by Nina Froud, Charlotte Turgeon. New York: Crown Publishing, Inc., 1961. Originally published as Larousse Gastronomique (Paris: Librarie Larousse) in 1938. Page 439.]

If all the definitions I found, both actual and implied, are averaged, the result would be something in the order of a galantine being a dish made from boned poultry or meat that is stuffed with a forcemeat, pressed into a cylindrical shape, and poached in an aspic-producing stock. The galantine is served cold, coated with the aspic. Many of the recipes for ballotines I found would also fit this definition. Others use all the meat from the animal being boned in the forcemeat so the outer wrapping is nothing more than the skin or just a sheet of barding fat. Also, some ballotines are served hot or braised rather than poached. The more recipes I read, the more jumbled the definitions became in my mind.

The origin of the two terms is also not conclusive. The term galantine may have evolved from the Old French term for “jelly,” but early spellings of galantine include garentine and galatina, which do not appear to be derivatives of the word. Prosper Montagné proposed that the term evolved from the Old French word for chicken: geline or galine. I find this odd because the earliest galantine recipes were for eel served in a jelly made from the poaching bouillon mixed with eel blood and seasoned with ginger, cloves, grains of paradise, cinnamon, nutmeg, and long pepper. Early galantines were not stuffed chicken. Two hundred years later, when the term galantine appears in a cookery book in its final spelling, the recipe is for a suckling pig stuffed with forcemeat.

The term ballotine is more straightforward. It is derived from the French noun ballot, bundle, and the verb ballotter, to roll around. Montagné describes a ballotine as being “a piece of meat, fowl, game, or fish, which is boned, stuffed, and rolled into the shape of a bundle.” The term is much newer. It starts to appear in cookery books in the 19th century.

Although not out of the range of a home cook, galantines have traditionally been the product of professional kitchens. A galantine is not a last-minute dish. Depending on what items the chef has on hand and what has to be specially prepared, the finished dish can take up to a week to prepare.

The following recipe is an amalgamation of many of the recipes for galantines encountered in my research. It is presented below with comments specific to each part of the recipe. Clicking on any comment will hide all the comments. Pressing the C key will cause the comments to reappear. Clicking on a picture will enlarge it.

Principal Ingredients:
1 large (about 2-1/2 kg)
The size of the final galantine, as well as the quantity of forcemeat required, are a function of how large a chicken is used. (No surprise there!) A 2-1/2 kg chicken will produce about 10 to 12 servings.
leaf gelatin, as required
Gelatin is required to stiffen the aspic. If a veal foot is used in the poaching liquid, there should be no need for this additional gelatin.
parsley [optional]
The parsley is used to decorate the plate for final presentation. Its use is strictly optional.
cornichons [optional]
Dijon-style mustard [optional]
Cornichons and mustard are the traditional accompaniments for pâtés. The center of the galantine is essentially a coarse, country-style pâté, so they work well here, too.
Ingredients for Forcemeat:
230 grams
lean veal
700 grams
lean pork
My preferred pork for sausage making is meat from the leg. It is normally supplied by my butcher as thick slices which include the surrounding fat and skin. I separate the slices into skin, fat, and meat. The skin is saved for the poaching liquid to supply additional gelatin. The fat, which is soft, is measured for the forcemeat.
115 grams
soft pork fat
230 grams
hard pork fat
Hard fat comes from the back of the pig. It helps produce a firm, smooth forcemeat in the final galantine. Note that the ratio of lean meat to hard fat in the forcemeat is about four to one, and to soft fat, about eight to one.
30 grams
curing salt (0.6% sodium nitrite)
The curing salt called for in this recipe contains 0.6%, or 6 grams per kilogram, of sodium nitrite (NaNO2) combined with fine salt, sodium cloride (NaCl). In some countries, curing salt is supplied with 6%, or 60 grams per kilogram, of sodium nitrite. If this is the case, use 3 grams of the curing salt and 27 grams of ordinary table salt for this forcemeat recipe. If the curing salt is replaced totally by ordinary salt, the color of the cooked forcemeat will be a sickly gray instead of a pleasant pink. (The sodium nitrite also helps prevent the growth of botulism.)
3 grams
ground white pepper
2 grams
quatre épices
Quatre épices is a traditional French spice mixture. The actual ingredients and proportions vary with producer. The common four spices used in quatre épices are white pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Cinnamon is sometimes substituted for the ginger and allspice for the cloves. On some packages, there are five spices listed in the ingredient list!
45 milliliters
dry white wine
Additional Ingredients for Stuffing:
200 grams
pickled pork tongue (langue à l’écarlate)
200 grams
boiled ham (jambon au torchon)
Pickled tongue and boiled ham were two of the most common additions to the forcemeat listed in the recipes I read. Other common additions included truffles, chestnuts, pheasant, and veal sweetbreads.
50 grams
shelled and peeled whole pistachio nuts
Walnuts would be a good substitute for pistachios in the forcemeat.
Ingredients for Poaching Liquid:
veal foot, split lengthwise and sawed into a number of pieces
Half a cow’s foot, split lengthwise, or a couple of pig’s feet can be substituted for the veal foot. The purpose of the veal foot is to provide gelatin for the aspic. Leftover cooked veal, cow, or pig foot can be used for other recipes.
2 large
carrots, cut into chunks
2 medium
onions, cut into chunks
1 medium
leek, white part with some green, cut into chunks
8 sprigs
fresh basil
fresh bay leaves
8 sprigs
flat-leaf parsley
1 liter
homemade chicken stock [optional]
The stock will make the resulting aspic richer than when the poaching liquid is prepared with water as its only liquid. Some recipes add sweet wine, such as Madeira, to the poaching liquid.
Ingredients for Clarifying Aspic:
2 large
egg whites, well beaten
about 150 grams
finely shredded green cabbage
Ingredients for Decoration:
a variety
vegetables suitable for decorating the finished galantine
The choice of vegetables used for decorating the finished galantine is left up to the chef. Choose a variety that will provide both interest and color.
Day 1:
Cut the veal, pork meat, and pork fat into 1-cm square strips and place in a non-reactive bowl. Combine the curing salt, pepper, and quatre épices and add the mixture to the meats. Mix well. Transfer meat to a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.
The meat is cut into 1-cm square strips to be sized appropriately for feeding into a meat grinder as well as being thin enough to allow the seasonings to begin to flavor the forcemeat. Although this step can be performed the same day that the forcemeat is ground, the resulting flavor and color will suffer a bit.
Day 2:
Grind the seasoned meat and fat together through a 3-mm grinder plate. Add the wine and mix thoroughly until the fat starts to smear. Wrap tightly with plastic film and refrigerate overnight.
Do not grind the meat too fine. It is important for the final appearance that the fat be visible. The overnight rest of the ground mixture helps all of the flavors to blend thoroughly.
Day 3:
Bone the chicken. Click for detailed boning instructions
Many of the recipes I consulted mentioned that boning the chicken was not as hard as it initially appears. I agree. Be sure to reserve the bones for the poaching liquid.
Spread the chicken out on a work surface, skin side down, so it forms a rectangular shape and the meat extends with a slight margin to the edge of the skin. Arrange the legs and wings, under the skin, so the meat is evenly thick over the surface of the chicken.
Even though it appears that the legs and wings will protrude from the body of the finished galantine, the rolling process will cause everything to form together into a smooth cylinder.
Spread about two-thirds of the forcemeat mixture over the chicken meat. Press the forcemeat over the chicken to even out the surface. Leave a 2 to 3-cm margin at the edges of the skin created by the original cut along the back.
Traditionally, this step and the next two are done to layer the filling ingredients, but during the rolling process, everything can become jumbled. Some recipes call for cutting the meat additions into cubes and then just mixing them, along with the nuts, into the forcemeat before the final rolling. This method is simpler than layering the forcemeat and still produces a nice visual result.
Cut the meat for the stuffing additions into 3-mm thick slices. Arrange all the stuffing additions over the forcemeat in a single layer, allowing a slight margin at the edges of the forcemeat. Press the additions firmly so they adhere to the forcemeat.
Carefully spread the remaining forcemeat over the stuffing additions. Press this last layer to smooth out its surface.
Gather the ends of the chicken skin that were originally along the back of the carcass and carefully fold the package until a cylinder. Using a long metal skewer, truss the loose ends of the cut skin together to snugly encompass the forcemeat.
Using a skewer to hold the loose ends of skin together is my addition to the recipe technique. Most recipes provide no instructions as to how to hold the ends of skin together during the rolling and forming process. Câreme, as quoted by Montagné, does suggest sewing the ends of the skin together, but never says when to remove the string.
Place the entire “package” on a piece of moistened, unbleached muslin that is large enough to completely enclose the stuffed chicken. Roll the cloth tightly around the meat to form a long sausage shape. Using strips of muslin, tie the bundle along its length to prevent it from unwrapping during poaching.
It is important here to only tie the galantine tight enough to keep the package from becoming undone. If tied too tightly, the bindings will leave unsightly grooves in the cooked galantine (as seen in the pictures).
Reach inside the end of the cloth wrapping and pull out the metal skewer. Gather each end of the cloth, twist tightly to seal, and tightly tie the twisted cloth with a piece of cotton string.
Place the chicken bundle in a large stock pot. Add all the poaching liquid ingredients plus the reserved chicken bones and the reserved pork skin, if applicable. Add sufficient water to the pot to cover the galantine. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until the galantine reaches a temperature of about 70 °C (155 °F), about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Skim and discard any scum that floats to the surface.
I do not have a pot large enough to hold a galantine horizontally so I have to tilt it diagonally in my largest stockpot. By the time all the poaching ingredients are added, the pot is quite full and only a minimal amount of liquid is needed to fully cover the galantine. About halfway through the poaching process I carefully lift the galantine out of the pot and flip it end-for-end so that it will cook evenly. To measure the internal temperature, I insert a digital probe thermometer through the cloth wrapper and into the center of the galantine in a couple of places. The galantine should not be overcooked because the chicken meat will be dry and the fat in the forcemeat will liquefy. The surface of the poaching liquid should be skimmed during the beginning of the cooking process, and as necessary along the way, to remove any scum that floats to the surface. Remember, the poaching liquid will eventually become the aspic that is served with the galantine so careful performance of this process is important.
When the galantine is cooked, remove it from the pot and set aside for 15 minutes to cool slightly. Continue simmering the poaching liquid for another couple of hours to further enrich it.
Although the temperature of the galantine will not drop much during this short rest period, it will be easier to remove the wrapping in the next step if the package is allowed to cool just a little. The poaching liquid is cooked for a couple more hours to draw as much gelatin from the veal foot, and as much flavor from the other ingredients as possible.
Cut the ties holding the cloth around the galantine. Unwrap the galantine. Rinse the cloth and rewrap the chicken tightly. Wrap some sushi mats, a thin flexible cutting board, or other stiffening device around the galantine and tie into place. Twist the ends of the cloth and tie with string. Set the bundle in a refrigerator until completely cooled, about 12 hours.
The use of a stiffener when wrapping the galantine is also a technique of mine. Most other recipes just call for tightly rewrapping the galantine in the cloth and cooling with a weighted board on top. Using the stiffener will produce a rounder shape whereas a weighted board would produce a flatter shape. Whichever method is used, the rewrapping is important because the galantine shrinks during poaching.
When the stock is done, remove and discard the solid ingredients. Strain the stock through a fine strainer. Refrigerate until completely cooled, about 12 hours.
Rather than discard the cooked veal foot, separate the bones from the tendons. Discard the bones and use the tendons (and the pork skin if used for the poaching liquid) for salade de pieds de veau (see recipe index).
Day 4:
Using a small spoon, carefully scrape away the fat that has congealed at the top of the stock and discard. Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce by about half to two-thirds. There should be about a liter of stock remaining. Transfer the stock to a smaller saucepan and set aside to cool slightly.
It is important to remove all the fat or else the final aspic will be cloudy.
Combine the clarification ingredients and mix into the stock. Place the saucepan over medium heat and gently bring the mixture to a full boil. Do not stir the contents. After the stock has boiled for a few minutes and the cabbage is thoroughly encrusted with cooked egg white, remove the saucepan from the heat and gently move the cabbage away from one edge of the saucepan with a spatula. If the stock below the cabbage is still cloudy, return the saucepan to the heat for a few more minutes.
When the stock is clear, pour the entire contents of the saucepan through a strainer lined with fine cheesecloth. Chill thoroughly in a refrigerator.
Day 5:
Test the clarified stock for stiffness. If it gives way easily when pressed with a finger, more gelatin is required. If it is very stiff and rubbery, the aspic is ready and no further gelatin is required.
If more gelatin is required, gently heat the stock just until it melts and feels warm to the touch. Soften a couple of sheets of gelatin in cold water. When soft, drain well and dissolve the gelatin in the warm stock. Chill a small amount of the stock to test its stiffness.
Remove all the wrapping from the galantine and discard. Set the galantine on a rack placed over a baking sheet. Keep chilled until needed.
During the decoration process, it will be necessary to return the galantine to the refrigerator in between steps to keep it chilled. Also, the room temperature should not be too warm, or the gelatin on the galantine will melt.
Place about half of the aspic in a metal bowl. Prepare two other bowls large enough for the first metal bowl to fit inside: in the first, fill the bottom with ice and cold water; in the second, fill the bottom with warm water from the tap. Place the metal bowl with the aspic in the warm water bath and stir until all the aspic is dissolved. Transfer the metal bowl to the ice water bath and cool the aspic, stirring constantly, until it becomes syrupy. If it starts to form lumps, reheat slightly in the warm water bath.
The two water baths are a simple means of controlling the temperature of the aspic.
Remove the galantine, with its rack and baking sheet, from the refrigerator. Brush a layer of aspic over the entire galantine and return it to the refrigerator to harden.
A flat, 5-cm wide paint brush works very well for brushing the aspic on the galantine. The brush should have soft bristles.
When the first layer of aspic is hardened, repeat with a second layer.
Prepare the vegetables for decorating the galantine.
The design and construction of the decoration is totally up to the chef. Use a variety of vegetables cut into very, very thin slices. Arrange the pieces to form a pleasing design.
Apply the vegetables for decoration. For larger pieces, brush the pieces with aspic before applying, using the aspic like glue. For small pieces, apply fresh aspic to the galantine surface and then place each piece in position. Use a toothpick or skewer to adjust the position of a piece if necessary. The fresh aspic should stiffen in place on the galantine relatively fast because of the chill of the galantine, but it also may be necessary to further chill the surface in the refrigerator from time to time.
After the decoration is complete, apply two more layers of aspic over the entire surface of the galantine to seal the decorations.
Add the reserved aspic to any remaining from the coating process and melt it in the warm water bath. When fluid, pour the aspic onto a baking sheet so it forms a depth of between 1/2 and 1 cm. Chill until solid in the refrigerator.
Be sure that the baking sheet is level in the refrigerator so the aspic solidifies to an even thickness.
Prior to serving the galantine, dice the aspic chilled in the baking sheet. To do so, make a series of parallel cuts in the aspic, spaced between 1/2 and 1 cm apart. Turn the baking sheet 90° and make another set of parallel cuts, also spaced between 1/2 and 1 cm apart. Slide a spatula under the aspic to release it from the pan. Break any clumps into individual cubes.
Place the galantine on a platter. Strew the aspic around the base of the galantine. Decorate the platter with parsley.
To serve, slice the galantine into 1-cm thick slices. Place a slice on each serving plate along with some aspic. Garnish with a cornichon and a small spoonful of Dijon-style mustard.
The serving plates should be chilled so the aspic does not start to melt before it is served. For a better presentation, make multiple, parallel slices in the cornichon and fan it out on the plate.
©2004 Peter Hertzmann, Inc. All rights reserved.