Warning: This post may be a bit capricious. You have been warned.
A little fact about me:
I am a very competitive person. Not with other people though, with myself. I have learned to balance this with the realities of life as I have gotten older, but the fact still remains that I try to be the best "me" that I can. My mom always told me there was the easy path, the hard path, and then there was the path that I took, which wasn't really a path at all, but rather a thick overgrown forest that I would happily hack my way through, machete in hand. And she's right. If you tell me I "can't" do something, I look at it as more of a challenge. I like it best when the bar is set so high that I can't even see it. I'm a sick puppy, I know. Or maybe more of an Australian Cattle dog.
Don't worry this will all tie together in a bit.
Now onto the point of this post which is the Charcutepalooza challenge for October. I was wondering if this month the challenge would tie in with Halloween at all. After all, for July we had the opportunity to make hot dogs. After reading Mrs. Wheelbarrow's October Charcutepalooza post I realized it did. The challenge was stretching, as in "making the most of your meat and your skills in the kitchen." We were allowed to pick from rillettes, confit, a galantine, or a roulade.
I decided that I wanted to make the most of a chicken because I thought a galantine sounded the most kid-friendly of the choices I had. Let me quickly explain what a galantine is (this is the Halloween tie in, just so you don't miss it.)
First, you take a whole chicken. You remove the skin in one piece and then scrape the fat off. Next, you cut the now naked chicken into pieces, removing the meat from the bones. You take the bones and make a stock. Then you grind up the dark meat with some pig fat, turn it into a
Am I the only one who thought the first person to do this was a wee bit twisted? Not the type you'd want to run into on some dark alley in France after they'd had a bad day. Oh, and absolutely a competitive over-achiever. I decided to look into the history of this dish a little bit. It stank of something created for aristocracy. I had to know more.
A very brief, two sentence history:
According to Wikipedia The galantine was created by a chef of the marquis de Brancas. As in, Louis, marquis de Brancas, prince de Nasaro (1672- 1750).
It was decided, a galantine I would make. I looked over the recipe in Charcuterie: The craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by, Michael Rhulman and Brian Polcyn. The recipe looked good but then I had a thought. Does anyone remember those millifiori beads made out of fimo clay?
I got this picture here. It also has the directions on how to do it.
This is really how I think by the way. The designs made in these beads are accomplished by taking small rolls of the fimo clay, creating a design and then rolling it up into a larger cylinder. Then when you cut it you get the design. The galantine is essentially a meat version of a fimo bead. I wanted to play with that. I decided not to use the chicken breasts down the middle. Instead I thought I'd try cutting a pig shape out of Canadian bacon using a cookie cutter. You see, I was already raising the bar for myself. I also thought of two different ways to flavor my galantine using different fold-ins. I couldn't decide on one or the other and I wasn't going to make two galantines (that would be crazy right??), so instead of making two I decided to split the galantine in half. One side would have one filling, the other would have the second filling, and then I'd wrap it up in the skin in the traditional way and poach it in the stock (not crazy at all). It would be an epic success or an utter failure, my kind of challenge!
The first thing I did was cut the pigs out of the Canadian bacon. I needed to know I had this part right or else I was going to have to do the galantine in the traditional way and use the chicken breasts.
Mission impossible to mission success
Once I had my little piggies all in a row it was time to face the chicken. True story: I know how to piece a chicken. Fact: I have never tried to get the skin off of a chicken in one piece.
So there I was facing down my chicken with my just sharpened boning knife in hand. In my mind the chicken kept getting bigger and bigger and my knife kept getting smaller and smaller. This continued until the chicken had grown six more arms and was looming over me like some strange headless Kraken and my sharp boning knife had shrunk to the size of a pen knife. Then a voice came from the the land of twitter, "It's just a chicken". Oh yeah...it is just a chicken. Thanks Janis. The chicken returned to normal size. I removed the skin and patted myself on the back.
I followed the recipe from Rhulman and Polcyn's book with a few minor changes. The first was subbing in my Canadian bacon piggies. The second was the filling choices. I had some bacon and I wanted that to be a unifying flavor. But I had come up with two sets of flavors that both went well with bacon.
The one combination was oregano, chive, and sun-dried tomato. The second combination was rosemary, thyme, and fig. I hesitated with the fig...fresh or dried? I was worried that fresh figs might get too jammy when the galantine was poaching and make that half fall apart. But I had all my eggs in one basket for this challenge so I ignored that annoying little voice of doubt nagging me from the back of my head and continued on.
The next challenging part for me was rolling the galantine up inside the chickens skin. I may have used twice the amount of suggested cheesecloth to insure it's safety during poaching.
My Franken-mummy chicken creation
The cooking part went smoothly. The cooling of the galantine in the stock overnight in the fridge was a cinch. I could do that part in my sleep (hardy har har). The next day I invited over some friends for dinner to share my creation with. This was one of the most technical things I have ever done in the kitchen. I was a proud mama.
About two hours before our friends came over I decided to unwrap the galantine. I wanted to take some time photographing it in case there was a really good looking slice with that pig in the middle. That little voice in the back of my head was also pipping up again that I should check to make sure the fig side of the galantine had set properly. I really hate that little voice. Mostly because nine out of ten times it's right. This was one of those times. As I had worried, the figs had gotten too jammy and, while the sun-dried tomato half was nice and firm, the fig side fell apart as soon as I cut off the skin.
A friend said recently that some days you grab the bull by the horns. Other days you sit in the corner eating cookies and crying. I didn't have time for cookies so I cut off the fig side, put it in a pretty white container and called it pate. Hey some might call it failure, I prefer to call it ingenuity. The other half came out beautifully so I served that to our friends with a chickpea, sausage, and kale frittata and some scalloped cabbage from my garden. Dinner was fine. Jude inhaled his slice of galantine and cried that there wasn't anymore. I even got a good shot or two.
The little piggies came out perfect. The flavor from the Canadian bacon along with the other fold ins I put in took away any blandness that the chicken might have had. I would eat this all the time if it wasn't such a lengthy process to make it.
The "pate" tasted really good. It was unbelievably moist from the figs and the herbs complimented everything else perfectly. We ate it all week with crackers for lunch. Jude couldn't have been happier.
What I learned:
- Don't be a chicken when it comes to your chicken. It's just a chicken.
- If your galantine doesn't work out consider pate your new best friend.
- Cookies are great but grabbing a bull by the horns is a lot more fun.
Final confession: Even though the "pate" tasted really good there is a small part of me that is irked by the fact that it didn't come out the way I had intended. I know if I had used dried figs that it would have worked. I have plans to do this again to get it to come out right. Let me know if you'd like to come over for dinner that night. There might be cookies.