Packed with Thai flavours and served with a simple and delicious broth, these rolled and stuffed chicken thighs make what I think is a light but gorgeous dish.
These moist bundles of chickeny joy are always popular when I serve them at dinner parties (remember those??), needing little more than some cooked rice or noodles and stir-fried greens.
If you have never made a ballotine (essentially, stuffed chicken rolled tightly in clingfilm to keep its shape before being poached), it is a very easy thing to do, it cooks like a dream and gives the most deliciously moist chicken.
You then pan-fry to crisp up the skin and add that gorgeous flavour you get with cooked meat.
The filling: Thai-style surf and turf!
The main filling here is prawn and chicken, flavoured with delights such as kaffir lime, ginger and garlic and blitzed to a paste.
I also made a simple filling of mushroom – only because I had mushrooms to use up: I simply blitzed these in a food processor with ginger, soy sauce and a touch of seasoning.
An alternative centerpiece for a roast dinner
Ballotines work equally well with a traditional UK-style stuffing, spreading the thighs with the stuffing (a sausagemeat stuffing you would normally have with a classic roast chicken) and perhaps a thin spreading of cranberry or redcurrant sauce before rolling up. I sometimes lay some spinach leaves in there, too.
They then roll up and cook in the same way as my Thai-style chicken ballotines and when served with accompanying vegetables of choice, pigs in blankets, gravy and cranberry sauce you have a deliciously alternative Christmas dinner or a roast for any occasion.
Allow one or, if they are small, two chicken thighs per person.
These can be rolled up and poached a day or so ahead (and then chilled), needing only to be pan-fried until golden-brown just before you are ready to serve.
Recipe: Thai chicken ballotine in lemongrass & ginger broth – serves 4
- 5 chicken thighs, boned but with skin on ideally
Chicken & prawn stuffing:
- about 100g raw king prawns, shelled and deveined
- meat from one of the chicken thighs
- 2 large kaffir lime leaves, centre stem removed
- 2” piece ginger, peeled
- 2 fat cloves of garlic
- 1 lemongrass stem, outer layers removed (keep for the broth)
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 red chilli, deseeded if preferred
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- generous pinch of ground white pepper
Mushroom stuffing, optional
- about 100g mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1″ piece ginger
- 2 spring onions, root removed
- 1 teaspoon sugar (brown, white, palm….)
- juice of 1/2 lime
- about 1 litre of light chicken stock or cold water
- 2 large kaffir lime leaves, shredded
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2” piece ginger, peeled and finely shredded
- 1 lemongrass, chopped finely, plus the lemongrass trimmings from the stuffing
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
- juice of half a lime
- finely sliced red chilli
- chopped spring onions
(1) For the chicken and prawn stuffing, add the ingredients to a food processor and blitz until you get a fairly smoothish paste. Transfer to a bowl. If making the mushroom stuffing, blitz for a few moments to give a fairly smooth paste.
(2) Take the chicken thighs and place them skin-side down onto a clean surface or a sheet of clingfilm. Spread a couple of teaspoons of the mushroom stuffing (if using) and then a couple of teaspoons of the chicken and prawn stuffing.
(3) Roll the chicken up fairly tightly and place on strips of clingfilm, each wider and longer than the thighs – one strip of clingfilm per thigh.
(4) Fold the sides of clingfilm over the thighs (this helps ensure a perfect seal before they get poached so there is no leakage).
(5) Roll up as tightly as you can away from you. Ideally chill for an hour or so to firm up.
(6) Place into simmering water for about 15 minutes before removing carefully. Set aside until needed.
(7) Unwrap the thighs (they will hold their shape beautifully) and heat a pan with a little oil. Add the thighs, skin-side down, and fry for about 2-3 minutes before turning and carrying on for a few minutes until the otuside is golden-brown. Rest for 5-10 minutes, which will make the carving easier.
(8) For the broth, add the stock, kaffir lime leaves and garlic to a pan and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer with the lid off until reduced a little. Add the ginger, lemongrass, sugar and fish sauce, put the lid on and simmer gently for about an hour before removing the lid and cooking for about half an hour or so until reduced a little more. Add the lime juice.
NB: if making this dish in one go, you can get the broth going once the clingfilm-wrapped ballotines are chilling in the fridge.
(9) To serve, carve the chicken thighs into slices and place into bowls. Spoon over the broth (strained or not) and a few spring onions and chillies.