Ballotine is a cooking term used to describe a method of cooking and presenting meat. “Ballotine” in French means parcel or bundle, and that’s what this is — a bundle of meat.
The meat you start with must be boneless, and flattened — it can be meat, poultry or fish.
Chicken breasts usually need to be boned, skinless, and pounded to flatten them slightly. When a whole fowl is used, it is sometimes deboned, wings and legs removed, but skin left on, then stuffed and rolled up with the skin outwards to protect it during cooking.
The piece of meat is laid out, then has a stuffing laid on it, then it’s rolled up like a jelly roll (aka Swiss roll) and tied, then cooked.
The stuffing can be anything, including other meat.
A Ballotine can be served hot or cold; but usually hot.
Literature & Lore
“The pièce de résistance of our meal would be a ballottine of veal: veal that has been stuffed and rolled into the shape of a log and served hot with a luscious sauce…. we prepared an elaborate veal forcemeat that included quite a generous bit of foie gras, mushroom duxelles, Cognac, Madeira, and blanched chard leaves which would be used to make a nice pattern. We then stuffed the veal with the forcemeat, tied it up ever so neatly in its clean poaching cloth…. The ballottine, poached in the spectacular veal stock and then allowed to linger in it a while to enhance the flavor, was an immense success with its truffled sauce.”
— Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme. My Life in France. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2006. Page 91-92.
“Ballot” in French means “bundle”; adding “-ine” at the end adds the meaning of “little”. “Ballot” itself comes from the French verb “ballotter”, meaning “to roll around”.
Also spelt “Ballottine” with two t’s.