Fighting the Ballontine (or ‘The Meaty Nightmare’)

I can not decide what to serve on Christmas.

This is not unusual – I can never decide what to serve on Christmas.

There are reasons for that (as there are reasons for most things). (Whether those reasons are reasonable or not is yet another question but let’s set that aside for the moment).

Ballontines keep popping into my mind this year.

Being plagued by thoughts of ballontines has kept me quite busy. I’ve spent many hours looking up recipes, all the while quite productively avoiding the kitchen itself.

Larousse Gastronomique, (1961 Edition) on ballontines:

This term describes a kind of galantine which is normally served as a hot entree, but can also be served cold.
The ballontine is made of a piece of meat, fowl, game, or fish, which is boned, stuffed and rolled into the shape of a bundle.
To be precise, the term ballontine should apply only 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.

A ballontine is not a galantine. There is a much different sense about it. There is actually something good and fine about a ballontine at its heart, whereas there is really nothing good about any galantine. Galantines are merely pride served chilled, glazed and decorated. They are ancient idiots, barking up the tree of pomposity.

A ballontine is better. It is an ancient idiot also – but since it is served hot, it is tasty.

There is really no good reason to make either one unless you are heading out for a voyage on a steamship and want to make something that will impress the other thousand guests which will also last for a good two months while everyone nibbles on it here and there all the while admiring the skill that must! have gone into making it.

Yet the ballontine is calling my name. Making one is like sitting down to write a novel in chapters – rather than just tossing off an essay here and there.

The last time I made one I could not stand to eat any sort of meat for more than a month. The boning of the duck, the pureeing of this kind of meat filling and that kind of meat filling, the chopping of the duck livers, the decorative slicing of the other several kinds of meat, the arranging of the duck skin to cover it all just so, the roasting of the bones and the making of the stock – it warped into a sort of meaty nightmare.

Couldn’t stand the sight or taste of pistachios either, since they had been dotted here and there within the ballontine.

Yet the ballontine is calling my name.
Never fear – I will fight it with all my might.


5 thoughts on “Fighting the Ballontine (or ‘The Meaty Nightmare’)

  1. I might start with that Friday cocktail you posted on your blog, MakeRoux. 🙂 🙂

    One, or two – would be a good thing I think!

    I should tell you that there’s something strange going on with the link to your blog from this comment, though – it goes to some other page.

    The link on the sidebar here works great, though.

  2. Ohhh! The link is messed up because I had too many cocktails, Karen! 😉 I can’t type whilst impaired!

    I do think I may need to concoct a special, layered cocktail in honor of your (possible) ballantinic efforts!

  3. Hmmm. Maybe I should plan an ‘everything layered or rolled up’ Christmas?

    The link thing did turn out to be an extra keystroke hit, Make Roux. I tried to re-set it but the other page had come to stay, so I removed the comment it was attached to – because I really think your blog is a much nicer place to visit than that other place. 🙂

  4. Ballontine reminds me of the french Guillotine- an instrument used during the 1700s-1800s for decapitation. Especially now that you’ve said: “Yet the ballontine is calling my name.
    Never fear – I will fight it with all my might.”

  5. It does have that sense about it, doesn’t it. 🙂

    There’s a great short story by Jim Shepard about an executioner, set during the time you mention. It’s called ‘Sans Farine’.

    Amazon has an excerpt – here’s part of it:

    My father, Jean-Baptiste Sanson, had christened in the church of Saint-Laurent two children: a daughter, who married Pierre Hérisson, executioner of Melun, and a son, myself. After my mother’s death he remarried, his second wife from a family of executioners in the province of Touraine. Together they produced twelve children, eight of whom survived, six of whom were boys. All six eventually registered in the public rolls as executioners, my half brothers beginning their careers by assisting their father and then myself in the city of Paris.

    My name is Charles-Henri Sanson, known to many throughout this city as the Keystone of the Revolution, and known to the rabble as Sans Farine, in reference to my use of emptied bran sacks to hold the severed heads. I was named for Charles Sanson, former adventurer and soldier of the King and until 1668 executioner of Cherbourg and Caudebec-en-Caux. My father claimed he was descended from Sanson de Longval and that our family coat of arms derived from either the First or Second Crusade. Its escutcheon represents another play on our name: a cracked bell and the motto San son: without sound.

    I read it in the Best American Short Stories series, but the story was originally published in a book titled Like You’d Understand, Anyway.

    An unforgettable story. And writing that sings. Worth reading!

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