It wasn’t homemade bologna exactly. But it must been at least an upscale French first cousin. I suppose the term is technically mousseline forcemeat, but either way I was silently dreading it. Forcemeat. It just has an odd ring to it. As do caul fat and sweet breads.
Caul fat ended up not actually happening. But my utter disappointment was offset by learning to skin a whole chicken into one large, pale yellow, chicken-skin balloon: complete with dangling arm and leg holes. It seemed a bit like an as-seen-on-tv snuggie… only made of poultry instead of fleece. And instead of stuffing a toasty warm human inside, we had the pleasure of stuffing it with forcemeat.
The process itself was slightly labor intensive, but it demonstrated a classical French technique that every culinary student really needs to master. And, believe it or not, I thought it was quite fun! Most of my classmates would not choose the word ‘fun.’ But I’ll let them write their own versions if they’d like to convince you otherwise.
The whole purpose of the caul fat originally was to become a casing, or tube of sorts, to give shape to our chicken bologna. Caul fat is a spiderweb-like fat found in the abdomen area of cows. We have it too, but we call it mesentery. Ok, so we don’t really call it much at all.
But back to the chicken tube. Since we had chickens anyway, it made more sense to skin them whole and use the chicken balloon instead of caul fat for shaping. After skinning the bird, I removed the breasts and flattened them into thin cutlets. The remaining meat, primarily dark, was puréed with cream, egg whites and various other flavorings into a smooth, creamy poultry paste.
I know your mouth is watering already. At this point I made a comment to my partner that we should make this chicken paste truly classy by adding pimento stuffed olives turning it into a perfect loaf fit for two slices of wonder bread and an unfortunate kiddo’s lunchbox. At first he thought I was serious. After all, I was raised in the south. My former father-in-law swears fried bologna is one of the best things on the planet. But, alas. No olives or pimentos for us.
After coaxing the breast cutlets into a large rectangle atop the chicken skin balloon, I spread a long tube of chicken paste down the center and dotted it with fresh chives. We rolled it up into a huge sausage shape, covered it in plastic and foil, and twisted the foil ends like a huge piece of puréed poultry candy. But it gets better.
We boiled the thing until it reached the magical 165F chicken safety zone. Boiled chicken bologna. A little redemption followed, however, when were were allowed to remove the foil and plastic and crisp the outside skin in a hot pan. The crispy chicken tube was sliced into rounds- much like a cinnamon roll- and served warm with sauce. Traditionally, it should be served cold with soggy skin. Not really a winner. Classical, yes. Good eats, not so much.
But mission was accomplished and the technique was executed successfully. And honestly, it had incredible flavor and a rich, moist texture. And the same can be said for the accompanying veal sweet breads.
Sweet breads are the glands of young cows, usually glands in the neck and in the abdomen. I think this would include thymus and possibly adrenals and pancreas. And if you can get past the idea of glands- and the fact that they look like tiny brains resting comfortably on your plate- they weren’t bad eats either. Odd eats… but not bad.