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Chicken Cordon Bleu

November 14, 2011

Chicken cordon bleu sounds like such a fancy french term, doesn’t it?  It’s almost intimidating, if you ask me.  So much so, that I don’t think I’d ever even eaten the dish until I met my husband, though I’d heard of it before.  But, my husband told me that the name, chicken cordon bleu, is just a fancy term for some chicken, ham and cheese.   What could be bad about that?

One taste and I knew he was right, nothing wrong with chicken, ham and cheese at all, baked together with some bread crumbs.  So, there’s no need to be intimidated anymore.

I’ve learned that chicken cordon bleu is actually an American creation.  With a name like cordon bleu, which means blue ribbon in French, you would have thought it was a French dish.  But apparently, this dish is an American play on chicken kiev and schnitzel dishes.  Someone just decided to put a fancy french term to the dish!

The ingredients are quite basic: chicken breast, ham, cheese, flour, bread crumbs, an egg, salt, pepper.

Start out with a chicken breast.  You want to pound it as thin as possible, without tearing through the meat.  Pounding the chicken breast serves 2 purposes: 1) it loosens the connective tissue and 2) it makes it easier to cook the chicken and the stuffing all the way through.  The easiest way to pound it is to use a meat mallet.  But if you don’t have one of those, you can put your chicken breast between 2 pieces of parchment paper or inside a large ziploc bag and use a heavy-bottomed skillet to pound it out.

Next comes the ham layer.  We bought deli thin sliced sandwich ham.  We used a couple of pieces and layered it on top of the chicken breast.  Another option you could use is proscuitto if you wanted to fancy up your dish a bit.

The final layer is the cheese layer.  Traditionally, chicken cordon bleu is made with mozzarella or swiss cheese.  It can even be made with blue cheese.  Since I don’t like swiss cheese or blue cheese, and we didn’t have big slices of mozzarella, we used provolone cheese instead.  I like the taste of provolone and it melts well when baked.

Now comes the trickiest part to the dish, trying to roll up the chicken breast.  Start from one end of the chicken breast and start rolling up into a tight roll.  Try and tuck the sides in as you go, and see if you can seal off the roll.  Once you get to the other end of the chicken breast, use a toothpick to stick through the roll so that it stays rolled up.  The hard part about this is that if you overstuff your chicken breast, it becomes almost impossible to roll since the stuffing is going to just want to burst out of the chicken.

Once you’ve got your chicken rolls ready, you’ll want to dredge the chicken rolls in flour.  Coating the rolls in flour helps the batter to stick on the chicken.

The batter is made with a combination of flour, egg and water.  You can add a little bit of corn meal to it if you want.  You want the batter to be on the thick side.  Remember, the batter needs to be able to stick to the chicken rolls while you’re baking the whole thing.  Here is also where you’re going to add some flavor to your batter.  Salt and pepper is always a good choice.  If you wanted a bit of a kick to your batter, you could also throw in some cayenne pepper.

You’ll want to dip each chicken roll into the batter and cover it thoroughly before transferring the batter-covered chicken onto a greased baking sheet.

Once the chicken rolls are battered and are on the baking sheet, the last step is to cover the chicken rolls in bread crumbs.  You can certainly make your own bread crumbs, but sometimes, using store bought bread crumbs is just easier.

Put the baking sheet into a preheated oven and let bake for about 40-45 minutes.  When it’s done, you’ll be able to smell it.  When you look in the oven, the chicken rolls will have a nice gold brown crust since the bread crumbs will have toasted and you may see some cheese oozing out of the sides of the chicken rolls.

When the chicken cordon bleu is done, take it out of the oven and plate it up.  It’ll be crunchy on the outside and hot, melty and a little salty on the inside.  The chicken will be nice and moist since it was encased in the batter.  Serve it to your friends and they’ll think you’re a genius in the kitchen.  No longer will fancy French words intimidate you in the kitchen!

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