Cordon Bleu, the name is French for “blue ribbon”, is a cutlet of thinly pounded veal or chicken wrapped around ham and cheese, breaded and then pan fried or baked. While France, Germany, Italy and the U.S. claim to have invented different versions of this dish, food historians say that it first appeared in cookbooks in Switzerland in the 1900’s.
Think of Chicken Cordon Bleu as stuffed fried chicken and you can understand why this classic dish is now making a comeback…even to the family dinner table. With its crunchy seasoned breadcrumb coating, savory Italian rosemary ham and melted cheese, this moist and tender chicken dish will be a big hit when served to both friends and family. The nicest part about this recipe is that the majority of the prep work can be done early in the day or even the day before.
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, well trimmed
- 12 very thin slices of imported Italian rosemary ham
- 6 to 8 slices of Fontina, Gruyère or Münster cheese (I’ve tried several and personally like Münster as it melts well but doesn’t seep out during the cooking process)
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder to taste
- 2 eggs, beaten well
- 3 – 4 Tbsp. flour
- 1/2 c. Panko bread crumbs, depending on the size of the cutlets
- 1/2 c. Italian style seasoned bread crumbs, depending on the size of the cutlets
- 1/4 c. olive oil, depending on the size of the sauté pan
- 3 Tbsp. butter
Wash the chicken breasts, then place each one between two sheets of plastic wrap and carefully pound thin. Unwrap and spread each breast on one side with a light coating of mustard then season with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder to your taste. Place three slices of ham on each cutlet then top with cheese (it will take about 1 and 1/2 slices to cover each breast). Fold in the long sides of the cutlet and then roll up. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and twist the ends tight to look like a sausage. Refrigerate the rolls for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (Can be made ahead up to a day in advance).
Place the flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Take plastic off the chicken, skewering if necessary to hold tight, then roll lightly in the flour, shaking off the excess. Then dip into the eggs, then coat in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs so they stick. (Can be made to this point earlier in the day and placed on a rack on a tray in the refrigerator. If any wet spots have appeared in the crumbs at the time of cooking, dab with extra crumbs).
Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over moderate heat and when hot cook the rolls on all sides just until lightly browned (about a minute on each side). Then place on a rack on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
While very popular at dinner parties and weddings in the ’60’s and ’70’s, the dish lost its appeal as new food tends became popular in later years. As tastes have changed once again, Chicken Cordon Bleu is now true comfort food. Cut open its golden crispy crust and watch as the melted cheese slowly oozes out and you’ll know why the dish is worthy of a blue ribbon. If you want to gild the lily so to speak, you can serve this chicken with a sauce but it certainly isn’t necessary.
What makes this dish go from ordinary to one of the best chicken dishes ever is the quality of the ingredients used in its preparation. Please don’t use packaged boiled ham and cheese from the refrigerated aisle of your local grocery store, instead buy the ingredients from your deli where you can taste and purchase the very best and most flavorful ingredients available.