Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This meal is definitely up there as far as "favorite meals" go. Sure, the classic chicken cordon bleu is a bit out dated. Sure, this dish could get a little bland and boring. But this one is a little different. Combining ham, and swiss cheese and crispy chicken is just a good idea. But with a few of the techniques this recipe uses it really pumps up the flavor. First the breading is not just boring old flour, instead flavored bread crumbs are used in addition to paprika. Then the breaded breasts are browned in butter to get a beautiful golden color as well as a nice buttery flavor, and lock in moisture. The breasts are finished in the oven and topped with a creamy herb sauce. I mean really? What's not to love? This meal is so, so delicious. It's fancy and easy. I really like making this when we have company over I can prepare the chicken up to the the point just before cooking it and then can refrigerate it until a half hour before meal time, that way I can prepare other components of the meal. It's easy and the best part is my guests always love it. Serve the chicken cordon bleu with wild rice and roasted asparagus and you have yourself one delicious meal.

Chicken Cordon Bleu


4 Chicken Breasts
1/2 pound of ham, thinly sliced
1/2 pound block of Swiss cheese, cut into strips

2 eggs
1/4 cup cream
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup butter

Cream Sauce:
1 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

Begin by pounding each chicken breast to 1/4 inch thickness. I place each breast between two pieces of wax paper and using a meat mallet or a rolling pin pound until the chicken is to my desired thickness. Be careful not to pound too hard or the chicken breast will just fall apart. Gently work it till it forms a large, even piece of chicken. Once it's flat if you need to flip the chicken so that the smooth side is facing down and the rough side is facing up. Depending on how large the chicken breast is place 2 - 3 slices of ham covering the chickens surface and 1 or two pieces of Swiss cheese. Fold the sides of the ham over the ends of the cheese and tightly roll the breast up. Secure in a roll form with tooth picks or kitchen twine (I find kitchen twine to be much easier to work with but whatever you have works fine). Set aside rolled breasts while you finish rolling the others.

Once all the breasts are rolled up prepare a breading station. In a shallow dish combine eggs and 1/4 cup cream and whisk to combine. In a second shallow dish combine bread crumbs, flour, paprika, and salt and pepper. Start by covering each breast at a time in the egg mixture and then the bread crumb mixture set aside on a baking sheet until all breasts are completely breaded. At this point if you want you can cover and refrigerate the chicken breasts until you're ready to cook them off, they can be refrigerated up to one day.

In a large skillet or wide shallow pot melt 1/4 cup of butter with 2 tbsp canola oil over medium high heat. Brown the chicken breasts in the butter/oil on all sides, not cooking through just getting a nice crust on the outside. Working with no more than two breasts at a time. Tongs are a handy tool when doing this step although a spatula could work too. Add more butter and oil as you brown if the pan gets too dry. If the butter or left over crumbs burn, don't worry turn the heat to medium and wipe out the burned bits in the pan if you so desire (fyi you'll want some left over butter and crumbs when making the sauce so don't get rid of it all, and whatever you do don't wash out your browning pan). Once all the breasts are browned place on a baking dish and bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into a thick part of the breast reads 165 degrees.

While the breasts are baking make the cream sauce. In the browning pan add the 3 tbsp flour to the left over butter. If there's not at least 1 tablespoon of left over butter in the pan add some and melt it. Create a roux, a paste like consistency out of the flour and butter, cook the roux for 1 minute stirring. whisk in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, finally whisk in the cream and allow to thicken over medium low heat for 5-10 minutes. The sauce needs to be the consistency of gravy, if it's too thick add a little more cream, if it's too thin mix a tablespoon of flour with a little cream to form a past and whisk that into the sauce, until it's the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and chopped parsley.

Serve the chicken breasts hot with cream sauce. Enjoy!

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