About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu

It was Kathryn and my wedding anniversary yesterday (29 years!) and, like any good husband, I'd asked her where she wanted to go for a nice dinner.  Like any cook's wife, she responded "The place I like to eat best is home, with your cooking". (ain't that sweet?)
So, of course the next question was "So, what would you like me to make?".  Without a moment's hesitation she said "Chicken Cordon Bleu".
I can almost hear your incredulous grunts and see your eyes roll.  "What?  That hackneyed old diner stand-by?"  Well, yes AND no.
Chicken Cordon Bleu, while French-sounding by design("cordon bleu" means "blue ribbon" in French), is a dish of breaded chicken breasts with ham and cheese that originated in the1960s in the United States.  It was quite popular on restaurant menus through the end of the 20th century and the basic flavor combination retains a following as is evidenced by the Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwiches etc that still pop up on fast food restaurant menus from time to time.  The U.S. even "celebrates" a National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day (it was on April 4th this year and now MY eyes are rolling).
The Chicken Cordon Bleu that Kathryn was requesting was one I'd made for her in the past and while classic in style and presentation, it is made exceptional by being able to use all ranch made and grown ingredients in its preparation. 
Another of what we like to call our "meals that are years in the making" I made this one with chicken breasts from birds we'd raised and butchered ourselves.  The ham isn't wasn't just "ham" but Capocola, a rich and spicy ham we cure and smoke right here from hogs that we've grown-out primarily on cheese whey and butchered here on property. I'd made the Swiss cheese for the dish  last winter from our own goat's milk. The veloutè sauce was made from the chicken stock I'd made and frozen when we butchered and processed the meat chickens last fall, I'd baked the bread I processed into bread crumbs for the coating, and even churned the goat's milk butter that the Cordon Bleu's were sautéed in.  It just doesn't get any more "home-made" than that!
Here's my process for making Chicken Cordon Bleu...
Sandwich each chicken breast between sheets of plastic wrap.
Gently flatten each chicken breast to 1/4" thick, or a little thinner

Like this

Remove the top piece of plastic wrap.
Lay pieces of thinly-sliced ham on the breast.
I used about 3 oz per breast

Make a cylinder out of 2-3 oz of grated Swiss cheese.

Fold about a third of the breast over the fillings.
Use the bottom plastic wrap to help you work.

Fold the ends up.

Continue rolling until the breast meat completely encases the fillings.
Repeat with remaining breasts

Wrap individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate to firm up

Basic Breading Procedure
Dredge each Cordon Bleu in well seasoned flour, then...

Thoroughly coat each Cordon Bleu in beaten eggs, then...

Coat each Cordon Bleu well with fresh bread crumbs.

Chill thoroughly.

Saute each Cordon Bleu in butter over medium heat to set the crust
and brown nicely on all sides.
Do not overcrowd the pan.

The Cordon Bleus will still be quite under-cooked at this point.
Refrigerate until about 40 minutes before serving or move directly to the next step.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven (350 degree convection oven)
until properly cooked all the way through and the cheese is melted
(about 145F chicken temp, 120F cheese center temp)
This took about 30 minutes in my oven.
Let sit at room temperature for a couple of minutes before plating.

Slice the Cordon Bleus into about 1/2" sections and arrange on plates
with accompaniments 
(in this case Saffron Rice and Zucchini Provencale)
Nape with a little chicken veloute sauce
(lightly thickened blond chicken stock)

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