Chicken Cordon Bleu

I decided to watch one of my favorite movies again: Julie and Julia. I know it well enough by now that I can just put it on in the background while doing something else (like wedding crafts) and know exactly when to look up to see the actors making or eating food. Well, not that I watch the movie simply to watch people eating food…that’s kind of weird. I like the story and the movie really is very well done and I’d be willing to bet there are extremely few food bloggers who watch that movie and don’t feel happy and inspired after watching it. (I am of the majority who does feel happy and inspired).

And now that I’m sure I’ve portrayed myself as some weirdo who enjoys watching people eat food…I will tell you the next thought I had: I started daydreaming about attending Le Cordon Bleu. I like learning things. And I like food. And I love to learn things about food. But I don’t really have a desire to open my own restaurant or anything. I just want to learn. And cook. And I know that that can happen in any number of cooking schools, or even in an actual restaurant kitchen, and as I said, it was just a thought I entertain every now and again…

But anyway all of this reminded me of a book I own and have referred to on numerous occasions: The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn. As the synopsis will tell you, it’s a first-hand account of a woman who left her job in the corporate world and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Her writing is honest and entertaining and filled with meaningful anecdotes as she works her way toward the Grand Diplôme.

And in honor of the world’s most famous cooking school, after flipping through the recipes that Flinn includes in her book, I decided to make her version of Chicken Cordon Bleu. Which actually has nothing to do with the school other than the fact that they share a name. But it was a tasty way to spend a Friday evening.

Chicken Cordon Bleu (as described in The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry)

For the chicken:
2 chicken breasts, butterflied

– about 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
– a few slices of gruyere cheese
– a few slices of proscuitto or other ham

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking pan with parchment.

2. Spread about 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard on the inside of each butterflied chicken breast. Season with salt and pepper. Gently layer in the ham and the cheese. Gently fold the chicken back together and secure with butcher twine.

For the breading:
– flour

– 1 egg, beaten with a bit of water or milk
– breadcrumbs (I used fresh, from a leftover loaf of homemade bread; Flinn suggests panko)

3. Dip each chicken parcel generously in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs.  Place in baking pan and bake for 35 minutes (or until chicken juices run clear).

For the sauce:
1/2 cup white wine

– 1 cup chicken stock
– 1 tablespoon butter
– 1 tablespoon flour
– 1 cup cream, cold

*Note: This takes a while to come together so don’t delay making it.

4. In a small saucepot, bring the wine to a boil until it has reduced down a bit. Add the chicken stock and return to the boil. Keep warm.

5. In a larger saucepot, melt the butter and the flour together. This is your roux. Flinn suggests cooking this roux until it smells like popcorn. This was not a roux category with which I was familiar so I cooked mine until it was a lovely rich golden color, but not yet browned. This required whisking on and off for about 8-10 minutes.

6. Whisk the cold cream quickly into the roux so that it doesn’t catch. Whisk until warmed through, then add the warm stock/wine mixture.  Whisk together, season with salt and pepper, and let it come to a gentle simmer.

7. Ladle the sauce over the chicken (remember to remove the butcher twine, or forewarn your eaters).

Yes, well. Even I get lazy sometimes. A lovely sprinkle or chopped parsley or two lone chive stems would really finish the plate, wouldn’t it? But after a long week at work, the only thing Alex and I were thinking about was digging in. I was frustrated by the sauce, because I felt it was taking a long time to come together. But it was delicious. Perfectly creamy and quite complementary to the slightly salty filling that the chicken enveloped. Be sure to serve it with a crisp green salad and your favorite glass of white wine. An incredibly satisfying indulgence.

I remember that Arby’s once made a chicken cordon bleu sandwich. (Do they still?) I think I had it once. It may go without saying that I much prefer the dish in the manner that I served it. There are a number of things that you might stuff a chicken breast with (see for example this Chicken Florentine). But when you want something rich and filling, this is the way to go.

I wonder what did inspire the name of this chicken, if not the infamous cooking school (le cordon bleu translates as “the blue cord”). What would you name your own stuffed chicken after? Your street name? An immaterial object? A loved one? And what would be inside? Do tell. 


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