CHICKEN CORDON BLEU MY WAY.....
It's Retro Time...a dish which had it's most probable beginnings in the late 50's-thru the
60's. A time when American Cuisine was looking to borrow things from what was
formerly known as "Continental Cuisine"...meaning the Continent of Europe. I guess
the other continents were ignored. The JetAge also brought this world of Jackie O and
JFK, of Onassis, of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, of the Royal family of England,
of James Bond and Sophia Loren..remember? Everything European was "classy",
"refined", and that overused of words,"gourmet". This was the world I was a small child in .
(The time frame, not hanging with the Royals). Pan Am and it's building on Park Avenue
in NYC, the TWA Terminal (now the JetBlue Terminal) at JFK, the Seattle Space Needle..
these were the images in my head from those days...Airtravel was king, and very special and
it brought much of that European culture and cuisine to cities like N.Y. and others and then
would spread, in large part to TV and people like Julia Child to kitchens in the farmland and
the suburbs. This dish, Chicken Cordon Bleu was a creation of most likely American chefs
who wanted to recreate those Continental dishes from , well, the Continent. Cordon Bleu
is a French term (duh) which signifies Blue Ribbon, the ultimate prize, and is also the name
of the prestigious cooking school in France. This dish did not come from there. It is a
chicken dish that is similiar to the thin rolled, stuffed and fried dishes of Switzerland, France
and Italy. The chicken part is somewhat uniquely American. It's also a descendant of that
other 60's standard, the Chicken Kiev, a Ukranian and Russian/French fusion where the
chicken is rolled around cold herbed butter with shallots. I remember having one at the
original Russian Tea Room in Manhattan in the late 70's...Tony Randall was at the table next
to me. (I loved the Odd Couple TV show).
Being that yesterday was Bastille Day, even with my knowing that Chicken Cordon
Bleu is not something that a French person would eat, especially on Bastille Day..in mine
and most people's minds, it's French..Cordon Bleu, ok? So I made it. My addition to the
recipe that made me feel better about my Faux-French meal was Dijon mustard from France
in the filling. See, it's now French.
Pardon my lapse into the Italian world again,
but instead of the usual ham I used thin sliced prosciutto. For the cheese I used Gruyere (also
French, it's Swiss). Just so I'm not accused of being a recipe raider, this dish is always
made to the whims of the Chef as to what type of ham is used, and what type of cheese.
Boiled Ham and Swiss seem to be the most popular but be creative which other ingredients
which match that flavor profile. For 4-5 servings, I used 1 1/2 lbs of thinly cut and pounded
boneless chicken breast. Check out the picture though...the butcher didn't pound them the
way I wanted them done, I should have checked before I left the store. Normally I do that
part myself so I can control the size but last night I only had 1 hour to get dinner done, that
meant cutting out my usual "home" butchering. Anyhow, have them pounded (to 1/4 inch
thickness) and add one slice of cheese, then a few thin slices of ham/prosciutto. Spread
1/2 tsp. of Dijon over the top of this and then tightly roll up, tucking in the sides a bit to
create a little parcel.
Black pepper. Leave the salt alone, the prosciutto and the cheese are plenty salty for
the filling in this dish.
Gently dredge the parcels in flour. then into beaten egg, then into breadcrumbs taking
much care not to let the parcels unroll and open up... Line the finished breaded parcels
on a pan and chill for20 minutes. Heat 3 tbs. of oil in a large heavy pan and test the
readiness with a cube of soft bread..when it dances in the oil and starts to turn brown,
it's time to fry. Put as many rolls in as you can without crowding the pan. Leave room
between each one so the surface gets as much crisping as possible. Make sure to place
them seam side down. this will seal the parcel for you. After 4 minutes, turn and fry the
top. Again, about 4-5 minutes. Then gently roll each parcel on its side, then on the other
side..this creates a well sealed parcel. Remove the rolls to paper towels for draining.
Next, gently place them into a baking pan and heat the oven to 375. When you've gotten
to that point, heat them in the oven for 20 minutes. Let them sit uncovered for 8 minutes.
While they are coolin, in a sauce pan heat 1/2 stick of unsalted butter. Let this melt and start
to sizzle. Add 1 tbs. of sifted flour and stir well to prevent burning, then whisk in 1 cup of
Chicken stock. Infuse with some fresh thyme and Rosemary. Keep whisking while the
sauce begins to thicken. Season after tasting with salt and pepper if necessary. After
about 5 minutes, this will be a nice consistency for gravy. Whisk in 1 tsp. of dijon mustard
(see, it really is French) and cover the sauce so a film doesn't form on top. Serve the parcels
by placing them whole over a bed of rice, or sliced in 1/4 inch pieces, in both cases spoon
some of the sauce over the top and onto the rice. Delicious.
So to all my French readers, Happy Bastille Day 2011, and to all you foodie police out
there, just waiting to pounce on mis-information...I know it's not a French dish, but I made
it for Bastille Day anyway.
fresh herbs, like chives, thyme, and rosemary!