This dish is never served in restaurants anymore. It’s a total throwback to decades ago, and today it seems that it only appears at conference dinners at hotels. Nothing against mass produced hotel dinners, some of them can really be quite good, but unless a place is particularly reputed for their food, not many people usually walk in expecting much. However, when made at home using some great fresh ingredients this can be a really fun meal to serve – and because everyone’s experience with chicken cordon bleu of late seems to be mass produced hotel dinners, it’s a lot of fun to really surprise people with how awesome and elegant this dish can really be.
Yes, those are some vintage Gourmet cookbooks in the background there. It’s funny that the first cookbook I looked in for this recipe was in Gourmet, albeit my mom’s older version from 1972, and it wasn’t in either volume I or II! Maybe 1972 was a little too early for the heyday of chicken cordon bleu (whose name has nothing to do with the cooking school in Paris) – the earliest reference to it I can seem to find is from 1968 in the LA Times. Cordon bleu literally translates to “blue ribbon” implying best, or award worthy. It is related to chicken kiev (stuffed with garlic butter) or veal cordon bleu (veal stuffed with ham and cheese), but is an entirely American creation.
But no matter its origins, it’s quite tasty. But then, melted cheese and ham in just about anything, especially after being fried, is usually delicious Since I couldn’t find any cookbooks at my parents that actually had this as a recipe, my mom and I did this together to the best of her memory. It’s really pretty simple – tenderize chicken, roll with ham and cheese, dredge, and fry. Use of gluten free bread crumbs (either homemade or store-bought) makes this a super simple dish to adapt for the gluten free as well.
So get out your best polyester, and enjoy this classic 70s dish!
Ingredients (makes 6 rolls):
1.5 lb. chicken breast
1/4 lb. your favorite good quality sliced ham
1/4 lb. emmentaler or Swiss cheese, sliced
about 2 c. milk
about 2 c. GF flour mix (any kind)
about 4 eggs or so, beaten
about 2 c. of GF bread crumbs
dried sage, thyme, rosemary
a couple tbs. canola oil
1. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer (the side without the spikes), pound the chicken until it is thin and flat.
2. Lay the ham and cheese sliced on top of the chicken, and carefully roll them tight. Secure with a couple toothpicks. Be sure to keep the toothpicks horizontal or it will make things more difficult when frying.
3. Mix together dried seasonings with your bread crumbs to give them a little more flavor.
4. Place the rolls, one at a time in a bowl filled with milk, then flour, then egg mixture, then bread crumbs and set aside. Your hands will get messy. Depending on how thickly you coat things you may need more or less of these ingredients.
5. Heat up canola oil in a large skillet and fry the chicken rolls. To do this, we fried them for a few minutes on each side to make sure they were evenly cooked, and “sacrificed” one to check to make sure the chicken was cooked through when we thought they were done. Ok, it wasn’t really sacrificed, I ate it. It just didn’t serve as prettily because of cutting it open in the pan to check it.
6. Serve, and top with a spoonful of creamy béchemel sauce if desired. Enjoy!