People seem to think of chicken cordon bleu as one of those fancy dishes that is hard to make and should therefore only be enjoyed at restaurants. It is true that this chicken is not great when greasy, soggy, or dry–the three most common problems that it suffers. But my mom makes great chicken cordon bleu, and she told me the secret. First, fry the chicken to get the outside crispy, then bake it to finish the cooking process. Brining the chicken first gives it a little more flavor and helps keep it moist. I like rolling the chicken in Italian style bread crumbs to add another flavor, but I bet panko would work great, too. I like to mix up the cheese, I used provolone this time, but other cheeses are just as good–monterey jack, mozzarella, etc.
There are kind of a lot of steps to making this right, and if you are going to skimp, don’t bother. (Wrapping in foil and putting in the freezer helps hold the chicken in shape. If you are better than I am at rolling chicken, then you could skip this step.) You’ll just be disappointed when you are eating a soggy breast that is losing its breading. But, there is nothing particularly difficult to any of the steps. Just try not to mangle the chicken while you beat it. I can get a little carried away taking out my aggression, and that really just ruins a fine breast. So, remember it’s a chicken, not the head of your ex.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Recipe Makes 2 servings
adapted from my mom’s family cookbook Secret Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (tenderloins removed, fat trimmed)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
fresh cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil (plus more for frying)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
2 thin slices of ham
2 slices of provolone cheese
- Brine chicken in water with salt and sugar for 30 minutes.
- Place each chicken breast between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper. Pound with meat tenderizer until approximately 1/4 inch thick.
- Put breasts smooth-side down . Season with salt and pepper. Layer 1 slice of cheese and 1 slice of ham on each breast. Roll up. Wrap each rolled breast in foil with ends twisted (like a tootsie roll).
- Put breasts in freezer for 10 minutes.
- Remove breasts from freezer, remove foil, and insert toothpicks to hold the breasts tight.
- Beat egg with canola oil.
- Batter the breasts by dipping in egg mixture, then rolling in flour, then rolling in bread crumbs.
- Place breasts on wire rack on a baking sheet for 2-3 minutes to allow coating to dry.
- Heat about 1 cup oil in skillet over medium-high heat. (Oil is ready when splattering water in it sizzles.)
- Add breasts to oil and allow to brown for about 3 minutes. Roll breasts over so that each side turns golden brown.
- Put breasts back onto wire rack on baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until temperature reaches 155 degrees.