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April in Paris/Cooking the Book Bonus Round!

2012 April 11

So yeah, it’s a mostly American invention from the 1960s, but what else says “an American in love with Paris” like chicken cordon bleu?

Plus, it gave me a chance to knock out another recipe from the book and still stick with the French(ish) theme for April, wink wink.

It’s something I’ve made before — a challenge in the original Kitchenette, as all that pounding, rolling and dredging requires some serious counter space. But this time was supposed to be different. No frying, no pounding. Intriguing. And it totally works (if you think you are going to miss the pounding out of the chicken, there is a bag of Ritz crackers to smash).

The Good

It’s not deep fried. We have our old friends Ritz crackers providing some of their buttery goodness (you may also remember them from the unstuffed chicken). And the crust turned out ah-MAY-zing. Better than fried actually, since the sheer extreme crispiness is not compromised in any way by grease. That, I believe is a big reason Mr. Kitchenette was such a huge fan of this one (neither of us were as hungry as we though we were once these were done, so we decided to just split one breast. And he asked for seconds!).

The chilling is smart and helps a lot with the keeping everything together while dredging, as does the rolling up of the cheese in the ham. I’m left wondering why no one ever told me about this in other recipes that require breading. Also, the mustard in the egg wash? Great.

The Bad

Perhaps our chicken breasts, because they came from happy chickens just weren’t big enough because they were absolutely bursting before I even made it to dredging and breading. In addition to risking the loss of a certain amount of cheese, it also means that the pretty swirl of chicken, ham and cheese doesn’t really happen. Maybe the solution is more careful breast selection (heh, says the 12-year-old boy in my head). Or instead of jamming two rollups in there, make one giant one with two slices of ham and all the cheese. Surprisingly, it did hold together pretty well during cooking (probably due to the chilling) and not too much cheese was lose to ooze while in the oven.

To bread something properly takes up a lot of space. I wish I had better small-kitchen advice for you on that, but it is what it is. In this case, worth it.

The Leftovers

Inspired by the earlier chicken sort-of-saltimbocca with roasted broccoli and my love of the recent Bon Appetit feature on one-sheet-pan dinners, I threw a pound or so of spring asparagus on the baking sheet when I moved the pan and turned down the oven. Drizzled with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, the timing was perfect. Recommended!

Also, I got a quarter pound of Black Forest ham at the deli and it ended up being the perfect amount for the four rollups with a little left over for me to have a hot ham and cheese for lunch later in the week. Just don’t ask for it sliced too thin — some of my rollups were bursting with cheese before I even got them near the chicken.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

From Cooking for Two, 2011

Serves 2

Ingredients

4 thin slices deli ham

4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

12 Ritz crackers, finely crumbled

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/3 cup unbleached flour

1 large egg

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

Method

Adjust oven racks to lowest and middle positions and heat oven to 450 degrees. Top each ham slice with 1/4 cup cheese and roll rightly. set aside. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Cut deep pockets in thickest part of breast and stuff each breast with 2 ham-and-cheese rolls. Season chicken with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss crackers and panko with melted butter and bake on rimmed baking sheet on middle rack, stirring occasionally, until light brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Let crumbs cool slightly.

Place flour in shallow dish. Beat egg and mustard together in second shallow dish. Spread cooled crumb mixture in third shallow dish. Dredge one stuffed chicken breast lightly in flour and shake off excess. Coat in egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off, the dredge in crumbs, pressing to adhere. Repeat with remaining stuffed chicken breast. (Uncooked stuffed and breaded breasts can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 24 hours.)

Bake on lowest rack until bottom of chicken is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Move baking sheet to middle rack, reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, and bake until chicken is golden brown and registers 160 to 165 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 18 to 24 minutes. Transfer and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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