Saturday, August 28, 2010

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu

Ham & cheese is a favorite sandwich filling, which many kids are enjoying these days at the start of the new school season. It happens to be my favorite too and the best ham & cheese sandwich I've ever had was on the streets of Paris. Nothing beats slightly salty jambon (ham), along with smooth, buttery emmenthaler cheese tucked into a warm, toasty baguette that has been kissed with a touch of Dijon mustard and European butter. Heaven. Well, imagine the same components of this French ham and cheese sandwich paired with a juicy chicken breast. That, my friends, is what's best known as Chicken Cordon Bleu. It can be time consuming to prepare a traditional Chicken Cordon Bleu, but this simplified Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu is one that's quick to make and just as delicious...

Chicken Cordon Bleu may seem like a fancy dish since traditionally, it consists of ham and Swiss cheese stuffed into a chicken breast, which is then coated and baked. Preparing it can be time consuming and messy. But this recipe avoids all that. Instead of stuffing these ingredients in the chicken breast, they are laid on top and baked. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is seasoned and browned before placing in a baking dish. Each chicken breast is brushed with Dijon mustard before slices of ham and Swiss cheese (preferably Gruyere or Emmenthaler) is laid on top. For that crunchy coating, crushed butter crackers are sprinkled over the adorned chicken. To finish off the dish, a creamy white wine and tarragon cream sauce is made and everything bakes up to perfection. I served this over a bed of baby spinach and portobello wild rice pilaf.


Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu
recipe from America's Test Kitchen

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
fresh tarragon
8 slices deli ham
1 cup shredded or thinly sliced Gruyere, Emmenthaler or deli Swiss cheese
16 butter crackers (Ritz), crushed coarsely


Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and heat over to 475 degees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt & pepper to your tastes. Heat oil in a large skillet (such as a cast iron one) over medium high heat until just smoking. Brown chicken, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a 13x9 baking dish.

Add cream, wine, 2 teaspoons of mustard, and tarragon to the now empty skillet. Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper to your tastes and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, spread the remaining mustard over each browned chicken breast, lay 2 slice of ham on top and mound over each breast 1/4 cup of shredded cheese or a few slices of cheese. Sprinkle the cracker crumbs over the cheese, pressing to adhere. Pour the pan sauce around the chicken without disturbing the crumbs. Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken registers to 160 degrees, about 15 minutes.