I know, I know, I just posted a variation on the chicken cordon bleu with this fantastic casserole. But since making it, I determined in my mind to conquer the authentic cordon bleu also…for two reasons. 1) Because I never have successfully made an attractive chicken cordon bleu and 2) I think chicken cordon bleu would be a wonderful Easter menu item.
I’ve always struggled in the past to make chicken cordon bleu turn out edible-looking. I flatten my chicken breasts (usually too much so that there are holes and it is paper thin), layer the cheese and ham inside and then I begin the process that makes me want to pull my hair out. With icky chicken covered fingers. Where some people can finish with a neat little bundle, my chicken cordon bleus are lumpy and punctured with at least 23 toothpicks to keep everything together. It is such a frustrating process that I’ve given up.
Thankfully Cook’s Country came out with a clever version of how to stuff this classic dish and it peaked my interest. The shredded swiss cheese is rolled up in ham slices and then gently tucked inside a pocket cut into the chicken. The chicken is crusted in buttery bread crumbs and crackers and baked perfectly. For once – my cheese didn’t erupt into a volcanic mess on the baking sheet. It stayed put just where it needed to be – inside the chicken and the result was perfection. The chicken was tender and juicy, the crunchy bread crumb crust was delicious and the ham and swiss cheese was salty and creamy.
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Note: To make sure the cheese doesn’t leak out of the chicken while baking, use large (at least 8-ounce) chicken breasts and chill the stuffed chicken breasts in the refrigerator before breading.
Make-Ahead Tip: The breaded chicken can be refrigerated covered for up to 1 day.
- 25 Ritz crackers (I used whole wheat crackers and loved the extra nuttiness)
- 4 slices hearty sandwich bread, white or wheat (again, used homemade wheat bread and it was hearty and delicious)
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 8 thin slices deli ham (about 8 ounces)
- 2 cups shredded swiss cheese
- 4 thick boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds total), see note
- Salt and pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pulse the crackers and bread in a food processor until they are coarsely ground. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse to incorporate together. Transfer the crumbs to a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the crumbs are lightly browned. Transfer the crumbs to a shallow baking dish (a pie plate works great!). Leave the oven on.
- Top each ham slice with about 1/4 cup shredded cheese. If your ham slices are too small, shingle two ham slices on top of each other to create a larger slice and roll the cheese up in that. Roll tightly and set aside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Following the pictures below, cut a pocket in the thickest part of the chicken breast and stuff each pocket with 2 ham/cheese rolls. Pull the top flap of chicken over the rolls and press to seal (you can use a toothpick to gently secure the pocket edge, if you like). Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the stuffed chicken, covered, for at least 20 minutes.
- In another shallow dish or pie plate, beat the eggs and mustard. Place the flour in a third shallow dish. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Working with one stuffed chicken breast at a time, coat the chicken lightly with flour and then dip in the egg mixture, covering both sides. Dredge the chicken in the toasted bread crumbs, pressing lightly to help the crumbs stick to the chicken. (The breaded chicken can be refrigerated covered for up to 1 day.)
- Transfer the chicken to a lightly greased rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven until the bottom of the chicken is browned, about 10 minutes. Move the chicken to a middle rack in the oven, reduce the temperature to 400 (you don’t have to leave the chicken out of the oven while the temperature adjusts, just put it back in the oven and then reduce the temperature), and bake until golden brown and the chicken is cooked through (160 degrees on an thermometer), about 25-30 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe Source: slightly adapted from Cook’s Country April/May 2010
Cut into the thickest part of the chicken breast to make a deep pocket. Be careful not to cut to far over to the edge that needs to stay intact. The opening of the pocket should be three to four inches.