Chicken Cordon Bleu is a simple yet elegant weeknight dinner of tender chicken rolled around ham and cheese. Thank you Milk Means More for sponsoring this post.
My first experience with Chicken Cordon Bleu was when my mom served it after a particularly inspired night in the kitchen. She worked nights as a labor and delivery nurse at the time. Nurses/night shifts/pot lucks seemed to go hand-in-hand on the unit because labor & delivery tended to be hoppin’ at night. The rules were that everyone bring enough to food share and include the recipe. To this day, my mom still talks about how well they ate on that unit! In fact, when she copied several of our favorite family recipes onto index cards for our newlywed gift, we noticed that the majority of them came from her days working labor and delivery.
One of our favorite recipes has always been Chicken Cordon Bleu. My childhood-self was very concerned that blue cheese was involved in the recipe, which was a total deal breaker at the time. I was happy to discover that blue cheese was not “bleu” part of Chicken Cordon Bleu.
As fancy as the French-inspired name sounds, Chicken Cordon Bleu bears no familial ties with the prestigious culinary institute of similar name. Literally translated, cordon bleu means blue ribbon. In the middle ages, blue dye was rare and costly to make, thus making fabric of that hue an expensive luxury reserved for the wealthy. “Cordon Bleu” refers to a special order of French knights established by Henry III in 1578. The knights wore blue ribbons to denote their elite status. During the same period, highly trained chefs wore aprons tied with a blue ribbons. Since that time, the term “cordon bleu” describes the highest order of cooking.
Despite the name, Chicken Cordon Bleu is a uniquely American dish with more modern roots. The dish rose to popularity in the late 1960’s, although other variations existed world-wide. Chicken Cordon Bleu traditionally features thinly filleted chicken rolled with ham and cheese in the center, breaded, and fried.
Although the name Chicken Cordon Bleu sounds elaborate, it’s really fairly straight-forward to prepare. Chicken Cordon Blue is simply rolls of thin chicken breast fillets, ham, and cheese; the chicken rolls are breaded, dredged in melted butter, and baked until crisp outside and gooey inside. I remember feeling so sophisticated eating such a fancy looking dinner! My mom was appreciative of Chicken Cordon Bleu being kid friendly but still outside of the usual “kid friendly” dinners of spaghetti and meatballs, slow cooker sloppy joes, and shredded chicken tacos. As a parent, I understand the craving to eat something other than stereotypical kid food. Sometimes a fancier dinner makes it easier to relax and feel like an adult.
All that sophistication came with a price. I remember my mom spending what seemed like all afternoon in the kitchen preparing Chicken Cordon Bleu. The skinning/trimming of chicken breasts along with a good pounding with a meat mallet to get the chicken thin enough to roll took some time. Avoiding many extra steps by purchasing boneless skinless chicken breasts that are already thinly filleted is a real time saver. Look for thinly sliced chicken breast fillets at the butcher counter or in the meat case at the grocery store. That single time-saving purchase dramatically reduces the hand-on preparation time to about 15 minutes.
Chicken Cordon Bleu requires an hour start to finish, but much of that time being in the oven. With the shortened preparation time, Chicken Cordon Bleu a feasible dinner for weeknights when you’re craving a little sophistication.
Lighten up with this baked Chicken Cordon Bleu!