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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This may be more of a "you have some time on the weekend to make a special meal for some special people" kind of dish... but OH SO WORTH the effort! Effort may not be the right word, because there's nothing hard about this dish.. just, shall we say, "multi-step."

'Cordon Bleu' is a French term, literally translated as 'blue ribbon', that originally referred to an award for culinary excellence given to women cooks! The term can now apply to any superior cook (yes, men too), and also to this dish (chicken, ham and Swiss cheese slices, breaded and sauteed). 


  • 3 double chicken breasts (about 7-ounces each), skinless and boneless
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 6 thin slices deli ham
  • 4 large slices (Baby) Swiss* cheese 
    • Many recipes call for Gruyere cheese, but since it's around $16 a package, I had to go with Swiss!
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs 
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Step by Step Method:
These are my main cast of characters. 
This is the chicken breast splayed apart, but you can see that it's still thick and uneven in depth.
This meat pounder makes fast work of flattening the breast into uniform thickness.  It also tenderizes the meat.  This will also make the meat easier to roll and make it cook faster.  So this is a very important step.
I like to use a paint brush to do stuff like this.  It is totally dedicated to food use and washes well in the dishwasher.  This is the Dijon mustard. 
Add the ham. 2 slices.
Add a nice slice of baby Swiss.
Roll up the breast like a jellyroll.
Secure with toothpicks.  I also attempted to tuck in the ends.
Now for the crunchy coating:
2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves; chopped coarsely.
1 cup Panko bread crumbs.  2 tsp thyme leaves.
Panko breadcrumbs, kosher salt, pepper, thyme.
A nice big pinch of each
It gets kind of granular after the addition of the olive oil
2 - 3 tsp EVOO
Now the breading stations:
Chicken bundles, flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs. 
First, lightly flour the chicken.  This will help the coating adhere.
Secondly, dip in the egg wash.
Finally, roll in the breadcrumbs, pressing as you go.
These are now ready to be browned.
Allow about 4 Tbsp butter to come to a high heat.  You want the chicken to really sizzle when it hits the butter.  The butter will JUST start turning a bit of a color.
Allow the color to develop richly on the bottom before you turn them.  Don't move them around once you have them set in there.  This is important to "setting" that beautiful crust.
Turn and brown each side.
When browned on all sides, remove to a foil lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until internal meat thermometer reaches 160 degrees F.
Note - You may be wondering about the 160 degree temperature, if you have heard that chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees "doneness." In general, meats of any kind continue cooking from residual heat after being removed from their heat source. 

So to make chicken breasts (especially boneless) moist and not overcooked, I aim to cook them about 5-10 degrees less the desired temperature, then remove from the pan and let them "rest" on a plate (lightly covered) for another 5 or more minutes -- or under a warming light or something that doesn't exceed 165 F.  The carryover cooking will elevate the interior temperature to 165.

Now for the wine sauce.
This is what you do while your chicken is baking.  (and also, start your side dishes)
Add 3 Tbsp butter to a pan.  Allow it to melt and start sizzling just a little.
3 - 4 Tbsp butter
Add in the 1/2 cup dry white wine.  Allow it to reduce a bit.
1/2 cup dry white wine (using Pinot Grigio tonight)
Add the secret ingredient - a crushed up chicken bouillon cube.
Whisk together the 1 tsp corn starch and the 1 cup heavy cream. Add to the sauce.
Bring to a boil then turn down to medium and let it cook a while to get nice and thick and wonderful.

So right about now, the thermometer is beeping.  Take out the chicken and let it REST a good 5 - 7 minutes.  Don't worry, it'll still be PLENTY hot.  You don't want to lose all of the melted cheese.
Remove the toothpicks!!! Slice the chicken into rounds. Serve with the white wine sauce and a garnish of fresh parsley.
Serve with something acidic.  Here I have a wonderful dish of sugar snap peas with oven roasted grape tomatoes.
Tomatoes and Sugar Snap Peas:
Cut the tomatoes in half. Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried basil.  Roast in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes at 300 degrees.  They get sort of dehydrated and chewy and sweet.  You can add a tiny pinch of sugar in the last 10 minutes if you wish.  I do this at the beginning of my dinner prep and just allow them to sit out.
Par-boil the peas for about 8 minutes.  Drain them and add to a sizzling saute pan containing:  1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 clove freshly minced garlic, the zest of 1 lemon, a couple shakes of red pepper flakes.  when they are softened and married to the flavors of the oil, turn them off and add the tomatoes.  These are fabulous.  I promise!
Just look at how wonderful and crunchy and golden this crust is!  - and flavorful with the addition of the thyme.  The chicken is tender and juicy.  The filling creamy from the cheese and salty from the ham.  Yummmm! 

  • Careful about the amount of salt you add.  The ham and cheese both have a lot of salt already.
  • Choose side dishes that are NOT rich.  You actually want something with some acid in it to cleanse your palate in between bites of all this richness. 
  • This dish could easily be broken into multiple steps.  You could prepare the chicken bundles and freeze or put in the fridge to just pop into the oven after work.  The wine sauce could be made ahead of time and reheated before serving.
Pronunciation: ( Fr. kôr-dôn blœ')
1. the sky-blue ribbon worn as a badge by knights of the highest order of French knighthood under the Bourbons.
2. some similar high distinction.
3. one entitled to wear the cordon bleu.
4. any person of great distinction in a specific field, esp. a distinguished chef.
5. (of a dish made with thin slices of veal, chicken, etc.) interlaid or stuffed with ham and cheese and then sautéed: chicken cordon bleu.

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Want more Chicken recipes? Visit my Recipe Index  for more ideas!  Here are a few ideas to pique your curiosity:

Cream Cheese Stuffed Pear Dumplings

Roasted Green Beans

Stuffed Tomatoes

Skinny Mexican Pizza

Written Directions for Chicken Cordon Bleu:

menumusings.comPreheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the chicken open, turning as you go to make a large "sheet" of chicken.  Lay the chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Take care not to pound too hard because the meat may tear or create holes. "Paint" a layer of Dijon mustard on each breast.  Lay 2 slices of ham followed by a slice of cheese (2 slices if small) on each breast, leaving a 1/2-inch margin on all sides to help seal the roll. Tuck in the sides of the breast and roll up tight like a jellyroll. Squeeze the log gently to seal and secure with toothpicks or kitchen twine.  Season with salt and pepper.

Mix the breadcrumbs with thyme, kosher salt, pepper, and oil. The addition of the oil will help the crust brown. Prepare an egg wash with the beaten eggs and water.  The mixture will be really fluid. Prepare a breading "station" with the flour, egg wash, then breadcrumbs.  Lightly dust the chicken with flour, then dip in the egg mixture. Gently roll to coat in the bread crumbs, pressing to get them to stick.

These are now ready to be browned.  Allow about 4 Tbsp butter to come to a high heat.  You want the chicken to really sizzle when it hits the butter.  The butter will JUST start turning a bit of a color.  Allow the color to develop richly on the bottom before you turn them.  Don't move them around once you have them set in there.  This is important to "setting" that beautiful crust.  Turn and brown each side. Carefully transfer the roulades to a baking pan and bake for 20 minutes until browned and cooked through or until meat thermometer inserted into the center reaches 160 degrees.  Allow the breasts to rest several minutes so all the cheese doesn't run out.  Cut into pinwheels and serve with the wine sauce.  Garnish with fresh parsley.  

The wine sauce:  Melt 2-3 Tbsp of butter in a pan.  Add the white wine and allow to reduce slightly.  Add the crushed chicken bouillon cube or bouillon granules.  Mix/whisk the cornstarch in with cream and add to the sauce.  Allow to come to a full boil, then reduce heat.  Cook until it reaches the desired consistency and coats a spoon nicely.  Season with fresh cracked black pepper and a bit of salt.


  1. Hello! Just wanted you to know that the step in browning the chicken was omitted from the printable recipe. Love the pictures and since I'm a visual learner it helps! It's what's for dinner tonight!

    1. Oh how embarrassing! Thanks for alerting me to that! I went back and corrected the printable version. I, too, am a visual learner. You get the virtual "reader of the day" happy sticker! :) Hope you enjoy the recipe!!!

  2. How long do you keep it in the oven if you don't have a thermometer?

    1. Hmmm....

      I always use a thermometer, so that will raise many questions and depend on many factors that will be almost impossible for me to answer without me being at your home. Such as, are you making them ahead of time and refrigerating them? How thin did you pound them? Are you taking them directly from being seared to popping them into the oven? I would guess anywhere from 25-30 minutes, but definitely without a thermometer you will want to take one out and cut into it to make sure the juices run clear, and everything is golden brown.

      With a thermometer, you always have cooked chicken without it being overdone and dry. It takes all the guesswork out of the equation, and they are only about $20. Perhaps that's something you can put on your Santa list. :)


  3. I am making this right now although I apparently ran out of dijon mustard at some point and haven't restocked :/ I skipped the pan searing because I'm hungry and in a hurry. I am also a 50 something guy that is trying his hand at cooking LOL. Going to try some rice made with chicken broth as a side dish. Wish me luck!

  4. This sounds amazing. JUst a question if i don't use a thermometer how long do you think i would bake the chicken breasts for after browning them?

  5. oops i see above that my questions was answered sorry !

  6. About the Tomato and Sugar Snap pea recipe... I need help! My peas popped open in the boiling water, & both the peas and tomatoes were soft & smushy! The flavor was excellent so I would like to try them again. The only thing I seem to have done wrong is I bought cherry tomatoes mistakenly - rather than the grape. Perhaps I used a bit too much oil on the tomatoes. I have roasted veggies before, & never had this problem. You didn't list quantities of tomatoes, snap peas, or oil, so maybe if that made a difference. I used one container of tomatoes & 2 1/2 cups snap peas. I ended up not cooking the chicken, b/c my company couldn't come. Just as well, I need to perfect the snap pea recipe. I am however, constantly poking my fork into them, so I guess I can call that my dinner! Thanks for any help you can give me. Did you make up this recipe?

    1. I'm sorry for the delay. Somehow I overlooked this comment. When I boil sugar snap peas, it's only for a few (3-4) minutes. This post was years ago, but I believe the one in the photo were roasted. The grape tomatoes were also roasted. You may try a higher roasting temp for a longer time - or even broiling them to get a nice little sear on the top... but watch them carefully to avoid burning them under the broiler. I've done that, too. Ha.

      Yes, I made up this version of this dish. But there are probably thousands of variations out there. I need to make it more often, as it's always a hit. Great dish for company!

  7. Can the wine sauce be made without the wine—and will that change the flavor drastically? Having company and the wine is an issue I don’t want to guess on so I’m avoiding including it.

    1. Generally broth can be substituted for any wine. It may be a little different, but as your guests won't have had the other, they won't know it, right? ;)

  8. Question: how many chicken breasts needed for serving 15, or 20 guests? Also would sauteed squashes with a little red bell pair well with rice pilaf? What is your recipe for rice pilaf-do you add any type of veggie when serving cordon bleu? thank you in advance! Love your picture-step-by-step with your text recipe! <3

    1. For these really large breasts (with sides), I would easily say that a package of 3 breasts can feed 4 people once they are stuffed and sliced. So I think you could do 15 breasts (5 packages) for 19 people. You may do yourself a favor and grab one extra 6th pack just to be on the safe side. I always like to have a bit of an emergency back up (and know I'll have enough).

      Sauteed squashes with red bell pepper sounds lovely! My go-to rice pilaf comes out of a box. LOL! Sorry. But no reason to reinvent the wheel, right?

      Since this is a rich dish, I like fresh, long green beans (don't cut short). See my post about Lily's Maple Bacon Green Beans. And thanks for the compliment. Sounds like you are having a large dinner party. I wish you luck!

  9. Wow! My family absolutely loved this! Thank you!


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