Contrary to what you might think, Chicken Cordon Bleu and its relations are not of French origin. French-inspired, yes. But as near as anyone contends, this preparation is a rather recent invention. Some trace its origins to 1940s Switzerland, although the first mention of Chicken Cordon Bleu in print, specifically, turns up in the New York Times, circa 1967.
Cordon Bleu, French for blue ribbon, combines characteristics of schnitzel—a breaded and fried cutlet—with those of roulade, a filled-and-rolled meat-and-cheese package that is fried, deep-fried, or baked.
At its most basic, Chicken Cordon Bleu is a breast cutlet that has been pounded thin and layered with a slice of ham before it is rolled around a nugget of either Swiss or Gruyere cheese, secured with toothpicks, and breaded. Veal Cordon Bleu simply substitutes a veal cutlet for the chicken, but its preparation is identical in all other respects.
Variations of this fundamental construct abound, the most notable of which is Chicken Kiev in which the flattened chicken breast is wrapped around a core of garlicky compound butter then is baked or fried.
When Making Cordon Bleu
If preparing in a frying or sauté pan, the cordon bleu is cooked until brown and the bread crumbs have turned crispy. At this point, remove the chicken bundles from the pan. Add some diced shallots and cook on medium heat until translucent. Add some chicken stock and white wine; raise the heat and reduce the pan juices to about half, or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Finally swirl in a pat or two of butter until thoroughly incorporated.
All that’s left to do is return the bundles to the pan, lower the heat to medium and let the cordon bleu cook in the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, spoon some sauce on the the plate and place the cordon bleu in the middle of the sauce.
A crisp, white wine (the one you cooked with), a sprightly spinach and orange salad, some roasted asparagus spears, and rice pilaf are all you need to complete a meal worth remembering.
Do you DIY your cordon bleu or do you buy it pre-assembled? Do you prefer veal or chicken cordon bleu? What wine do you pair with it? Favorite accompaniments?