Beat the Weeknight Bleus With This Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Recipe
This weeknight take on a nostalgic classic chicken dish is stuffed with ham, cheese, and ... shortcuts! It’s ultimate family comfort food.
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This is not only the first chicken cordon bleu recipe I’ve ever made; it’s the first chicken cordon bleu I’ve ever eaten. Despite the popularity of the dish, I didn’t grow up with it, so it simply wasn’t a thought that’s ever crossed my mind. My husband, however, loves the stuff. I figured I would indulge him. Besides, there’s something a bit nostalgic about this old school recipe for crumb-coated stuffed chicken, so I can appreciate my husband’s sentimental affection.
I looked around at different recipes, and was surprised how different they were. While the ingredients were all pretty similar, the prep steps for several of the recipes were fairly involved, calling for plastic wrap, pounding chicken cutlets, rolling roulades. With convenience in mind, I decided on this easy Weeknight Chicken Cordon Bleu. It skips quite a few steps other recipes call for, but totally delivers a cozy, comforting dish after a long work day.
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Ingredients for chicken cordon bleu
Chicken cordon bleu is chicken breast stuffed with thin slices of deli ham and a Swiss cheese like Gruyere or Emmental. It’s coated in breadcrumbs and cooked until crispy on the outside and gooey in the center.
Choosing the right chicken
Chicken cordon bleu is made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Many recipes require pounding thick chicken breasts into thin cutlets before stuffing them and rolling them up. This easy chicken cordon bleu recipe starts instead with smaller chicken breasts, 6-8 ounces each. The smaller size means skipping the pounding. Simply cut a pocket in each breast and stuff. No need to wield a meat mallet on a Wednesday night!
It can sometimes be tricky to find smaller chicken breasts. The chicken breasts in the styrofoam trays at the grocery store often clock in at nearly a full pound each. Check the meat counter. They’ll often have a variety of sizes, and you can ask them specifically for the smallest ones in stock.
How to stuff the chicken
Inserting the ham and Swiss cheese inside the chicken breast; photograph by Meleyna Nomura
Starting at the thicker end of the chicken breast, use a sharp knife to cut a slit parallel to the cutting board. Open up the chicken and continue making shallow cuts, continuing to open up the chicken until left with a small “hinge” along one of the longer sides.
Place the Swiss cheese on top of the slice of ham and roll it up to form a neat package. Rolling the cheese into the ham helps prevent it from oozing out while cooking. Stuff the parcel of ham into the piece of chicken. Fold the chicken over the top, and secure with toothpicks. Repeat with remaining chicken, ham, and cheese.
Easy two-step breading process
Photograph by Meleyna Nomura
Traditional chicken cordon bleu calls for a three-step breading process. First, the chicken is dredged in all-purpose flour, coated in egg, and finally covered in breadcrumbs. It dirties a lot of dishes, and generally makes a bit of a mess.
This easy Weeknight Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe cuts the breading process down to just two steps. The chicken is given a good coating in a mixture of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, paprika, and black pepper. It’s then rolled around in a shallow bowl of panko breadcrumbs until completely covered in crumbs.
Baked vs. fried chicken cordon bleu
This baked chicken cordon bleu is so much easier than pan frying. Instead of calling for a pan full of oil, a quick spritz of cooking spray over the chicken is all that’s needed to get a golden brown coating. To further aid crisping, the chicken is baked on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. This allows for greater airflow around the chicken, helping to avoid soggy bottoms.
Not pounding out the chicken breasts saved time, but one side will be much larger than the other. The breaded chicken is added to the cooling rack with the larger ends all facing the same direction. Position the thicker ends at the back of the oven while it bakes. It’s hotter there, directing more heat where it's needed.
Finally, the chicken is baked at a hotter temperature in the bottom third of the oven, then moved to a higher rack at a lower temperature to cook through. This two-step process is what ensures brown, crispy crumbs all over and a cheesy interior that has melted all the way through.
The hands-off cooking time in the oven is also just easier to manage during busy weeknight evenings. That pocket of time is perfect for putting together a salad, helping a kid with homework, or just taking a few minutes to catch up and have a conversation with a family member.
What sauce goes with chicken cordon bleu?
Chicken cordon bleu is sometimes served with a mustard or cream sauce. This easy Weeknight Chicken Cordon Bleu doesn’t include a sauce. The mustard-mayonnaise mixture in the coating adds moisture and more flavor than the typical flour and egg mixture. But, if you would like a sauce for dipping, you can make extra of the mustard-mayonnaise mixture. Reserve some on the side before you spread it over your chicken. (You don’t want to put sauce on your dinner plate that’s touched raw chicken!)
Get the recipe: Weeknight Chicken Cordon Bleu
While this may have been the first time I made chicken cordon bleu, it certainly won’t be the last.
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