When I was 4 or 5, my parents went on vacation to Hawaii. They had asked our young, newlywed family friends to take care of us while they were gone. One night, the wife told me that I could pick ANY dinner for her to make. I'm sure she thought I would say hot dogs or macaroni, but instead, I told her I wanted Chicken Cordon Bleu! I'm not even sure I knew what it was back then! Needless to say, she dutifully made it (I don't think I would have!) and it has been a favorite chicken dish of mine ever since. This is my favorite version because it doesn't involve any pounding and rolling of the chicken, and the sauce is to-die-for.
Chicken Cordon Bleu with Creamy Parmesan Sauce
*Serves 4 to 6
25 Ritz crackers
4 slices hearty sandwich bread, white or wheat
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)
Salt and pepper
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup all-purpose flour
Creamy Parmesan Sauce:
2 Tbs. butter
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2- 3/4 c. cream
1/2 Tbs. cornstarch
salt and pepper
1/4 c. fresh parmesan
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 dish. 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. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a deep pocket in the thickest part of the chicken breast, being careful not to cut through more than two sides. Stuff each pocket with 2 ham/cheese rolls. Pull the top flap of chicken over the rolls and press to seal. 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.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan, then saute garlic for a minute. Meanwhile, whisk together cream and cornstarch and slowly pour into the butter until smooth and thick. Add the cheese, salt and pepper and stir until melted. Drizzle sauce over cooked chicken just before serving.