What I recall first is the warm runny melting cheese. I was young, very young. My memory tells me I was on a school exchange program, and I was staying with a family in Portbail, in western France. The memory is vivid to me as it was that first introduction to this style of French cuisine.
I can’t remember the host lady’s name or much about my time there, what I can remember is being bowled over by the impact of her cuisine on my taste buds, and the flavour, quality and presentation.
Every time I make this dish now, I recall that initial experience and the joy it brought to me.
Here is what you will need:
Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 large chicken skinless breasts
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
Pinch salt and pepper
500 grams Havarti, sliced
300 grams classic ham
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups canola oil
4 eggs beaten
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs, (seasoned is best)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ cups cheddar cheese grated
Pinch slat and pepper
The how to:
Wash the chicken pieces, then pat semi-dry with paper towel, place in a large bowl. Sprinkle the garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper over the chicken tossing gently to ensure an even spread.
Using a chopping board cut a piece of Saran wrap and place on the board, then a piece of chicken, cover with a second piece of Saran wrap. Pound flat to roughly 1/3 inch thick. Repeat this exercise for the remaining pieces.
Cut a piece of Saran wrap and place once again on the chopping board. Place a piece of now pounded chicken on top of the wrap. Now the fun part, place slices of cheese then ham evenly across the flattened surface of the chicken, two deep should do the trick. Once completed, roll the chicken carefully keeping a tight fit. Wrap the finished piece tightly, and seal with Saran wrap. Repeat this exercise for the remaining pieces of chicken. Once all pieces have been compiled, place inside the fridge for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours.
Place three large plates on the countertop. On one plate put the flour and on the second your beaten egg mixture, and on the final plate the breadcrumbs. Remove the chicken from the fridge and remove from the wrap. Roll one at a time through the flour, then the egg then the breadcrumbs. I tend to repeat this two times, as I like a good crust on my chicken. Repeat this exercise for the remaining pieces.
Using a deep pan, place canola oil in and bring to a high heat. Carefully place inside the pieces of ‘cordon bleu’ and fry on both sides for five minutes. Then place all pieces on to a baking tray and in the oven on 350° F for 20 minutes or until the temperature inside reaches 170° C. Remove from oven.
Place a saucepan on the stove on a medium to high heat, add the butter. Once melted add the flour and stir, then the milk. Stir constantly until it starts to boil and has thickened. Remove from heat add salt and pepper, mustard, and grated cheese. Return to heat and stir until all the cheese has melted through the sauce.
Serve with your choice of salad or vegetables. It’s a treat. Enjoy.
Ian Leatt is general manager of Pegasus Publications and a trained chef.