Friday, May 26, 2006

Chicken Cordon Rouge

Disclaimer: While this dish is based loosely on Chicken Cordon Bleu, it is not actually Chicken Cordon Bleu. I make no claims that it is, and if there is already a dish out there called Chicken Cordon Rouge, I apologize. I just thought the name was funny, and it kind of fit the dish too.

Now, I realize that Chicken Cordon Bleu is classically made with some kind of white cheese, like swiss cheese or provolone. I also realize that it is usually made with some kind of ham, like prosciutto or something. These are not things that I often have in my kitchen (well, except for the provolone, but I was out). But I love Chicken Corbon Bleu, and I really wanted some. So I improvised. I have now made this dish several times, and I'm not yet tired of it.

The first thing you're supposed to do is take a chicken breast and pound it into submission, until you have a thin, tender sheet of white chicken meat that can be wrapped around something. In the case of Chicken Kiev, that something is a compound butter, usually containing things like parsley and lemon juice, and sometimes even garlic. In the case of Chicken Cordon Bleu, it's some kind of ham wrapped around a hunk of white cheese. In my case, well, we'll get to that. The point is, pounding out chicken breast like that is a pain, unless you really know what you're doing, and even then it's kind of a pain. So I cheated. I butterflied my chicken breast. I laid the breast on the cutting board, placed my palm flat on top (and out of harm's way), took a very sharp kitchen knife, and sliced the breast in half, leaving it connected all along one side. Suddenly, I was left with a sheet of white chicken meat that could be wrapped around something. I wrapped it around pepperoni and sharp cheddar cheese, because it is a sad day when I run out of either of those in my kitchen. Hence the name, Chicken Cordon Rouge (you know, because the pepperoni is red). You can use toothpicks to keep it closed if you want.

Next up, one needs to dredge the chicken in something, to make the skin dry. Some people use flour, some people use corn starch. I use tapioca starch, because it does pretty much anything corn starch does, and it's dirt cheap and the oriental market. In fact, it's slightly cheaper than corn starch, which is pretty cheap in the first place. Make sure you shake off all the excess, or else you'll be sad in the next step when you try to dunk it in egg wash (I use two beaten eggs, and I don't bother adding water for this kind of recipe) and the egg wash just falls off. Once it's coated in egg, toss it in a bag full of bread crumbs and get it all covered in them.

Now, you can buy bread crumbs. You could even buy panko bread crumbs. Sometimes when I need breadcrumbs, I'll leave a couple of slices of bread out for a few hours to dry out, or if I'm pressed for time, I'll dry them out in the toaster oven, and then toss them in the food processor for a few pulses just to get nice, jagged crumbs. Nowadays, I keep a CostCo-sized bag of croutons in my pantry, and just crush them up with a rolling pin, inside the same ziptop bag that I then use to coat the egged up chicken.

With the crumb coat on, put them on a baking sheet on a piece of parchment paper, or in a greased Pyrex pan, and toss them into a 350F oven until they reach an internal tempurature of 160F. I use a probe thermometer and set the temp alarm, but you can do what you want. When they get to temp (and only when they get to temp), pull them from the oven and let them rest. Don't pull the thermometer, or the chicken will start to spew forth its juices! The meat will continue to coast up to 165F or so, at which point you can serve it.

This stuff is pretty good. It's also a very American way to tear apart a classic French dish, in mockery of centuries of French tradition, and make it something much more accessible to not only the American housewife/husband, but also the picky American kid who refuses to eat things like Swiss cheese. Now if you could just find a way to make 'em eat their greens.

1 comment:

  1. This is something that I've made several times, and really enjoy.

    One thing that works well, instead of a butter type fat inside like real cordon blue or kiev, I use a slight amount of red sauce inside. The pepperoni already has plenty of fat, but the acid from the tomato is good. Just remember, only a tiny amount is needed, any more will just make it crap.


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