Chicken Cordon Bleu

The origins of this dish are most often attributed to French cuisine – but there are also arguments that it was developed in the US to mimic other European stuffed meat dishes (such as Chicken Kiev and saltimbocca alla Romana), and given the name (meaning Blue Ribbon Chicken) to suggest a more continental culinary heritage.  While there are variations, it is most often found as a thinly pounded chicken breast rolled around a filling of ham and cheese, then breaded and fried or baked.

Our kids both were big fans of Chicken Cordon Bleu before we adopted the Primal lifestyle, and any favorite food that you can “carry over” when making the switch becomes an aid in successfully getting them on board too.  The issue here is that traditional Chicken Cordon Bleu recipes contain a handful of ingredients that aren’t welcome in our Primal meal plan – namely wheat flour and bread crumbs for their gluten content.  Because we do indulge in occasional dairy intake (mostly cream and butter, but also a limited amount of cheese, and from grass-fed sources as much as possible), we modified our recipe by substituting the traditional flour and bread-crumb breading with coconut flour and almond flour.  And the kids never even noticed the switch!

Gather up:

  • 4 large chicken breast halves, skinless and boneless, fully thawed
  • ~1/4 lb extra-thin slices of ham – I use the Boar’s Head All Natural smoked uncured ham, or for a more “continental” flair, you can try prosciutto
  • 6~7 thin slices of gruyere, Swiss, muenster, or provolone cheese
  • dash of sea salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1-1/2 tbsp EVOO
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp water

Get the oven heating up to 350 degrees.  Start out by laying a chicken breast, skin side down, on a cutting board.  Spread a piece of plastic wrap over it, and then proceed to beat it with a meat mallet.  Not too hard though – we’re looking to coax the meat out into a uniform thickness of about 3/8″ or so, not take out the aggressions of sitting in traffic for an hour and a half on I-5 to get home.  Take soft, controlled, hits at the thinner part of the breast and work your way up to a little harder when dealing with the thickest part.  You can also “rub” it with the face of the mallet to spread things out a bit.  We don’t want any holes in it, which will happen if you’ve a) not fully thawed it before starting or b) beat the tar out of it.

The result should look something like this.  Transfer this to a plate, then continue with the other three breasts.  Take a second to recollect your breath now – the hard part is over.

Arrange all of the flattened breasts across your cutting board/prep surface, then wash your hands before handling the remaining ingredients.

Arrange 1 to 1-1/2 slices of cheese on each chicken breast, leaving some room around the edges.

Next, arrange the sliced ham on top of the cheese.  I have mine sliced about as thick as heavy paper, so I usually lay out two layers of ham on top.

Next I realized I had bought some shiitake mushrooms when I was picking up the ingredients for this recipe with the intent of throwing them in as well.  Actually, I really wanted to use chanterelles or morels, but they only had dried at the store and I wasn’t about to drop $10 for 1/2-oz of dried mushrooms to bury them inside a chicken breast, so I settled.  Slice them up thin, then arrange them over top of the ham.  Notice that one of them is missing mushrooms – that’s the one for the kids.  Don’t lose track of it!

Next, roll up the breasts tight – starting with the small end, and “tucking” in the sides as you go to form a nice tight roll a little bigger than the original breast.  Make sure that all of the filling is tucked up inside and not exposed.  Can you spot which one is mushroom-free?

Now, prep your “breading” assembly line.  The first bowl has your coconut flour mixed with a dash (1/4 tsp or so) of sea salt and coarse black pepper.  The second bowl has your two eggs and 2 tbsp of water, beat with a fork until everything is one consistency.  The third bowl has the almond flour, thyme, and EVOO, blended with a fork to form a crumbly texture.

Now follow the assembly line – rolling each “breast” in the flour mixture, then the egg, and finally the almond “breading.”  Roll in the same direction that you originally rolled up the breasts, holding the sides sort of like a corn cob, to keep everything sealed and tight.  You may find you need to press down into the almond meal a bit to get things to stick, but whatever works.

It’s not hard – really.  Even my little helper can do it (she just likes getting on the apron and hat and getting a little messy)!  Get them all arranged in a baking dish and stuff them in the oven.  Then you can turn your attention to making whatever side dishes you’re having with the meal.

Cook for about 25~35 minutes – until the cheese starts to melt and ooze out of the ends and the tops turn a little brown, like the slightly bare spots in the photo above.  (Note: almond meal won’t “golden” like traditional breading, which is part of why I used “natural” almond flour in this recipe).  Of course, I lost track of which one didn’t have mushrooms.  But a simple cut in helped me rediscover it pretty quick.

Dish, serve, and enjoy!

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