Tuesday, September 30, 2008

About That Bare-Bones Chicken Cordon Bleu...

Here's what I love - a dish that sounds much fussier and fancier than it actually is. I'm all about maximum results from minimal effort.

This is Day 2 of the Iron Chef Challenge. Since my actual dinner choice was driven by my not feeling well (a grain-based entree with a dairy.... oh FINE, it was Cheerios and skim milk) I'm instead going to post a recipe for which I have the ingredients but didn't actually make this evening. But I could have, just so we're clear. ;)

Not too long ago I mentioned throwing together a bare-bones version of Chicken Cordon Bleu after Sweetie and I came home one weekend evening. And how cool is this? I happened upon Wellshire Farms' (LOVE their products) sliced/packaged Black Forest deli ham at 50% off, one day before the expiration date. I used some of it that night to make the Ham and Spinach Frittata (part of the Learn To Cook series), and froze the rest. A few days later I used more to make the filling for this chicken.

Can you start this after work and have dinner on the table before 10pm? Yes, but you can make life much easier on yourself. Prepare the ham, cheese, and mustard filling ahead of time and store it in the fridge. If you really want to be on the ball go ahead and stuff the chicken ahead of time, too, and just cover it tightly with Saran wrap and refrigerate.

Ham & Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

From Eating Well magazine's Fall, 2004 edition:

1/2 cup grated Swiss, Monterrey Jack, or part-skim mozzarella cheese (honestly, the mozzarella is not going to be all that flavorful)
2 Tablespoons chopped ham
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (all you have is spicy brown, or regular yellow? No biggie, use it)
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total)
1 egg white
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs (plain are preferred, but the earth will not stop turning if you have Italian-herb crumbs and just want to use those. Really.)  OR crushed cornflakes for a gluten-free option.
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (or vegetable oil or canola oil)

If you're making the stuffing ahead of time - mix the ham, cheese, and mustard in small bowl. Add a twist or two of fresh black pepper. Wrap and refrigerate if you're making this ahead of time.

Cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of a chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Open up the breast (like a book) and place 1/4th the filling in the center. Close the breast over the filling, pressing the edges firmly together to seal. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts and filling. You can go this far ahead of time, and just do the skillet & baking at dinnertime.

When you're ready to cook - preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly beat the egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Hold each chicken breast half together and dip in egg white, then dredge in breadcrumbs. Throw away the leftover egg white and bread crumbs.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breast; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes.

Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes, or until thermometer registers 170 degrees. [Note - the recipe says "cook until no longer pink in the middle. But ham is pink, so....?]

Per serving - 236 calories; 7g fat; 10g carbohydrate; 31g protein

Pretty much any vegetable would be good on the side. Corn always goes beautifully with ham. We often have steamed broccoli & carrots with this to add some color to the plate and fiber to the dish.

Oh, and as a result of not properly labeling my freezer contents, I once thawed chicken breasts for this dish, only to discover that they were chicken tenders. I made a kind of chicken cordon bleu pinwheel, holding each rolled tender & filling together with a toothpick. If you make that same mistake, that's the way out but I don't recommend doing it intentionally. What a mess!

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