I made this Chicken Cordon Bleu during my first try of once a week cooking. I wanted to make chicken that wouldn't be boring to eat for several meals, so I stuffed the chicken with flavorful cheese and ham, just like regular Cordon Bleu. One trick I have recently learned about stuffing meat is that it's much easier to make a pocket on the side than it is to butterfly and pound the meat thin and then stuff it. The latter method involves tying the meat up with butcher's twine and then some of the filling can be lost. By making a pocket on the upper third of the side of the meat, you expose less opening to the filling, which decreases the chances of it escaping. I also took an extra precaution to prevent the cheese from oozing out by wrapping little batons of cheese up like burritos with the ham. You get a pretty layered effect, too. On the outside, Chicken Cordon Bleu usually has breadcrumbs. Instead of choosing a grain-free substitute to laboriously dredge on the outside, I simply seasoned the outside with a flavorful mix of Dijon mustard, olive oil, and tarragon. The speckling of green leaves with a hint of licorice flavor along with the subtle heat of the mustard really go well with the filling and I think they provide an elegant touch. Plus, ham and cheese with mustard was one of my favorite sandwiches growing up, so the coating was a throwback to that familiar flavor. This recipe would be great on a holiday buffet table because guests can serve themselves individual slices, plus it also looks impressive.
On a side note, I realize some of my photos in recent posts have been sort of grainy. It took me a while to figure out what was wrong, but a setting had been altered on my camera and I needed to fix it!
Grain-Free Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 large chicken breasts
4 oz Swiss cheese (I used Kerrygold Irish Swiss)
4 oz deli ham, cut thin but not shaved (4 large slices cut in half or 8 small slices; look for a lower sodium and/or nitrite-free ham)
4 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dried tarragon
black pepper and salt, to taste
special equipment: small trussing skewers or tooth picks
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut the cheese into .5 oz batons. Wrap each baton with a piece of ham like a burrito. It's ok if the ham doesn't totally cover.
3. Using a small paring knife, make a small cut about half an inch wide and parallel to the cutting surface on the rounded side of the chicken breast. Try to make the cut closer to the top third of the side of the breast. Use the knife to make a pocket on the inside of the breast reaching all sides but not puncturing through the bottom or sides. Use your fingers to help you make the pocket.
4. For each chicken breast, stuff two cheese and ham pieces inside. If the ham becomes slightly unwrapped or tears it's ok. Press the pocket closed and use a skewer to secure by weaving it through a couple of times.
5. Blend the mustard, oil, and some pepper together. Brush the outsides of the meat with the mustard mixture. Sprinkle some salt, if desired, and the tarragon on top.
6. Bake the chicken for 40 min or until a meat thermometer registers at least 160 degrees F.
7. Remove the chicken and allow it to rest 5 min before cutting it into slices, revealing the stuffing, and serve.