“Foolproof” Chicken Cordon Bleu

February 13, 2012

The only other time I’ve made Chicken Cordon Bleu Chris Kimball didn’t yet have a published recipe. At the time, I made a pretty standard recipe; butterflied chicken, rolled ham and Swiss cheese, and coated with bread crumbs. Today’s recipe cuts 4″ pockets into boneless chicken breasts and stuffs rolls of ham/cheese, which is then rolled in a combination of crushed Ritz crackers and bread crumbs. The flavor was good, but the chicken was dry because I over-cooked the chicken waiting for the outer coating to brown, and there was no sauce to save the day. 3-1/2 stars, but toasting the crumbs longer could improve the flavor and keep the chicken moister.

Chicken Cordon Bleu made with Ritz crackers

This is not the first time I’ve messed up a supposedly “fool-proof” recipe; the fool-proof pie dough (for lack of a bench scraper) and the fool-proof croissants (which took 4 batches to get the cooking time/temperature right).


  1. While Chris Kimball says to use thinly sliced ham, the truth is that the ham must be cut thick according to deli-standards. True, if he was talking about a ham steak then it would be considered thin, but my deli counter had to cut the ham at twice the regular thickness to get the desired 1 ounce per slice.
  2. The 4″pockets I cut into the chicken breasts were not big enough to hold two 6″ ham/cheese packets. I squeezed them as much as I could, but the pockets didn’t close and there were places where the bread crumbs were attached to ham instead of chicken. But the thick ham still managed to keep 99% of the cheese from leaking out.
  3. The bread crumbs were too pale, and pale bread crumbs have less flavor that well toasted ones. I toasted them for 6 minutes; well beyond the 3 to 5 called for in the recipe. But they toasted only very slowly when I baked the chicken, so the chicken was overcooked. Next time I’ll Next time I’ll toast the crumbs in step 1 for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they become almost as dark as I want the final crust.
  4. There was so much wasted flour, so next time I’ll cut it down to 1/2 cup.
  5. I will also cut the eggs down from 3 to 2, and reduced the Dijon to 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon in order to maintain the appropriate concentration.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars. (with potential to go higher)
Cost: $10
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 4:00 PM.  Ready:  6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds total)
25 Ritz crackers (about 3/4 sleeve)
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread
6 tablespoons butter
8 thin slices deli ham (about 8 ounces)
5 ounces shredded Swiss cheese (2 cups )
Salt and pepper
2 large eggs
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  1. Set an oven racks to both the lowest and middle positions. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter either in microwave or one stovetop. Tear bread slices into pieces and crumble crackers directly into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 10 times until coarsely ground. Sprinkle melted butter evenly over bread crumbs and pulse 3 times to incorporate. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake on the middle oven rack until golden brown; about 6 to 8 minutes; stirring occasionally so that the bread crumbs brown evenly. Set aside in a pie plate (or leave on baking sheet if the bread crumbs aren’t overdone in order to save cleaning another dish). Keep your oven on at 450-dergrees.
  2. Grate your Swiss cheese. Lay out a slice of deli ham and arrange 1/4-cup of cheese in a 4″ line (about the length of the pockets you cut into the chicken). Roll tightly and set aside.
  3. Dry your chicken breast using paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a paring knife to cut a 3-to-4″ pocket into the thickest part of the chicken; being careful not to cut all the way through. Put two ham/cheese rolls inside each pocket. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  4. Use a fork to beat the eggs and mustard together in a pie plate. Measure 1/2-cup flour onto another plate. Working like an assembly line, coat chicken lightly with flour, dredge in egg wash and allow excess to fall back into pie plate, coat in bread crumbs and press lightly so that they adhere. Plate coated chicken on a clean baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake on lowest rack for 10 minutes, then move the chicken to the middle rack. Reduce oven to 400-degrees and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes longer. The chicken will be done when the chicken registers 165-degrees. Ten with aluminum foil and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes on a clean cutting board.

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