I unsuccessfully attempted this “foolproof” recipe once before; the chicken overcooked and became dry while I waited for the crumbs to brown. This time I pre-browned the crumbs to the desired doneness before breading the chicken. The darker breading added better flavor, and the chicken remained moist. As an insurance policy, I added a Parmesan-Dijon sauce, which added even more flavor. One minor problem, I used the regular deli ham my son has been using for his lunches. The ham slices were too thin and sprung a leak; some of the Swiss cheese oozed out of both breasts. Overall, the meal turned out fantastic; 4-1/2 stars. Much better than last time, because of the darker bread crumbs.
Also, I cut the recipe in half because I only needed to feed my two sons.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $7 (for two servings)
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 5:00 PM. Ready: 6:30 PM.
Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
13 Ritz crackers
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread
3 tablespoons butter
4 thin slices deli ham (about 8 ounces)
2-1/2 ounces shredded Swiss cheese (1 cup )
Salt and pepper
1 large eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Parmesan-Dijon Sauce Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
- Set an oven racks to both the lowest and middle positions. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in microwave for 50 seconds. Tear bread slices into pieces and crumble crackers directly into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 8 times until coarsely ground. Sprinkle melted butter evenly over bread crumbs and pulse 3 more times to incorporate. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake on the middle oven rack until deep golden brown; about 8 to 10 minutes; stirring every few minutes so that the bread crumbs brown evenly. Immediately remove crumbs and put 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 going at 450-degrees.
- Meanwhile grate your Swiss cheese, which should yield about 1 cup. Lay out a slice of thickly cut 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.
- Dry your chicken breast using paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a paring knife to cut a 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.
- 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. Place coated chicken in an oven-safe skillet.
- Bake on lowest rack for 10 minutes, then move the chicken to the middle rack. Reduce oven temperature to 400-degrees and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes longer. The chicken will be done when the chicken registers 165-degrees. Remove the chicken and put on a clean cutting board or serving platter. Tent with aluminum foil while preparing the sauce.
- Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet over medium burner. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes; a classic Blond Roux base. Then slowly whisk in the milk/cream and salt. Cook for 4 minutes, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and whisking constantly until the milk begins to simmer and thicken.
- Remove from burner and mix in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Parmesan until well combined and the cheese has melted.