Chicken cordon bleu is a French-inspired poultry dish, although evidence suggests that it was actually developed in the United States by chefs imitating other stuffed meat dishes from Europe. The name of the dish is clearly of French origin: cordon bleu means “blue ribbon” in French, and in French culinary tradition, it is awarded to food or chefs of particularly high quality. The most similar European dish is chicken Kiev, chicken stuffed with seasoned butter, dredged in bread crumbs, and fried. The dish was also likely heavily influenced by veal cordon bleu, a Swiss dish in which veal is wrapped in ham and cheese and fried.
The basic components of chicken cordon bleu are chicken, ham or prosciutto, and a cheese such as Swiss or Gruyere. Many recipes also integrate bread crumbs as a crust. There are numerous ways to prepare this dish — the simplest is to create a layered dish with chicken on the bottom, mostly cooked, with the ham and cheese added towards the end of the cooking process to be warmed and melted. Cooks attempting to make a more weight-conscious version might prefer this preparation, because it can be baked rather than fried.
Cooks can also slice a hole in the chicken, insert the cheese, and wrap the stuffed chicken in ham before rolling it in breadcrumbs and frying or baking it. Chicken cordon bleu most often appears in a rolled presentation, however, with the chicken butterflied and pounded flat and the ham and cheese wrapped up inside. The tightly rolled chicken can then be dipped in breadcrumbs and fried, grilled, or roasted.
To make a basic rolled chicken cordon bleu, a cook should preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) while preparing her other ingredients. She should butterfly four boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pound them to a thickness of approximately 0.25 inch (0.635 centimeter). The chicken breasts are then laid flat, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and layered with a slice of ham or prosciutto and a slice of cheese on top. They are rolled tightly, and secured with toothpicks if needed. The cook should beat an egg and set it out in a shallow dish, along with breadcrumbs.
The cook then dredges the rolled chicken through the egg, and then the breadcrumbs, and sets it seam side down in a lightly oiled baking dish. She should then set 1 tablespoon (14 grams) of butter on top of each piece of chicken and bake the dish for 35 minutes or until the juices run clear. For an optional topping, a cook can simmer 0.5 cup (118.2 ml) chicken broth and 1 cup (236.5 ml) heavy cream on low, adding salt, pepper, oregano, and other spices to taste, and stirring it until it's thickened.