As we continue our regular series, Brian Stormont looks back on chicken cordon bleu and discovers the restaurant favourite of the 70s and 80s has an interesting story.
When I was researching dishes of the past for this series, chicken cordon bleu was right at the top of my list for the reason that I absolutely love it!
I can recall if we went out for a meal when I was a youngster, if this classic was on the menu then it was guaranteed to be on my plate.
For years I believed that chicken cordon bleu was a French invention, but it actually originated in Switzerland as a schnitzel filled with cheese around the 1940s, with the first reference to it in a cookbook in 1949.
The dish also has nothing to with the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris – which is probably why I believed it to be French.
“Le Cordon Bleu”
It is believed that it originated in a restaurant in Brigg, Switzerland, when two large bookings turned up and the cook did not have enough portions to serve everyone.
The resourceful lady came up with the idea of making schnitzels and filling them with ham and cheese, ensuring there was enough to accomodate both groups.
The restaurant owner was delighted with the cook’s creation and offered her “Le Cordon Bleu” (the blue ribbon) used in France to recognise an excellent cook.
Being extremely modest, the cook said she did not need a blue ribbon, but suggested instead that it would be the ideal name for her invention and, thus, chicken cordon bleu was born.
The dish was extremely popular throughout the 1960s and 70s and, in fact, April 4 is National Cordon Bleu Day.
In case you don’t know, chicken cordon bleu is a chicken breast pounded thin and filled with a piece of Swiss cheese and ham, then covered with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven or fried.
It is extremely versatile, delicious accompanied by any steamed green vegetable, French fries, creamy mash potatoes or rice.
Why not have a go and recreate this delicious classic in your kitchen at home. You can use any ham you like and you don’t need to use Swiss cheese, just a variety that melts well and has a good flavour.
Chicken Cordon Bleu
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper
- 8 slices Swiss cheese such as Emmental
- 4 slices of ham
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 100g plain flour
- 2 beaten eggs
- 100g breadcrumbs
- Season your chicken with salt and pepper and place between two sheets of cling film. Pound with a rolling pin, bottom of a heavy pot or meat hammer until the chicken is about 1cm in thickness. Repeat with the other three pieces of chicken.
- Remove the chicken from the cling film and take two slices of cheese and place on one side of the chicken, then top with a piece of ham.
- Fold the chicken over and press down sealing the join with a couple of cocktail sticks, then again repeat with the remaining flattened chicken breasts.
- Place your flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs on separate plates and coat the chicken pieces in the flour then the egg and the breadcrumbs before setting aside.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken until the breadcrumbs are brown and the chicken is cooked inside (4-5 mins on each side). Alternatively, you can cook in a pre-heated oven at about 180c for around 20-25 mins.
- Serve with French fries, creamy mashed potato or savoury rice and your favourite steamed green vegetables.
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