By Angela Denstad Stigeler
As academic calendars draw to a close and many scholars prepare for the culmination of the year’s studies, you may wish to nourish those bright minds through these finals weeks with a dinner that’s at the head of its class: chicken cordon bleu. Although the recipe has no official association with the famous French cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, that’s merely academic; it’s still a delicious preparation of simple ingredients that translates correctly as “blue ribbon” chicken. A crispy breaded chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese, it’s long been a preferred, if unpedigreed, dish among the Swiss, where it enjoys special status. You’re bound to grant it an honorary degree at your table, too, for its ability to transform a simple meal into a stately entrée, crisply robed and filled with such good things. Serve it proudly with all due pomp and circumstance.
Chicken Cordon Bleu
6 ounces sliced Swiss cheese (4 to 6 slices)
4 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham
4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon mixed seasoning (garlic powder, paprika, dry mustard, dried thyme, etc. to taste)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup fine unseasoned dried breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Fold the cheese into 4 neat rectangles, each a little smaller than the chicken breast halves and wrap each with some of the ham.
Butterfly each piece of chicken by cutting in half horizontally until you can open it like a book. Lightly pound out to an even 1/4-inch thickness if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and tuck a ham and cheese bundle into each chicken breast. Close them up again, pressing the edges all around. Secure with toothpicks if desired.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
Place the flour in a shallow dish and combine with half the mixed seasoning. In another shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and milk. Place breadcrumbs in a third shallow dish; season as desired. Dredge the chicken through the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, then coat thoroughly with breadcrumbs; transfer to a plate.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn chicken and cook 2 minutes more.
Transfer the chicken to the oven until cooked through, or finish cooking on the stove. The chicken can be kept warm in a low oven until serving. Garnish with lemon wedges.