Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chicken Cordon Bleu






     The Classic American Blue Ribbon Chicken!
     Chicken Cordon Bleu is an American creation and it has been a customer favorite for many decades.  
     Chicken Cordon Bleu has some of its origins in France and Switzerland.  In Switzerland there is an entrée called Veal Cordon Bleu.  Veal Cordon Bleu is cheese stuffed veal schnitzel that is served with velouté sauce, a mushroom espagnole or no sauce at all.  Ham was sometimes added to the stuffing and later ham became part of some some Cordon Bleu recipes.  An authentic Swiss Veal Cordon Bleu looks quite different than an American Chicken Cordon Bleu.

      Many food historians say that the original American Cordon Bleu Recipe is chicken stuffed with prosciutto and emmentaler (swiss cheese), but that is incorrect.  Many say that the original sauce was mornay, but that is also incorrect.  Those were modifications of the original Cordon Bleu recipe that became popular in the 1960's through the 1980's.  
     A Chicken Cordon Bleu that was made with prosciutto and mornay sauce was called Chicken Cordon Rouge, when I first became a yacht club sauté cook and saucier.  The Cordon Rouge Chicken version was an item that few chefs knew about outside of the east coast region.  
     Any chef knows that putting a cheese sauce on an item that is stuffed with cheese is a poorly thought out entrée, so claiming that mornay was the original sauce makes no sense because it would be cheese overkill.  When a strong tasting ham like prosciutto was used in combination with mornay, it was total flavor overkill.  
     The use of prosciutto was not very popular in the 1940's, when Swiss Cordon Bleu recipes became famous.  Prosciutto was added to the Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe during the rebirth of this entrée at a later date.  When prosciutto replace mild tasting roasted ham in the Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe, east coast chefs changed the name to Chicken Cordon Rouge, because the flavor was so much stronger.

    The original American Chicken Cordon Bleu was designed to have a very mild flavor that appealed to ladies.  Prosciutto and mornay do not fit in with the original flavor theme, but cured roasted ham and supreme sauce does.  
     I was a saucier and sauté cook for two years at an old established yacht club early in my career.  At that time, two old chefs that were working in that yacht club did their apprenticeship way back in the 1920's and the 1930's.  Those two chefs were still working at the yacht club, even though they were beyond retirement age.  Those guys were like 70 and 80 years old and they had a vast amount of fine dining cooking knowledge to teach and share. 
     One of the old yacht club chefs prepared Chicken Cordon Bleu for a dinner party event and I noticed that his recipe was different than what I had seen many younger chefs prepare.  So out of curiosity, I asked the chef what the original Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe actually was.  The old chef responded by saying the 1940's version of Chicken Cordon Bleu was made with Swiss Gruyere Cheese and American style cured smoked ham.  The breaded stuffed chicken breast was shaped like a roulade.  He also said that sauce suprême was the original sauce.  
     In my opinion, the old yacht club chef's definition of the original Chicken Cordon Bleu is correct, because the recipe is so well balanced.  It is no wonder that the original recipe was given the Blue Ribbon name!  

     Chicken Velouté:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup of velouté sauce.
     • A white roux is used in place of a blonde roux, when making a velouté sauce that will be used to make sauce suprême!   
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir, till the roux cooks to a pale white color.
     Step 2:  Add 2 cups of chicken stock.
     Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Whisk the sauce occasionally as it comes to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  When the sauce comes to a gentle boil, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add a tied bouquet garni of:
     - Leek
     - Celery
     - 1/2 of a small bay leaf
     - 1 small prig of thyme
     - 1 parsley stalk
     Step 4:  Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a thin sauce consistency that barely glazes a spoon.  (There should only be about 1 cup of velouté sauce after the reduction is completed.)
     Step 5:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter, while whisking.  (Monte au beurre.  This will keep a "skin" from forming on the velouté.)
     Set the velouté aside.

     Suprême Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/3 cups of sauce.
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of velouté sauce in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of mushroom peelings.
     Add 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of crème fraîche.  
     *Modern crème fraîche is a mixture of 50% sour cream and 50% cream.  Only add enough crème fraîche to turn the velouté into a white color. 
     Step 2:  Place the pot over low heat.
     After the sauce heats, simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
     Whisk the sauce, till it becomes smooth.
     Step 3:  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a container or second sauce pot.  
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat for immediate use or reheat it to order.

     Classic Chicken Cordon Bleu: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Never add parmesan cheese to an egg wash, like many modern chefs suggest.  Adding parmesan is a crutch!  If good breading techniques are used, then parmesan is not necessary.  Parmesan acts like a glue, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste when it is fried.  
     Step 1:  Select a 6 to 8 ounce boneless chicken breast filet.
     Butterfly cut the chicken breast, so it is an even thickness.  
     *Refer to the photo above.  The butterflied chicken breast can be pounded thiner with a meat mallet if it is too thick or not wide enough to be rolled into a roulade shape.
     Step 2:  Place a few thin slices of gruyere cheese on the chicken breast.
     Place a few thin slices of smoked ham on the chicken breast.
     Roll the chicken breast into a long cylinder roulade shape.
     Step 3:  Place the roulade on a small pan.
     Place the roulade in a freezer.
     Partially freeze the roulade, so the chicken breast becomes stiff and so it will hold its shape while it is breaded.  (Do not freeze the chicken breast till it becomes frozen solid or it will take forever to cook!)
     Step 4:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil to 360ºF in a high sided pot.
     Step 5:  Dredge the partially frozen chicken breast roulade in flour that is seasoned with sea salt and white pepper.
     Dip the roulade in plain egg wash.  
     Dredge the roulade in plain fine French bread crumbs.
     *Be sure that the breading covers the seam and ends of the roulade!
     Step 6:  Place the breaded roulade in the hot frying oil.
     Fry till the roulade becomes a light golden brown color.  The chicken will only be about halway cooked at this point.  
     Step 7:  Use a fryer net to place the roulade on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Roast the roulade in a 300ºF oven, till it is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read 165ºF for 15 seconds in the center of the roulade.)
     Allow the roulade to rest for 1 to 2 minutes, before slicing.
     
     Presentation:  
     Pour a generous amount of the suprême sauce on a plate as a bed for the Chicken Cordon Bleu.
     Use a razor sharp carving knife to slice the Chicken Cordon Bleu roulade into thick medaillon shapes.
     Overlap a row of Chicken Cordon Bleu slices on the sauce suprême.
     Serve with a vegetable and potato of your choice.  
     No garnish is necessary!
     *The Chicken Cordon Bleu in the pictures was served with a seasoned baked crown cut tomato.  The potato is French precision cut into a potato soufflé shape and it was fried twice. 

     The original Chicken Cordon Bleu is perfect as it is!

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