A few simple tricks make for a “blue-ribbon” dinner
by Alan Reed
May 16, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sometimes the best meals are the easiest to prepare. In recent weeks, Hawkins and I have been all over town covering one event or another. Last Wednesday as we prepared for our midweek tradition of viewing Lost, I decided to be experimental, but tried to keep it as simple as possible, with both energy and time running short.

As I researched recipes, I thought of my usual favorite of chicken Parmigiana. I always enjoyed a variation called “chicken cordon bleu,” which is much the same, though stuffed with ham and cheese. It required little more effort than that, but I decided a few twists were called for just to make it unique. Cordon bleu means “blue ribbon.” There is a famous culinary school called “Le Cordon Bleu,” but I am not sure if this recipe traces its origins to the institute. It would amaze me if something this simple came from such a prestigious academy, but as the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, who knows? Hawkins agreed that the meal deserved a blue ribbon, so maybe it did.

Start with whole, boneless chicken breasts and butterfly them. To make a good cordon bleu, I pounded the meat as thinly as possible with my trusty tenderizing mallet. We want our chicken thin for this recipe because it has to roll around the ham and the cheese. Once you have it to about a quarter-inch thick, place enough thinly sliced Swiss cheese on top of the chicken to cover it. On top of that, place a thin slice of ham. I got my ham and cheese from a local grocery store’s deli section. Ask the clerk to slice the ham a bit thicker than you would for sandwiches. Roll the chicken up around the ham and cheese and secure it with toothpicks.

As I walked down the aisles of the market, I decided to replace the usual breadcrumb breading that I usually treat chicken to with a crunchy and tasty alternative, corn flakes. Take two cups of the breakfast favorite and crush them, leaving some pieces an eighth of an inch wide, and some crushed to dust. Dip your chicken in melted butter, and then coat it in the corn flakes. Place all the chicken on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

To accompany the chicken, I decided to make a creamy Dijon mustard sauce. This could not have been easier to make, and complimented the meat perfectly. Take half of a jar of Dijon mustard and add it to one cup of cream in a small sauce pan. To thicken the sauce, stir in a tablespoon of flour with a fork or whisk. Add a quarter cup of white wine, and simmer the sauce on low heat until warm but not bubbling. This should take about five minutes. When the chicken is finished baking, spoon a few tablespoons of mustard sauce onto it.

Chicken and sauce is one thing, but it does not make a meal. I needed a creamy vegetable dish with plenty of flavor to back up the main course. I have enjoyed cauliflower lately. The store had no fresh or frozen cauliflower, so I bought a bag where it was mixed with broccoli. I think that may have been a good choice for color and flavor in the long run.

To make my vegetables for the evening, I decided to make a white sauce with cheese. The base came from a cup-and-a-half of milk and three or four tablespoons of flour slowly stirred into a saucepan to thicken. For a thicker sauce, use a little more flour. I added two teaspoons of butter, and a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder to the sauce with a teaspoon of parsley. The cheese came in two stages. To the sauce, I added a half cup or so of mozzarella cheese. Stir the mixture on very low heat until the cheese melts. Add some pepper to taste.

I took the frozen vegetables and placed them in an eight-inch diameter baking pan. Fill the pan with vegetables and pour the sauce over them. I topped the vegetables with more mozzarella, and for a capper, topped it with French fried onions. Bake this in the oven for 20-30 minutes again at 350 degrees.

We sat down to a great dinner before our show began. Hawkins said that he had never seen chicken breaded with corn flakes, but loved the extra crunchy texture. We finished our chicken and had a second helping of vegetables. Maybe it wasn’t my healthiest meal ever, but it tasted good. I wished I had a nice, whole wheat baguette to serve with the dinner, but it was very very filling all the same.

I want to thank Jim and Linda Tribble and Alan and Susan Watts for pooling their resources at the Relay For Life Auction last Saturday to buy the meal I contributed. The two couples competed against each other right up to $80, and then asked Auctioneer Michael Bryan if they bid $100, if it would become a meal for four. I told him I would be happy to do it since the money went straight to the Relay, a cause I feel strongly about. Thanks to Susan, Alan, Linda and Jim for their wonderful contribution against the fight against cancer. I guarantee that a good time will be had by all of the winners of the Rotary and Relay auctions. Good eating.
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