Day 246 – National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day

Sounds like we are getting all fancy pants for this one. I even had to break out my French accent and attitude to get it going. The dish itself is fairly easy to make, however its name makes it seem elitist and even arrogant. Cordon Bleu literally means blue ribbon in French. Members of the highest order of knighthood in France (the L’Ordre des chevaliers du Saint-Esprit) were often identified by the blue ribbon on their uniform. Over time, the term has been applied to food prepared to a very high standard and to outstanding cooks. That’s why the top cooking school in France and perhaps the world is Le Cordon Bleu which to my surprise, actually has nothing to do with the chicken dish. The chicken dish is a relatively new creation and is likely based on Chicken Kiev as both are stuffed and breaded chicken. Cordon Bleu however is stuffed with ham and cheese. It first appeared in a cookbook in 1967, so it really has only been around for fifty years. No matter, it is still a tasty way to serve chicken.

My mom made a version of this growing up that I always liked. It wasn’t all that fancy. Just chicken breasts stuffed with your average deli ham and American cheese and then topped in Campbell’s cream of chicken soup. What’s not to like in that little scenario? And even as simple as that sounded, it always seemed exotic, especially in a house which stuck to your general meat and potato dinners as a norm – not many French foods on our table. I’m even a little surprised I gave it a try based on name alone, although I’m a sucker for anything covered in cream of chicken soup.

I remembered today how I once used the words Cordon Bleu in a relationship. This was long before Lola had come along. It was someone who was special in my life who helped me dream and helped me see the world from a new perspective. One of those people that when you look back, you realize they affected your life in a positive way. The romance was brief but exciting and she eventually moved on to bigger and better places. I don’t remember the exact details of how Cordon Bleu started, but essentially it came from the idea that I needed a special name for her – something exotic, fun and French. So I used the only French words I knew: Cordon Bleu. If I were to find our correspondence from around that time, I would refer to her as my Cordon Bleu. That sounds strange and even though it was said tongue-in-cheek, it was meant as sweet and it still has a special meaning in the story of my life. That gave me another reason to celebrate today.

I found a recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu from Tyler Florence of the Food Network. Although he’s not my favorite host to watch, he does have good recipes. He used prosciutto and Gruyere to make his version and I thought that was a fabulous idea. Other than that, it was kind of standard but still a good outline to follow. I didn’t know this, but a true Chicken Cordon Bleu is breaded, so his recipe gave me a good recipe to follow for using panko breadcrumbs and an egg wash. Because I had to work during the day on Tuesday, I pounded out the chicken and rolled in the cheese and prosciutto on Monday night so they were ready to go. I saved the breading process until I was ready to cook. When I got home on Tuesday, I started getting everything together. Meanwhile, when I got home, Lola was on the phone Facetiming with our niece Molly. They were talking about Hamilton, one of Lola’s favorite subjects, and apparently I had just missed an all out Cabinet rap battle between the two. It was cute to see. I got busy breading my chicken.

While I was cooking, Lola and Molly kept talking. It was like having her in the kitchen with us, especially because she could see what was going on. So, as you would with anyone that was in your kitchen at that time, we asked her if she wanted dinner just as the chicken was popping into the oven. Molly’s mom was away this week for work and she was home with Jeff. Both were feeling under the weather too, so they stayed in their own little areas sticking to themselves and just feeling crappy. It took some convincing, but Lola talked her into letting us bring her some chicken. Molly wasn’t sure what she was going to have for dinner and this was fresh and ready, so I think we got her when she was hungry and ready. Plus knowing it was Chicken Cordon Bleu Day pushed her over the edge – she’s always up for celebration. She tried to say no a few more times, but we insisted and then she finally relented, although she did make sure we brought her some dessert too (I happened to have some mousse pie). When the chicken came out of the oven, we packed it up and drove it over to Molly for a special delivery. That’s one of the fun things about having her live ten minutes away.

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Naturally we felt bad that we didn’t bring one for Jeff, but our intel said that Jeff had already eaten (of the two, Jeff was feeling the worse today as they both battled the bug). We did include a big piece of pie, so hopefully Molly shared that with him if he was up for it. When we got home, we had our dinner which was conveniently all ready for us. I served it with some mashed potatoes and a little bit of gravy that I had whipped up. Plus a nice arugula salad on the side – we are big fans of arugula (and surprising, Molly is not).

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For me, the prosciutto made this dish. It was the perfect complement to the chicken providing a smoky and salty flavor inside. The chicken was nice and moist and the outside had a nice little crispiness to it from the breading. The Gruyere melted out as you cut in and gave you that creamy extra blast to every bite. The gravy on top added in some more chicken flavor and helped it commingle with the potatoes. I was a big fan. Lola liked it too, however she is never getting all that excited about chicken in any form. Still, I think she enjoyed.

A fancy dinner for some fancy folks and now offering express delivery! How about that for a celebration? There were a lot of things about today that made me smile and part of that was seeing Lola and Molly on the phone together. This is the same little girl that once snuggled up to Lola as a baby. Now the two were talking about music and plays and having good conversations on a random Tuesday. Molly has always been someone that appreciates good food, so sharing our Chicken Cordon Bleu with her was a pleasure. She’s been getting leftovers on all our sweets throughout the quest, so she finally got to try one on the actual day. Plus I got to recall a happy Cordon Bleu memory too. It’s funny how you forget things as they get stowed away in the caverns of your mind, but hearing a special word makes them pop out again. Yes, I would indeed call this celebration a blue ribbon day, or as a Frenchman might say, a Cordon Bleu day.

Next Up: National Caramel Day

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