Monday, June 3, 2013

Dinner is served
This weekend I dove headfirst into Capcom's Remember Me, which sets gamers firmly in the midst of a cyberpunk, futuristic Paris. The art direction of the game is gorgeous, and something about the French landscape gives me this inexplicable desire to bust open my Julia Child and make something fancy.

Unfortunately, being under review deadline, I spent the majority of my weekend running through the disappointingly linear experience that is Nilin's adventure, meaning I wasn't left much time for fancy French cookery. Oh, well, I guess it's time to break out the chicken cordon bleu. Like most French country cooking, chicken cordon bleu is surprisingly easy to make and depending on what kind of cheese you use, it can be a great budget meal, to boot! I served this with some simple steamed asparagus and garlic bread because garlic bread is a huge hit with husbands and 5-year olds. Recipes below.

There are only three of us, so this recipe feeds two adults and one 5 year old, but you can easily double or triple it to feed a crowd.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 slices ham (I used smoked applewood, but you can use any type of ham you fancy)
1/2 c. shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese (the latter is more budget-friendly)
1 egg
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
2 T. melted butter
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to season

Before the flattening
Preheat your oven to 350° F. The first thing we need to do is flatten our chicken breasts. You can do this with a meat mallet but personally, I prefer a nice, wide, heavy frying pan. I'm a fan of multitasking. Place your chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap. You want to make sure you have pretty big pieces so they have plenty of room to spread as you flatten.

Get some muscle into it. Work out that frustration with shoddy camera and sticky controls!
And that, my friends, is a flat piece of chicken.
You want to get your chicken to approximately 1/4" thickness. Once both of your chicken breasts are flattened, you may begin assembly!

Yes, I still have Christmas Saran Wrap. Stuff lasts forever.
 Keep your chicken on the bottom piece of saran wrap as you lay a piece of ham over the breast. Don't worry if it overlaps slightly -- you're not trying to win medals for presentation, here. Next, place half of your grated cheese on top and spread so you have a nice, even layer.

Tube of meat. Not the best way to describe.
Now it's time to roll! Starting with a short end, slowly start rolling your chicken, ham and cheese mixture into a nice pinwheel. Try to get it tight as possible, but don't fret if it's a little loose. We'll fix that later. Once your pinwheel is rolled up, set it on the plastic wrap and pull one end of the plastic wrap over the meat. Pull it back a smidge to tighten it, and wrap up in the remainder of plastic wrap. Once you have a tube of meat, twist your open ends tightly to make a sausage-like entity. Set aside and do the same with the other breast.

Set your meat aside and get your prep stations ready! In one bowl, combine your flour and a good deal of salt and pepper. This will be some of the only seasoning the meat gets, so make sure to pack as much flavor in as you can. In another bowl, combine Panko crumbs, butter, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Again, this is where your flavor is coming from, so don't be shy! When you mix your butter in, you should have a course meal consistency, not unlike making a pie crust. In your third bowl, break the egg and whisk it well.

C'est facile!
Remove one of your pinwheels from the saran wrap and coat well in the flour mixture. Next, cover in the egg, making sure to dip the ends so you have even coverage. Next, dredge through the panko mixture, again, making sure every square inch is covered. Set on a well-oiled cooking sheet. Repeat with the other breast.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through. But while you're doing that, let's make some garlic bread. Whaddaya mean garlic bread isn't French? Okay, fine, but people love it and it goes so well with chicken cordon bleu!

Garlic Bread

1 small loaf french bread
1 stick butter, softened
2T. dried parsley
2tsp. garlic powder (or more, I don't know how crazy you are with garlic)
1/4c. grated Parmesan cheese.

Buttery, garlicky, bready goodness.
Slice your bread in half, horizontally, and set aside. In a bowl, mix your softened butter, parsley, garlic powder and cheese. Mix until well incorporated. Smear on both sides of bread and close like a sandwich. Wrap in foil, making sure the ends are closed. When you have 15 minutes left on your chicken timer, slide the bread in alongside the chicken. Now you're multitasking like a pro.

Steamed Asparagus

I like asparagus for it's flavor. This is the simplest way to present the crunchy green. The good thing is if you need a sauce to drench the flavor, the aspargus is already cooked and ready to go!

1/2 lb. asparagus
Salt to taste

Take four paper towels and get them nice and wet. Lay them so you have two stacked on top of two and spread your asparagus out in a flat layer. Sprinkle some salt across and roll up the asparagus so you have a nice bundle. Place in the microwave and cook 3-4 minutes until crisp yet tender. That's it. Really.

Some people like to make a cream sauce or top the cordon bleus with more cheese when they are baking. I don't because it adds unnecessary calories and cordon bleu is so flavorful on its own. Plus, you already have oozy cheese in the center.

Of course, some people are also willing to forgive Remember Me's shoddy controls and linearity. I'm not. Different tastes, and all that. 


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