Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chicken Cordon Blue with Pesto Couscous

My mom would make chicken cordon blue quite frequently when we were growing up.  What's not to love about this dish?  Chicken... yum.  Ham... yum.  Cheese... double yum.  

A few years ago, I caught a Tyler Florence show in which he rolled the stuffed chicken breast up in saran wrap and eliminated the use of toothpicks in this dish.  Whoa!  I tried it and let me just tell you, it is an amazing trick.  No toothpicks to remove after cooking.  No cheese and ham spilling out the ends.  After you roll up the chicken and it sits in the fridge for a few hours, you are left with perfect, little round logs of cordon blue! 

I whipped up the pesto couscous on a whim.  I had a ton of spinach and arugula that needed to be used so it worked out perfectly.  

When I do this, I put saran wrap on EVERYTHING.  Pounding chicken can get messy and no one wants salmonella... so wrap it up.  Look at that pretty chicken breast... it almost looks like a heart!   

Be sure to get all of your stuffing out prior to rolling.  You don't want to have to touch anything after your hands handle the raw chicken.  I have made a bunch of variations of this dish; prosciutto, arugula, sun dried tomato, mushroom, etc.  Make it your own!  Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken before rolling.

Here is where the magic happens.  I wish I could have taken more pictures of the rolling process but my hands were covered in raw chicken.  Once you have the stuffing in the cutlet, roll it up as tight as you can.  Then, bring the chicken to the bottom of the piece of saran wrap and roll it up very tightly.  Start twisting the ends  of the saran wrap while pushing the ends of the chicken in as you go.  You want those loose ends to seal the cutlet.  

All done.  Now go wash your hands and countertops.  (Can you tell raw chicken freaks me out?) Pop these babies in the fridge and let them do their thing.  They need to be in there for at least 4 hours or overnight if you have time.  

This is the prefect way to use up greens instead of letting them go to waste.  I used arugula, spinach, almonds, garlic, olive oil and ricotta.  The ricotta just makes the sauce a bit more mild and a touch creamier for the couscous.  

Put the spinach, arugula, garlic and almonds in a blender or food processor. Turn on and slowly drizzle oil in.  You can also use pine nuts or walnuts. At this point, you have pesto.  

This is what it looks like after I added the ricotta so now you have a creamy pesto! You can use this for pasta with grilled chicken, over spaghetti squash... it's a great little sauce.  Pour in a bowl and transfer to the fridge.  

Now it's time to bread the chicken.  See how beautifully the chicken holds it's shape?  For the breading, I have a bowl of each flour, egg and panko/parmesan.  Remember to season each with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  

While you are breading, preheat some oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Don't use olive oil for this.   You want a flavorless oil like vegetable or peanut or grapeseed   I used grapeseed because it has a a high smoke point.   

All breaded and ready to brown...

Use tongs to turn the chicken.  For these, you will want to brown the chicken on four sides so you will turn them 3 times.  Don't walk away from this.  It only takes a minute to go from golden brown to burnt.  

Time to go in the oven to finish cooking the inside of the chicken.  

I boiled the couscous while browning the chicken.  When you put the chicken in the oven, assemble the couscous. I used the Red Mill Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous.  While the couscous is still warm, mix some pesto and chopped cherry tomatoes in and cover.  

Do you think I said couscous enough times?  Couscous.  

Chicken Cordon Blue

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 lb. black forest ham
1/2 c. spinach
1 block of Swiss cheese, cut into thin strips
1 c. flour, seasoned lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder
2 eggs, beaten with 2 T. water and seasoned with salt an pepper
1 1/2 c. panko bread crumbs, seasoned lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder
1/4 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. oil, grapeseed, peanut or vegetable

Line counter and cutting board with saran wrap.  Pound chicken breasts out thin until about 1/2 inch thick.  Place ham, spinach and cheese on bottom half of chicken and roll up tightly.  Take chicken roll and firmly roll up into a large piece of saran wrap.  Twist ends until chicken forms a tight log.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  

Remove chicken from fridge.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and heat oil in pan over medium heat. Place flour, beaten eggs and panko/parmesan mixture in 3 shallow dishes.  Bread the chicken in this order; flour, egg and finally panko.  Place on baking sheet until each piece of chicken is ready to fry.  

With tongs  place chicken in preheated oil. Do not put more than 2 pieces in at a time.  Once golden brown, turn with tongs and brown on all 4 sides.  Place chicken on a foil lined baking sheet and finish cooking in oven.  About 20 minutes.  

Pesto Couscous

1 c. arugula
1 c. spinach
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 c. almonds
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. ricotta cheese
1 c. whole wheat pearl couscous
1 1/4 c. water
1/2 c. grape tomatoes, quartered

Add arugula, spinach, garlic, almonds to a blender or food processor.  Pulse until chopped.  Turn on and slowly drizzle olive oil until combined.  Add more olive oil if needed.  Mixture should be like a thin paste.  Add ricotta and blend until combined.  Salt and pepper as needed. 

Cook couscous per the directions on package.  Once cooked, add 1/2 cup of pesto mixture and chopped tomatoes.  Mix and cover to keep warm. 


  1. Hi, Can I also use chicken fillets in stead of chicken breasts?
    And another question, with rolling how do you avoid the sides to still be open?

    Thank you!


    1. Hi Anne!

      I would stick with a full chicken breast. Sometimes fillets are only a portion of a breast and with this recipe, you will need a large piece of chicken to pound out thin and hold and roll the stuffing.

      When you roll the chicken up in the saran wrap and twist the ends, the ends of the chicken will seal and close up the chicken roll. Be sure to leave some room on the ends of the chicken when laying the stuffing down and twist the ends of the saran wrap nice and tightly, pushing the ends of the chicken in as you go.

      I apologize if I wasn't clear enough on the rolling and twisting step but it is a bit difficult to explain. Just make sure after you roll the chicken up and twist the ends, you let it sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours. This will seal the shape.

      Please let me know how it turns out for you Anne!



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