Some things are so good that they pretty much force you to try and explain them to other people.  If they’re really good, they defy your powers of explanation–but you have to try anyway.  That’s why people keep on writing love poems:  You want to put it into words, but nobody’s ever really been able to.

Such is the case with the experience of tucking a knife into chicken cordon bleu:  It simultaneously challenges and defeats my powers of explanation, so I’m not going to try too hard.  I know it ain’t gonna work.

I will tell you that I’m generally not a big fan of chicken.  I think it’s dull and best suited for culinary cowards (“Oh, I’ll just have the chicken”), and it’s the “cordon bleu” part that makes this dish interesting.  Butter, Black Forest ham, Gruyère–what’s not to love?  Sometimes I think that the chicken just gets in the way (if you’ve ever tried to circumnavigate a barnyard, you know that chickens are good like that).

So why don’t we just dispense with the chicken?  Well, that would be like mailing a love letter without an envelope.

Picture stolen from somebody who stole it from somebody else.

Off we go, then.

Chicken cordon bleu

“Cordon bleu,” in case you’re curious, means “blue ribbon.”  I stole found this recipe at Cook’s Country magazine.  They recommend Dietz & Watson ham, but in a pinch you can get by with Abraham’s, Applegate Farms, or Boar’s Head.

25 Ritz™ crackers

4 slices white sandwich bread, torn up

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

8 thin slices deli ham (about 1 ounce each)

2 c. shredded Gruyère

4 boneless, skinless chicken boobs

3 eggs

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 c. AP (all-purpose flour)

First thing we have to do is make some crumbs.  Set your oven at 450°F and give the crackers and bread a good zap in your trusty food processor.  Drizzle in the butter and zap it all again in order to get it all nicely combined.  Dump it out onto a baking sheet and pop it into the oven for three, four, maybe five minutes–until they’re nice and pretty.  Put them out of the way somewhere and let them cool.  Leave your oven on.

Top each of your ham slices with about 1/4 cup of cheese and roll ’em up nice and tight.  Take a smallish knife (a paring knife will do) and cut a deep pocket into the thickest part of each chicken breast–three or four inches is a good size.  Stuff one of those ham/cheese rolls into each breast.  Season your breasts with salt and pepper, cover them with plastic, and leave them in the refrigerator for at least twenty minutes.

Now you need two shallow dishes.  In one, put the eggs and mustard (beaten together); in the other, the flour.  Coat each breast in AP, then dunk it in the egg mix, and then press it into the aforementioned crumbs.  If you want, at this point, you can cover and stash the chicken in your fridge for a day or so.  Don’t have to, though.

Y’all know that I’m not good with anything involving numbers, so from here on out I’m just going to quote Cook’s Country:

Transfer chicken to clean baking sheet.  Bake on lowest rack until bottom of chicken is golden brown, about 10 minutes, and then move baking sheet to middle rack and reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.  Bake until golden brown and chicken registers 160 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes.  Serve.

Numbers!  Oy.  They make me crazy.