Casserole Creation: Chicken Cordon Bleu

I’ve finally tried a new recipe again for the first time in ages. I’ve been itching to try this one since a friend of a friend posted a link on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. I gathered up most of the ingredients, and then had the last one dropped in my lap this week, so it was time to try it. Are you ready? Chicken Cordon Bleu casserole. I guess it wasn’t a surprise; the title of this post probably gave it away.

Chicken cordon bleu was one of my favorite dishes growing up. My mom and aunt would both make it for me on special occasions, sometimes with fresh cut french fries. Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard. They’re both excellent cooks and I’ve adopted a number of their recipes. For my college graduation party they even made two hundred mini-chicken cordon bleus for me, because it was my favorite. No surprise, they were a big hit and disappeared pretty quickly. I don’t even want to know how many I ate. Mom, Auntie, if you’re reading this, I love you both. Chicken cordon bleu (made from scratch, NOT the nasty frozen kind) is delicious, but it’s a lot of work. Pound the breasts (or tenders if you’re making minis), coat them in egg, and bread crumbs. Roll them up with swiss cheese and ham inside, pin them shut with toothpicks, fry them, and then bake them in the oven. I’m exhausted just writing it, so as delicious as it is, it’s not something I make terribly often. When I saw this casserole recipe, I knew I had to try it.

Let me just say I have very little experience with casseroles. I had a vague notion that casseroles are a one pan meal, so it must be quick and easy to throw together. Quick and easy cordon bleu? Yes, please, and seconds. The only other time I’ve really attempted to make anything in a  casserole dish was the spinach and sweet potato gratin I made last year adapted from a recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen.

This wasn’t quick and easy, but it was well worth the effort. I filmed the cooking process tonight and will finally be updating my YouTube channel. I used Terri’s recipe I found on TastyKitchen and made a few modifications. I’ve learned to check out the comments on food blog posts before attempting the recipes I find and I’ve found some great advice, so I tried to incorporate it into my dish tonight.

I’m picky about meat and as anyone who has eaten with me will tell you, I don’t particularly relish the task of separating meat from bone and cartilage, so instead of stripping a rotisserie chicken, I baked several chicken breasts the night before with a little salt, pepper, and garlic, shredded them when they came out of the oven, and stuck the chicken in the fridge. For the ham, I used Easter dinner leftovers I’d been given, rather than a package of deli ham. It was delicious.

Shredded chicken

 

When I got home from work tonight I buttered my casserole dish, and piled in the chicken, then put a layer of ham on top. I used shredded swiss cheese instead of sliced because…well, I had it.


Ham and Chicken

I was actually really pleased with the sauce. Based on the comments on the original posting on the recipe I decided to use half the amount of salt, and significantly less milk. I used skim rather than whole milk, and only used 2 cups of milk instead of the 3.25 that the recipe called for. I also replaced the mustard with garlic. I loath mustard. My feelings towards mustard can only be rivaled by my feelings towards pickles–yuck. But garlic is a beautiful thing. As per the instructions, I melted 4 tablespoons of butter, slowly mixed in 4 tablespoons of flour to make a roux, added 2 cups of milk, and then my seasonings: lemon juice, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic. I let it heat for a while until it thickened and poured it over my dish. I taste-tested it and it was beautiful. This picture came out a little orange, but it was actually slightly pink, from the paprika.

Let there be sauce!

After that, all that was left to do was make the crispy topping. The recipe called for a cup and a half of panko bread crumbs, 6 tablespoons of butter, parsley, and seasoning salt. I used half panko bread crumbs and half Italian bread crumbs, and swapped out the parsley for spring onions. I skipped the seasoning salt altogether. I tried to get away with 4 tablespoons of melted butter to mix with the bread crumbs, but it really needed 6 for that many crumbs. And a little grated parmesan, just because it was left over in the fridge from chicken francese the other night.

Casserole Topping

I popped it into the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and sat down to wait. I’ll admit, by then I was pretty hungry. I was a little impatient and took it out 12 minutes early–it didn’t seem to suffer any harm from it except that maybe the topping wasn’t as crisp as it could be.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

What would you have paired with it? I went with baked potatoes because they were easy, but I’m thinking I might go with something a little lighter tomorrow–I’m open to suggestions. Yes, tomorrow. No I’m not cooking it from scratch again, I’m looking forward to the joy of leftovers. I can’t wait.

Upcoming projects/updates:

  • I have majorly slacked off on the Flash Fiction challenge. We’ll see if I go back to it. I do like it as a writing exercise quite a bit, but I may be a spectator for a while.
  • I’ve posted chapter 27 of my Dramione story, Law and Marriage . Chapter 28 is nearly ready and will be going up soon.
  • I Tweet. I resisted Twitter for a long time, but I’m planning to apply for the AmtrakResidency for writing, because it looks awesome, and they want whoever gets it to Tweet about the experience. Therefore I shall Tweet, because I intend to be on one of those trains. You can find me at @ErinWritesOn . I’m a bit torn between that and HiIMakeStuff for a handle. What do you think?
  • I recorded my casserole project tonight, so hopefully I will sit down and get a YouTube video up in the relatively near future.
  • And–I went back to the gym on Wednesday. I don’t even want to tell you how long it had been since I’d been there, but I lifted weights, and did a few minutes of stationary bicycle (I hate cardio). It felt great to get back under the barbell again and know I could still do it but man am I sore. But I’m going back tomorrow. My coworker and I have pinky promised on it, and you know that’s sacred.

Until next time, keep making stuff!

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Making Connections

Back in January, I decided that I wasn’t going to have too many set goals for the year. My plan was to have more generalized goals, with an idea about how I want my life to look, rather than a set of specific numbers to aim for. I’ve definitely heard both sides of the argument in favor of specific goals and general ones. I think the most important point for both sides is to be realistic. Push yourself, but don’t set an unrealistic standard. For example, it would be unrealistic for me to want to be in a size 2 dress by the end of the year. However, wanting to get trimmer and lift heavier weights? That’s a more general goal that I should be able to push myself towards.

I haven’t been staying as on top of my original fiction as I had planned to be this year, but on the whole, I have kept myself writing something consistently. It’s a start.

One of my more concrete goals for this year was inspired by all the Christmas cards I’ve sent out the past few years. Sending out Christmas cards wasn’t something I particularly did growing up, but moving 12,000 miles from home can make you a bit sentimental sometimes. I never learned to eat apple pie or found the joy in sending Christmas cards until I moved to Taiwan 2010. Every year since, I’ve sent Christmas cards. I prefer to write quite a bit in them, wanting to make an opportunity to actually reconnect with the person. Frequently, putting an open call out on Facebook asking who wants a Christmas card leads to a conversation online with the person when I get their address and the opportunity to catch up with someone I haven’t spoken to in a while. Life is short and we only live for so long. Sometimes people might drift out of our lives for a good reason but more often we just didn’t try hard enough to keep in touch. There are family members and friends who I feel like I stay in touch with because I see them in my Facebook feed, but I don’t know the last time I had a conversation with some of them, and I think that should change. 

One way I’m trying to change it is by making phone calls or at least sending a message when I say to myself, “Wow, I haven’t talked to so-and-so in a while. I wonder how they are?” Don’t wonder. ASK. Call them. Have a conversation.

Another way I’m trying to make sure I reconnect with the people who belong in my life is by using the USPS. How many days out of the week do you get something in your physical mailbox that isn’t either someone trying to sell you something, or a bill for something you’ve already bought? Not often enough, I’ll wager. I know I get excited whenever I see something else in the mail. I’ve decided to pass that feeling on by sending making sure to send at least one thing out in the mail every month. So far this year, I’ve been successful. There were some New Year and birthday cards in January, the “Hugs Keep Us Alive” T-shirt for my friend’s birthday in February, and in March I sent a copy of a storybook I wrote and printed a few years ago to a cousin of mine who likes the story. 

Image

A picture from my story “Sky Pond”, about two friends seeing the world differently, and braving it together.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to send out in April, but I do know at least one phone call I plan to make. You never know how long any of us have here. 2 years and 51 weeks ago my dad passed away. Sometimes I still think about calling him. Don’t wait until you’re not busy to try to catch up with someone. The truth is, you’re probably never going to be “not busy.” Make sure the people in your life know they’re important to you.