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!

Bananas Over Bananas

I’ve never really liked bananas. It sounds crazy. After all, nature designed bananas to be a great snack–easily portable, they come with their own biodegradable wrapping, inexpensive, and a good source of potassium. I should be totally ape over bananas. Sorry, I couldn’t resist–feel free to leave now if necessary, I won’t blame you.

Oh? You’re still here. Cool.

I first learned to like bananas in Taiwan. At the time, I discovered my then-roommate is an amazing baker (for the record, I can’t bring to mind anything that she wasn’t excellent at, and she is a tremendously positive and kind-hearted person as well). I can cook fine, no problem. Meat, vegetable-like roots and fungus, and even sauces, I’m good to go. I’ve even started dabbling in soup. But I really do best with things that stay on the stove top and that I can keep an eye on. As much as I love eating sweets, baking has never been my forte. However, my roommate? She was amazing at it. She started a baking club at the school she was teaching at as a way for her advanced students to get more practice at conversational English and learn a bit more about American culture than what Hollywood shows the world. She made all sorts of things that I hadn’t really exposed myself to before, or if I had, it’d been when I was young and determined I didn’t like those things. What sort of dishes? Apple pie. Banana bread. Almond bars. I could go on.

I was absolutely bowled over by the banana bread she brought home and decided that maybe bananas weren’t so bad after all, at least in bread form.

Our apartment in Yilan didn’t have an oven, which wasn’t exactly uncommon. When I moved to Douliu a year later and lived on my own, I decided to buy a small oven (probably more akin to a toaster oven). It wasn’t a great piece of machinery, and honestly, I probably got what I paid for. A fair amount of heat escaped, nothing really cooked evenly, and it just wasn’t great. But it sufficed for most of my needs. I think my most frequent use for it was to make my own version of “French Onion soup”. The broth consisted of vegetarian oyster mushroom sauce, soy sauce, and Mirin. Probably the only part of it that resembled french onion soup was the onions, bread, and the cheese. My oven did succeed in melting cheese on top of my soup, so I was pleased enough. I do vaguely recall other attempts at using it–there was an apple pie who’s graham cracker (Digestives) crust fell to pieces and cookies that came out half burnt and half mostly raw. My coworkers were nice enough to help me eat the apple pie and cookies all the same, despite the fact that a lot of it didn’t look real tasty.

My attempt at making banana bread myself went pretty poorly. I had way too much batter for the oven or for the size dish I had an I didn’t realize it. So most of it didn’t cook, even left in for longer or put back in again a second time. I’m sure none of that was a brilliant idea. I did try some of the outside bits that did seem to cook and it was okay actually, though not as good as my former roommate’s. I should give her recipe a try again now that I’m back home and have a trustworthy oven–the heat only escapes when I get impatient and open it to check on whatever is in there.

Tonight though, I didn’t decide to make banana bread. Maybe I would have had more luck. I decided I’d try to be a bit healthier and make baked banana chips. I’ve mentioned before my weight loss yo-yoing–getting down about 20 pounds and gaining it all back. At the moment I’m trying to look for sustainable practices for keeping myself healthier and accountable. It’s a slow process, I’m working on it. Making banana chips instead of sugary banana bread was an attempt at it.

Back to the banana chips: I looked at half a dozen recipes that all said about the same thing–slice your banana thin, spread the pieces on parchment paper with a little lemon juice and put it in the oven at 200 degrees for an hour or two as necessary, you can’t go wrong. Well, I’m beginning to think I went wrong somewhere.

I peeled my banana and sliced the pieces maybe a quarter of an inch thick and spread them over my parchment paper and heated the oven to 200. I had a hard time deciding how I was going to season them. The truth is, I’m not a big fan of the flavor of bananas alone. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten more than a bite or two of one. So I separated my banana pieces into sections to experiment.

Group 1: banana and a little lemon juice

Group 2: banana, lemon juice, garlic

Group 3: banana, lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne

Group 4: banana, lemon juice, garlic, and just a tiny bit of olive oil to see what would happen

When my tray of banana pieces had been in the oven for about 40 minutes, I checked on them to turn them over. They were slimy. They were quite slimy. And I thought they smelled pretty gross. I flipped them all over and reset the kitchen timer to total 2 hours instead of one.

I checked them again at an hour and forty minutes. They were still kind of slimy and I still wasn’t digging the smell. It was a this point that I decided I might as well open up WordPress and blog about the experience. Maybe one of you has some advice for me, or maybe you’ll get a laugh out of imagining my face smelling the slimy grossness that was in my oven. It looks something like this.  Sorry, I did post the picture, but  then a net-dragon ate it. They’re known for eating horrendous pictures so that they will hopefully never bee seen again.

Annoyed and wishing I would have just made roasted chickpeas, I flipped them again and turned the heat up to 250 to let them finish their last 20 minutes for a cumulative 2 hours in the oven. As much as I love roasted chickpeas, I don’t like how they taste eaten cold the next morning, so they’re not a great snack for me to bring to work. I was hoping banana chips might be.

They’ve come out of the oven now and they’re rather tacky. I’m thinking I might have left the slices too thick. Maybe I should have gone with an 1/8 of an inch slices. I haven’t taste tested them yet.

Image

Okay, I’ve tasted them now. They dried a bit, but definitely are not remotely crisp or crunchy. I’m guessing I should have sliced them thinner. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to like the taste of hot, mushy banana. I tried a couple of the different flavor combinations and just found the banana too overwhelming.

I suppose I shall have to try another experiment another day. For now, I’ll post this and get back to working on my next chapter for Law and Marriage. I have to say, for a ship I haven’t really explored much before now, I’m really enjoying it. I did manage to update it mid-February, after being unable to update since the end of December. I’m hoping to get another update in this week or this weekend. Cooking features heavily in the next chapter.

I’ve fallen far, far behind in Thain in Vain‘s flash fiction prompts. I’m hoping to get everything back in balance again. In the meantime, I ran across this on Facebook and it’s awesome. It’s 20 two-sentence horror stories. It’s some of best micro-fiction I’ve come across–definitely got chills reading some of them. I’m trying not to think about them now, so close to going to sleep, so read those at your own risk.

Well, it’s time to write, so TTFN!

(Please be sure to read that last bit in Tigger’s voice, because that’s totally what I imagined when I wrote it.)