Back in the 80’s and 90’s when I was growing up, Chicken Cordon Bleu was like “it”. It was the most elegant, indulgent, “fancy lady food” I knew about.
There was a restaurant back in the 80’s called The New Yorker where I grew up, and we would go there on special occasions with a big group of our family. I remember ordering the Chicken Cordon Bleu at this place and I thought I was eating the finest cuisine in the world. If you know the place I’m talking about (family & friends), then you’re probably laughing right now, and I am too, but oddly enough, I remember getting my first taste of (what I thought was) something exquisite. In my 10 year old head it was a really big deal. I felt like a grownup and I felt like a “fancy lady”.
Fast forward 25+ years….I now know that Chicken Cordon Bleu is not all that fancy, but you know what? I still love it. I crave it. If it’s on a restaurant menu, I just may order it. And I always think back to that restaurant, and vividly remember how happy it made me.
I found many versions of this meatball version recipe online and tried it out for myself and made up my own sauce to go along with it. I personally don’t think it needs a sauce necessarily, as it’s rich on its own, but it’s nice to have that extra creamy option and give it a little extra kick.
Ingredients for Meatballs:
1 pound lean ground chicken breast
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup small diced ham cubes
½ cup swiss cheese – slices cut into small squares
2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of water – whisked
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup panko bread crumbs
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
2-3 cups of canola oil in a large skillet
Ingredients for creamy sherried dijon sauce:
2 cups of low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons of stone ground dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
Juice of ½ a lemon
¼ cup cooking sherry
2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with ¼ cup of chicken broth for thickening
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine ingredients for the meat mixture. Cut up the ham and swiss cheese and set aside. Mix together the wet and dry dredge ingredients in separate bowls and set aside.
Scoop out a heaping tablespoon size of the meat mixture and roll in your hands. Press in a finger indentation into it and fill with a piece of swiss cheese, then a few pieces of ham, and a second piece of swiss cheese. Press inside meat mix and then add another tablespoon of meat on top to pack inside ham and swiss and close completely by pressing and rolling into a large round ball.
Roll into the egg mix dredge and cover completely, then transfer to the dry bread crumb mix and coat completely. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat until you have approximately 12 large meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter.
Heat your skillet with canola oil on medium heat, with the oil approximately ½ way up the pan. Once hot, add the first 6 meatballs into the oil with tongs, spaced apart, and fry for 3-4 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and fry the other side for another 3-4 minutes. The meatballs should be golden brown on each side. Carefully watch the heat level of oil at all times, turning higher or lower to make sure there is no burning. Transfer meatballs to a paper towel lined plate and repeat with remaining 6 meatballs.
Once your oil has cooled, clean out skillet and add all the creamy sherried dijon sauce ingredients except the cornstarch and chicken broth slurry. Heat until you have a simmering boil and then add the cornstarch slurry to thicken. Once thick and completely combined, turn heat down to a low simmer and add the meatballs until completely heated through. About 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately with a little sauce drizzled over each meatball. Enjoy!
Here’s how they turn out:
Because I love you, I won’t lie and tell you that these are quick and super simple. They take a little patience and there’s a few more steps than making a regular old meatball. It’s not a 15 minute meal, so you want to give yourself the time and get all your ingredients out and have them cut up, mixed and ready to go. A little pre-planning makes it so much simpler.
Get your meat mixture ingredients into a bowl.
It will look about like this.
Cut up your ham and swiss cheese into small pieces.
Get your egg dredge and bread crumb mix together and set aside, and have a baking sheet ready to put the finished meatballs onto once assembled.
Then let’s go in with very clean hands! Ground chicken is sticky, and not as easy to roll up as a ground beef mixture. Just so you are prepared! Get a good sized heaping tablespoon into your hand, press an indentation into it and start filling it with your ham and swiss.
Then take about another tablespoon of the meat and press it on top to cover it all and then very gently roll in in your hand to get a nice round ball and make sure no cheese or ham is poking through. Add more meat if you need to. As you can see from the size in comparison to my hand, it’s not small.
Transfer that to your egg and water dredge and roll it until covered completely.
Then into the breadcrumbs. Coat completely.
Repeat this until you have about 12 meatballs (mine are large, about 2 inches in diameter) and have them laid onto the baking sheet.
Heat up your oil in a frying skillet on medium heat.
Once the oil has heated, add the first 6 meatballs to the oil with a pair of tongs, spread evenly apart and monitor the heat level. I find after the first couple of minutes I need to turn it down very slightly so they are sizzling, but very gently. You want them to brown, not burn.
After about 4 minutes, turn them over and give them another 4 minutes or so.
Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb any oil and repeat the frying process with the remaining 6 meatballs.
If you look closely, I had a little hole where I didn’t quite close the meat around the filling….the cheese tried to melt out….thankfully not too much. It’s always sad when you lose your cheese. Or your mind. Or your mind over losing your cheese. This is just a warning to close up your meat carefully. Don’t be like me.
Let your skillet cool and remove the oil. Add in your ingredients for the cream sauce – the low sodium chicken broth, worcestershire, dijon, cooking sherry, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Heat on medium heat until just bubbling.
Add in the cornstarch/chicken broth slurry and whisk until nice and creamy and smooth.
Turn heat to low and add the meatballs back into the sauce for about 10 minutes to make sure they are completely heated through.
Sprinkle on some parsley and some parmesan cheese, and serve right from the skillet, or plate them and drizzle on a little of the sauce over each meatball.
These little darlings are so good, and so worth the effort. It’s just like chicken cordon bleu, but the chicken is a bit more tasty because of the meatball-ish mixture. The tangy sherry-dijon sauce sends these over the moon with flavor. Truth be told, they taste great even without it, but it’s nice to add a little creamy sauce so they don’t feel to dry.
It’s everything chicken cordon bleu should be, with a little twist. It’s a great party appetizer or a main course meal. It looks like you put a lot of effort into it, and it tastes just the same. Nobody at your dinner table will complain, and that’s a promise!
When you cut into them, the melted swiss cheese and hot pieces of ham scream with delight at being found. Despite a little extra work with these, it is worth the wait and the effort. Especially for me, when I want to feel like a ‘fancy lady’ from the late 80’s, back in Chilliwack, at the New Yorker Restaurant.
There’s nothing like a rich and flavorful meal to take you back to a taste that reminds of you of wonderful memories, with people you love, sitting around a table and laughing. Something that is a guarantee with my family, who I love more than anything.
– The Homesteaders Wife