Annie Smither’s Chicken Cordon Bleu

Serves: 4

We were in Queenstown, NZ this year for my birthday.

(If you haven’t visited Queenstown, it really does need to be on your bucketlist: some of the best restaurants we have eaten at, great bars, amazing vineyards, incredible drives and apparently skiing if you are so inclined.)

One of the most memorable meals was at a restaurant called Rata by Josh Emmet. A beautiful, contemporary restaurant, engaged service, incredibly good food and $45 (!!) for three courses. We simply couldn’t believe it.

Not complete with running an amazing restaurant or having three Michelin Stars to his name, Josh Emmet is also an accomplished cookbook writer and his book ‘The Recipe.’ would have to be one of the best cookbooks I have ever purchased.

The book is a collection of the world’s classic recipes as cooked by the “world’s best chefs”: Gordon Ramsay, Neil Perry, Ken Hom, Christine Manfield, you name it.

It is one of those cookbooks with such beautiful photography where you can happily spend the afternoon with a bottle of wine with your partner, earmarking all the dishes you’re going to cook and dreaming of the wonderful meals coming up.

(If it wasn’t clear, buy this book!)

So… dish #1 – cooked by my very culinarily-capable wife – was Annie Smither’s Chicken Cordon Bleu.

And it was spectacular. Old school, new school spectacular.

Old school in that ham and cheese in a crumbed chicken breast is a bit our parent’s generation of Saturday night cooking. But wow, it was so good.

New school in that our parent’s didn’t cook it: they cooked it from frozen. Or if they did cook it (which they didn’t), they didn’t cook it like this.

This is honest, wonderful, cooking. On all levels.

Cheese oozing. Ham and mustard. A contemporary breadcrumb.

Make it one of those Sunday nights where you make an outrageous potato gratin. Open a Pinot. Put the kids to bed.

And don’t think of Monday.

Ingredients

A little butter, for greasing
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp chopped fresh chives
4 very thin slices lean cooked leg ham
4 very thin slices Swiss cheese (or grated Gruyère)
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp all-purpose plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1/4 cup fine, fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp paprika

Method

Preheat the oven to 190c. Grease a baking dish with butter.

Split the chicken breasts horizontally to give two flatter pieces. Place each between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet or rolling pin to flatten each chicken breast to a thickness of 5mm.

Spread each chicken breast with 1/2 tsp mustard and sprinkle each with 1 tsp chives. Cut ham and cheese slices to fit the chicken and top each chicken breast with ham and a cheese slice. Roll up, tucking the ends inside.

Place the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, combine the egg and milk, beating slightly.

Place breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Coat chicken rolls in turn with flour, then egg mixture, then roll in crumbs. Place in the baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.

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