The other day my youngest came to me with his hands on his hips and said he wanted Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner. I laughed out loud and said “Honey, there’s no time right now. We have to get to basketball”.
During that basketball game, I thought back to my cooking school days, when wrapping a piece of prosciutto around a fussy piece of Gruyere, painfully placing it inside a chicken breast then sealing it with toothpicks, coating it in breadcrumbs and baking it to plump perfection was doable. Life as a mom might not allow us the luxury of time to perform such feats these days, but it does hone our resourcefulness skills. So when we got in the car to go home, I told Colgan to give me about half an hour and I would make him a Mommy version of the classic dish.
With a few staple pantry ingredients, I developed a hearty twist on this classic French dish that the whole family enjoyed. I hope yours will, too.
After dinner, I dusted off my old binder from cooking school and found my notes on Cordon Bleu. The term translates to “blue ribbon”, which originally referred to an award given to female chefs for culinary excellence—an award I won around our dinner table for my mommy version of this classic dish.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta Bake
Makes 6 servings
- 2 cups whole wheat penne
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 cup milk
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 white cooking onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp each grated lemon zest, minced garlic and dried thyme leaves
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
- ¼ cup finely diced sundried tomatoes, patted dry
- 1 cup of cooked chopped chicken breast
- ¼ lb deli-style ham, chopped
- 1 cup roughly chopped whole grain bread (into large crumbs)
- 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
Prep and Cook
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F (180 C).
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Strain and set aside.
- Measure out flour and Dijon mustard and place in a glass liquid measuring cup. Slowly whisk in milk. Reserve.
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Stir in lemon zest, garlic, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.
- Turn heat off and stir in milk mixture, stirring until sauce appears thick, about 30 seconds.
- Add cooked pasta, spinach, sundried tomatoes, chicken and ham and toss until well combined.
- Place mixture in a well-greased, 8 cup (2.8 L) casserole dish. Toss together bread crumbs and cheese and sprinkle evenly over pasta.
- Bake for 25 minutes or until pasta is hot.
Charmaine Broughton-Dunn is a chef, food writer, marathon runner and founder of MarathonMom.ca. She races daily after her two boys Tyler (8) and Colgan (7) and around her kitchen writing, developing and testing new recipes.
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