Chicken cordon bleu is an old school meal that peaked in popularity sometime during the 1960s or 1970s. However, many people across the world still enjoy this dish for a hearty meal. It’s relatively easy to make despite its layers of ingredients.
Chicken cordon bleu is essentially a thin chicken breast that is stuffed with ham and cheese. The breast is rolled up to secure the ham and cheese inside. It is then breaded and baked until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melt. A sauce, such as a creamy honey mustard, is often drizzled on the top of it before serving.
So, what cheese is used to make cordon bleu? Let’s get into the details!
Cheese In Chicken Cordon Bleu
Despite the French in its name, the recipe that helped inspire chicken cordon bleu came from Switzerland. See the History section below for more details.
The common cheese used to make cordon bleu is Swiss. If you live in America, that typically means the pre-sliced or shredded Swiss found down the dairy aisle at grocery stores.
Alternatively, you can use the specialty Swiss or Swiss-like cheeses that are typically better quality compared to the mass-produced Swiss cheeses previous mentioned. These cheeses are commonly found refrigerated near the deli section at grocery stores. Some examples include Emmental, Gruyere, or Fol Epi.
Of course, you can do whatever the heck you want in your own kitchen when it comes to ingredients. The cordon bleu police aren’t going to arrive if you happen to think something like American or Cheddar will work best for the taste buds of your family. Feel free to get creative!
History of Chicken Cordon Bleu
The idea for what would become chicken cordon bleu is said to come from Brig, Switzerland in the 1940s. They were making schnitzel there that was stuffed with cheese. Schnitzel is meat that is pound thin, breaded, and then fried, similar to how you make cordon bleu using modern recipes.
This schnitzel was likely ultimately inspired by veal kiev that was being made similarly in France since at least the mid-1800s. Russian chefs brought the recipe back to their home country after visiting Paris and started using chicken instead of veal.
According to NPR, chicken kiev started becoming popular in America after World War II. It was particularly popular in New York where it was served at higher end restaurants in an attempt attract Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.
The first printed reference specific to actual “chicken cordon bleu” was in The New York Times in 1967. According to South Florida Reporter, the reference was in a United Airlines advertisement which pitched the coach meal options of either top sirloin or chicken cordon bleu on flights out to California.
However, there are references to “veal cordon blue” much earlier. The Los Angles Times mentions it as an elegant dish in a newspaper from 1958 in which they state, “Veal cordon bleu will be the piece de resistance on the menu.”
It is unclear who invented or named chicken cordon bleu stuffed with ham and cheese. However, it was undoubtedly inspired by schnitzel/kiev with some sources claiming it was invented in America post World War II.
We should note that this dish was not invented by the Cordon Bleu cooking school as many people assume. Cordon bleu means “blue ribbon” in French. The blue ribbon was used to symbolize the highest form of French knighthood and was established by Henry III of France in the 1500s. This would go on to be used in the culinary profession as a symbol of the highest order of chefs.