Friday the 13th Cooktacular

In food on 02/14/2009 at 3:43 pm

We had a post-exam party last night. It was supposed to be a smallish dinner gathering, but then ballooned into something barely manageable in terms of having enough decent cutlery and dishware. New Yorkers (or just people in general?) have a penchant for last-minute decision-making, which doesn’t bode well in terms of planning and preparing portions. Even though our guest chef bailed on us so we had to scramble for a menu, things turned out pretty well in the end.

Usually we go with the pot-luck method of party-giving, but a gourmet feast was promised by our Italian friend on the invitation, so it wouldn’t be kosher to suddenly request food donations. The challenge was to figure out how to go all out and not kill ourselves. I decided I wanted to make an American classic, something new to add to the repertoire that I normally wouldn’t cook for just the two of us. Lately, I’d been craving these stuffed broccoli and cheese chicken breasts we used to have every Sunday in our *award-winning* college dining hall. They used to run out of them sometimes because they were pretty darn good. I think it was a riff on chicken cordon bleu, or, a slightly elevated form of a Hot Pocket.

Wise Geek explains:
“Chicken Cordon Bleu is a French-inspired poultry dish, although evidence suggests that Chicken Cordon Bleu was actually developed in the United States by chefs imitating other stuffed meat dishes from Europe. The name of the dish is clearly of French origin – Cordon Bleu means “blue ribbon” in French, and in French culinary tradition, the Cordon Bleu is awarded to food or chefs of particularly high quality. The European dish most similar to Chicken Cordon Bleu is Chicken Kiev, chicken stuffed with seasoned butter, dredged in bread crumbs, and fried. The dish was also likely heavily influenced by Veal Cordon Bleu, a Swiss dish in which veal is wrapped in ham and cheese and fried.

The basic components of Chicken Cordon Bleu are chicken, ham or prosciutto, and a cheese such as Swiss or Gruyere. Many recipes also integrate bread crumbs as a crust. There are numerous ways to prepare Chicken Cordon Bleu…

…Chicken Cordon Bleu most often appears in a rolled presentation, with the chicken butterflied and pounded flat and the ham and cheese wrapped up inside. The tightly rolled Chicken Cordon Bleu can then be dipped in breadcrumbs and fried, grilled, or roasted. ”

I wanted a meat that had more inherent flavor, so instead of chicken, I wanted to do a turkey or pork. I ended up buying two bone-in pork shoulders from C-town, which I meticulously deconstructed and pounded/tenderized with our omelet skillet. Inspired by the bacon log that is spreading like wildfire, I lined the four butterflied portions with strips of bacon (the idea was to prevent the meat from drying out by lubricating with fat from the inside out) and dabbed on top with Bulgarian smooth feta cheese from the East Village Cheese shop bargain cases. Then I assembled four different flavor profiles: Asian (soy sauce, ginger, garlic), classic cordon bleu mustard, Latin (garlic, lime, cumin, cayenne) and Indian (coriander, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric). I tied them off with kitchen string, which reminded me of the recent Top Chef episode where Ariane didn’t even know how to tie a roast. I thought it was the easiest part. They ended up being about 2lbs each. To cook, we browned the rolls off, then roasted for ~60 min at 375°. The other half thinks these are the good version of meatloaf.

For sides, I made alt-mashed potatoes, given the other half’s aversion to the real thing for textural gag reflex reasons. We had some yams left from our CSA season, but I wanted to tone down the sweetness. So I added mashed pumpkin and squash I had stashed in the freezer, along with two bulbs of roasted garlic, butter and cream. The other half approved! Then as a dipping sauce/veg, I did a cooked slaw of okra, tomatillos and lime juice, to cut the pork fat with some nice acidity. Time for a post-party nap!

pork roll

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