Tell me you have a freezer, because bone-in chicken breasts are $1.19 a pound these week at Rainbow – a price I haven’t seen in some time. (Watch me stock up now, and have them be 99 cents a pound next week, right?) I do get excited about these prices even though we’ve had good sales on dark meat chicken, because in my mind, bone in breasts at a good price are a better value. Frankly, my family likes white meat better, too. I also prefer the bone-in breasts because I can make stock or broth with them, so I consider that a bonus.
(Just a note on the prices this week - beans and split peas are on sale, too, unadvertised. I always try to pick them up the week after a holiday, and they are so cheap, I’ll stock up for the year on them.)
I’ll serve the Cordon Bleu for a cost of $3.16 with a side of Turnip Greens, $1.09 and Glazed Carrots, 59 cents. The total cost of the meal is about $4.83. With a coupon on the Buddig, and free cheese, your cost would be $4.10.
Recipe: Kinda Cordon Bleu Chicken
- 4 chicken breast, 6 ounces each
8 slices ham, thinly sliced – I used Buddig for this budget recipe
2 ounces swiss cheese, grated, or any cheese you wish – if cheese is soft, there is no need to grate.
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or marjoram
1 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons water
salt and pepper
Slice chicken breast along the center side – this will be the fat side, almost to the middle. This is really counter-intuitive, and just the opposite of how I’ve been ”instructed” from every cook book I’ve read and Tv shows I’ve seen, but if you slice the other way, from the flatter side to the thicker middle, you will always end up with a piece of chicken meat that looks like a heart, not a rectangle. Romantic, but not very easy to roll.
When you get near the middle, open it up.
Trim off the triangle of meat at the bottom pointed end (about an inch and 1/2.) Make a series of very shallow cuts vertically along the middle of the chicken at the top fatter part to allow it to lay flat.
Put in heavy Ziploc type bag. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Take care not to pound too hard because the meat may tear or create holes. You should end up with something that resembles a rectangle.
I season now with salt and pepper.
Lay 2 slices of ham on each breast, followed by 1/4 of the cheese. Leaving a 1/2-inch margin on all sides to help seal the roll.
Take the bottom edge and roll up and toward the top.
Tuck in the sides at the same time you finish the roll. It’s just like they roll up a burrito at Chipotle’s.
Squeeze the log gently to seal. Lay a piece of plastic wrap down and place your chicken log on the plastic, seam side down, horizontal to the bottom edge of the plastic. Roll the plastic wrap around the chicken, leaving the short sides of the chicken roll open.
Grab a hold of the plastic wrap on the left and right of the chicken, one end in each hand. Firmly roll the chicken on the counter, letting the plastic wrap tighten. Pick it up and roll again several times. The plastic will tighten around the chicken, forcing it into a nicely rounded and uniform shape. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight – this helps to seal the chicken well. This is a good time to freeze the chicken, as well, if you’d like to make some for the future. (Thaw and continue with the recipe.)
Season the flour with salt and pepper in a flat dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with thyme, salt and pepper and place in another flat dish. Beat together the eggs and water, the mixture should be fluid – and place in a third flat dish.
Lightly dust the chicken with flour, making sure the ends are coated, too. Pick up and pat gently to shake off excess. Dip and roll in the egg mixture, making sure to get wash on the ends and in the nooks and crannies. Finally, place in the bread crumbs, completely coating. Press gently to adhere. I like to place mine on a small rack, so as to not disturb the breadcrumb crust I worked so hard on. Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight for best adhesion, although I’ve cooked them right away, and they’re still good. If you’ve modified this for Chicken Kiev, (below, under Put Your Own Spin On it) the additional time in the fridge helps to keep the butter fairly solid while it’s cooking so it doesn’t ooze out prematurely. It’s more important to follow this refrigeration time for the Kiev.
Bake at 350 for about 20 – 25 minutes, deep fry at 350 for about 6 – 8 minutes, or pan fry in about 1/2 inch of oil, four minutes per side. Test for a temperature of 165 degrees.
Money & Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
This is an easy recipe to make ahead and freeze, either before it’s breaded or after. If you want to freeze after it’s breaded, cook the chicken in the oil until partially browned and the crust is set, cool on a rack in the fridge, then freeze. Bag and put back into the freezer. When you are ready to eat them, bake or fry frozen, adding a bit of time to the cooking time. I’ve found this is best for short-term only; without all the preservatives, the bread crumbs will taste stale after several months.
- Chicken: Remove the skin and then the breast portion off the bone. These breasts are quite large, so trim them down to about 6 ounces each. I’ll also remove the tenderloins and bag with the trimmings for stir fry for my own chicken strips, then I’ll make use of the bones in a homemade stock. Read my page on Bone-In Chicken Breasts for a little more information. Cost for the four breasts at $1.29 a pound is $1.93
- Ham: I picked up the Buddig on sale a few weeks ago with a coupon, so my cost is about 10 cents. It’s on sale this week for $.58 cents, and I have two slices left over for a small sandwich.
- Cheese: $2.00 a pound on sale this week, cost is 25 cents. If you bought the mozzarella like I did a few weeks ago for free, your cost would be zero.
- Bread Crumbs: I make my own from stale and old bread and add salt and pepper along with the thyme. I simply break the pieces up, whir in the food processor and lightly toast on a sheetpan for a 20 minutes in a 250 degree oven. (Measure out what you need for the chicken and bag the rest in the freezer for another time. Discard the rest of the portion you’ve used to coat the chicken.) Cost: Free.
- Eggs: Last bought at 88 cents a dozen, cost 25 cents.
- Oil: Depends on how you cook these; I’m figuring about 3/4 cup of oil for 1/2 inch, last bought on sale for $1.88 for 48 ounces. Cost about 15 cents.
- Carrots: On sale for 48 cents a pound; you may have leftovers…you’ll need the carrots, and a bit of butter and sugar, so your cost is about 58 cents.
- Greens: Turnip greens are on sale 99 cents a bunch. I trim them, roll them up together and slice. Saute a bit of onion in a pan with olive oil, add the greens and a bit of chicken stock and wilt them down. A few red pepper flakes or a sprinkle of Montreal Steak Seasoning is nice, but optional. A 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar sprinkled over the greens while they cook mellows some of the sharpness. Cost 99 cents for the greens, plus about 10 cents for the extra ingredients.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 371 Calories; 20g Fat (48.4% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 120mg Cholesterol; 420mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 4 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Fat.
How can I mention a meal like this on a blog where I talk so much about nutrition? This is a meal we’ll have instead of, say chicken nuggets or a store bought variety of frozen chicken meals. I also paired it with a couple of healthier items. It hits the spot, feels special, and gives you some of the crunchy goodness we all like so much and often miss if we don’t have it. It hits the right note on the satiety factor! It’s a great meal to have in your repertoire, and, given the amount of work, it’s probably not something you’ll make TOO often, so it’s self-limiting, so to speak.
Put your own spin on it: You can easily turn this recipe into Chicken Kiev: Combine 4 tablespoons butter, and about 1/2 teaspoon each of parsley and tarragon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt plus 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Place mixture on plastic wrap or waxed paper and roll into small log; place in freezer. Divide up and use instead of cheese and ham for the filling. Omit the thyme or marjoram in the breadcrumb coating.
My Payoff -
The bottom line is these taste great without a lot of additives. I often find these frozen in little bags, 6 ounces for a dollar, about $2.67 a pound – four of them would, of course, be $4.00. The taste cannot even begin to compare to the homemade version – for that alone, the work is more than worth it.
$5.00 Meals: Here is the link for $5 Dinner Mom’s Bargain Meal of the Week, where local cooks from all over the country pick an item from their store’s ad, use it in a recipe, and blog about the results.
Recipe made in November 2011