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We’ve Only Been Eating Chicken Cordon Bleu Since Mid-1960’s

Annually observed on April 4 is National Chicken Cordon Bleu Day.  It is all about a special dish combining chicken, ham and cheese.

The French term Cordon Bleu is translated as “Blue Ribbon”. This dish is a take on the popular Veal Cordon Bleu.  It is a flattened chicken breast which is wrapped around ham (or sometimes prosciutto or Canadian bacon) and cheese such as Swiss or Gruyere.  The chicken is held together with toothpicks and dipped in an egg wash and breaded.

  • The earliest recipe we were able to find was in a March 1964 printing of the Cincinnati Enquirer by the Cincinnati Gourmet Stanley Demos.  Despite some misconceptions, it is an American dish.  Demos mentions in his column that he got the idea to try chicken instead of veal “to be different.”  It has been a popular dish since.
  • The phrase “Cordon Bleu” means “Blue Ribbon” when referring to the dish.
  • Another use of the phrase “Cordon Bleu” comes from a distinguished order of sixteenth-century French knights, who apparently wore blue sashes and were therefore popularly referred to as the “Cordon-bleus.”
  • There are many regional dishes from Europe that share characteristics with Chicken Cordon Bleu. Some of the countries that include roulades, or roll ups of meat, in their cuisine are Germany, France and Italy.
  • In largely Muslim-populated countries, the halal versions of chicken cordon bleu are also popular, but to cater to the halal requirement for the Muslims, the chicken is rolled around a beef instead of a pork product.
  • The earliest reference to veal cordon bleu in The Los Angeles Times was published in 1958. It is listed among the trendy dishes served at a swank affair: “Veal cordon bleu will be the piece de resistance on the menu.”
  • The oldest reference in the NYT for chicken cordon bleu is also a United Airlines ad, circa 1967: “Top Sirloin. Fine Wine. Color Movies. This is Coach? United’s Blue Carpet to California. Blue Carpet is the best reason for flying Coach on your vacation to Los Angeles or San Francisco. What’s in it for you? Top Sirloin Steak-or Chicken Cordon Bleu, if you wish-prepared by our own European-trained chefs. Champagne or fine red wine (at nominal cost)…Even a special children’s menu.”
  • Chicken Kiev is a similar dish.
  • Chicken Cordon Bleu can be pan fried or baked in the oven.
  • The origins of cordon bleu as a schnitzel filled with cheese are in Brig, Switzerland, probably about the 1940s, first mentioned in a cookbook from 1949.


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