Every single time I've gotten on Pinterest in the last six months at least one of my friends has pinned a recipe for some sort of chicken cordon bleu pasta dish. Since most of my friends are a lot like me (women who work and have families with busy schedules), I tend to pay attention to the food they’re pinning. Because if they want to cook it, I imagine a lot of my readers do too. Y’all didn't know that did ya? That you’re my own little private test group? Yup. Pretty much. I ain't shame. Dione, if you don't pin this one I'm disowning you.
Anywho, I kept seeing recipes similar to this. And I wanted to cook one so bad but something just kept putting me off. I just couldn't wrap my head around some of the ingredients lists I’d seen.
But I still wanted to make it.
And when I spotted one of the packs of cubed smoked ham in the grocery store this weekend it was like a light bulb went off. Yes! That’s what it needs! And speaking of cubes, well, duh, that’s how I should do the chicken too. I was getting off track with recipes when I’d see they called for frozen fried chicken tenders and deli ham slices. I mean, I like those things but not really in a casserole. Ya know?
So I thought about some of the key components in traditional chicken cordon bleu: chicken, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, thyme and bread crumbs for coating. OK, I can work with that.
I really didn't feel like making a béchamel sauce so I borrowed the idea of making a sauce with cream cheese from an "alfredo" recipe I once had. It was rich and creamy and did a great job holding the rest of the ingredients together.
I threw it all together and hoped for the best! It was delicious and the leftovers were even better the next day!
Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
1/2 pound penne pasta
1 pound fully cooked ham cubes* (2-3 cups)
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and cubed** (2-3 cups)
1 pint half-and-half
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
8 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
1 3/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley (optional)
6 tablespoon butter, melted
Prepare the casserole:
Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
Cook pasta in liberally salted water per manufacturer’s instructions for al dente preparation; set aside.
Meanwhile, heat and stir half-and-half, cream cheese, white pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, garlic, salt and Dijon mustard over medium heat until cream cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.
In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, ham, chicken and cream sauce. Fold in Swiss cheese. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
Prepare the panko topping:
In a medium bowl, combine panko, salt, garlic and parsley. Mix in melted butter. Sprinkle panko topping over pasta mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until panko is light golden brown.
*These little packs are usually found near the whole hams in the refrigerated section. If you can’t find a pack already cubed, just buy a ham steak, trim the fat and cut it into cubes.
**I just poached mine in some water with salt and pepper then cut into cubes.