|Classic Cordon Bleu
6 chicken thighs (about 1-½ pounds), boneless and skinless
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons papaya paste (see tips)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups buttermilk
6 slices smoked turkey
6 slices Gruyère cheese
1-½ cups homemade bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup canola oil (or any neutral oil)
The day before...
Marinating the chicken:
In a blender, mix the onion with the buttermilk. Set aside.
Trim the fat around the bottom of the piece of meat if there is any. Wash the chicken and pat dry using paper towels.
Slice each piece in half, horizontally, making sure you don't cut all the way through so 2 pieces remain attached. The inside will be filled with cheese and the turkey or ham the next day.
In a zip-top bag (or a large bowl), combine the garlic, papaya, baking powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and onion-flavored buttermilk. Mix well and add the chicken. Shake the bag gently to coat the meat with the marinade (or mix well). Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Place the bag in a baking dish (for easy cleanup). Marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day...
Pan-frying the chicken:
Line a baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. Spray with a little oil.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator ahead of time to bring it back to room temperature. Drain the meat, leaving as little liquid as possible and discarding any remaining buttermilk. Pat dry using paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
The slices of smoked turkey should be slightly smaller than the pieces of chicken and the cheese should cover half the size of the smoked turkey slice.
Open up a piece of chicken, top with a slice of turkey and add a piece of cheese on one side. Close the chicken, encasing the smoked turkey and cheese, just like a pocket. Repeat with the rest of the chicken, turkey and cheese.
Prepare 2 plates; one with bread crumbs and the other with the lightly beaten eggs mixed with mustard.
Using your left hand, carefully dip both sides of the chicken in the egg wash, then transfer it to the bread crumb plate with your right hand.
In a large pan that can be used in the oven, heat the rest of the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Lift the meat with tongs and check for a slightly golden crust around the meat, then flip the chicken, and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to the baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven. Loosely cover with aluminum foil (don't entirely wrap it or the crust won't be crispy). Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
A thermometer should register 165°F in the thickest part. If not, return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.
Serve with wedges of lemon.
Yields: 6 servings