Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – For many, Chicken Cordon Bleu evokes memories of eating at a fancy restaurant in the 1960s and 70s, when the dish was at the height of its popularity. As part of their elevated comfort food menu, the chefs at Bravos Restaurant have brought this classic back with style and flair.
“The entrée was introduced on October 1, 2022, says owner Michael Bufford, “I missed the dish from when I was growing up and wanted to put a twist on it and it became super-duper popular. The clients just rave about it.”
Bravos version of Chicken Cordon Bleu consists of a pounded chicken breast, which is layered with ham, mozzarella and bacon. It’s rolled up, coated with Panko bread crumbs and deep fried. A creamy Parmesan sauce is spooned over the top. The dinner is served with seasonal vegetables and your choice of garlic mashed potatoes, basmati rice, a baked potato, quinoa, rice pilaf, fries or a pasta with a cream sauce. It is a feast for all the senses.
There’s a widely held misconception that chicken cordon bleu was a French invention, but it was not. The dish has nothing to with the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, either. There are a couple of theories about the origin of Chicken Cordon Bleu.
The first one is that it likely came from a dish called Veal Kiev, which made its appearance in Paris circa the late 1840s. It called for veal, dredged in breadcrumbs and fried. It morphed in Moscow where veal was swapped for chicken. But that doesn’t explain how it got stuffed.
A more plausible explanation it that the dish originated in 1940s Switzerland as a schnitzel (a thin slice of meat fried in fat) and filled with cheese. The now famous rendition of this entrée was created in Brig, Switzerland. A large group of people had a reservation at a restaurant in that city and at the same time, a second, similar sized group showed up at the restaurant claiming to have made a reservation, too.
During this time in western Europe, the cook was not able to find an adequate amount of meat for both groups in such a short time. The chef then had the brilliant idea to take the available meat, cut it into schnitzels, slicing these into a butterfly shape and filling them with ham and cheese before breading and frying. The first reference to it in a cookbook is 1949. The dish later received its now infamous name.
The term cordon bleu translates to blue ribbon in French. The name dates back to the 16th century during the rule of King Henry III. He decided to create L’Ordre du Saint-Esprit, one of the most important orders all of French nobility and knighthood, whose symbol was a cross hanging on a blue ribbon, un cordon bleu. Because the order was so prestigious, its ceremonies were well known for being accompanied by the most decadent and luxurious feasts.
Then in 1895, the publisher of the magazine La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu (which began in 1890) opened a school for the culinary arts, with both the magazine and the school attempting to promote the illustrious food history of L’Ordre du Saint-Esprit by co-opting the imagery and name of le cordon bleu. The famous school provides students with a stellar culinary education, produces brilliant alumni and builds on the history of France. Saying something possesses the blue ribbon has grown to be a term of reverence and respect.
With all that in mind, the owner of the Swiss restaurant, where the first rolled up entrée was served, was so happy about the recipe that he offered the chef the cordon bleu (the blue ribbon) for recognition as an excellent cook. The modest chef answered that she did not need a blue ribbon, but that cordon bleu would be a nice name for her creation.
The earliest reference to the actual term chicken cordon bleu in its current form was in The New York Times in 1967, while the sister version of a veal cordon bleu can be found as early as 1955.
Even though chicken cordon bleu isn’t the latest cuisine couture, this entrée is comforting and decadent at the same time.
Bravos Restaurant is located at Francisco Madero 263, in Colonia Emiliano Zapata, just north of the Puerto Vallarta Romantic Zone and just south of the Rio Cuale. Open Tuesday through Sunday 5:00-10:30 pm. (Closed on Mondays.) Visa, MasterCard and Amex accepted. Pets or animals are not allowed inside the restaurant.