Introduction: Whole-Roasted Chicken Cordon Bleu
We really love chicken cordon bleu in our family. We also really love whole smoked chicken. So we came up with a way to combine the two. It takes some prep work, but you'll end up with a whole boneless chicken with crisp, smoky skin and layers of ham and melted cheese inside.
- 1 whole chicken
- Sliced cheese (Swiss or provolone)
- Thin-sliced ham
- Rub for the chicken if you'd like some added barbecue flavor
Step 1: Debone the Chicken
Your chicken will require some prep work before you start cooking it. You will need to remove all of the bones so you can roll the ham and cheese inside, but you also want to keep the skin intact. The pictures should help you understand these steps better:
1. Rinse the chicken and then pat it dry with paper towels.
2. Remove the wings (you can cook them separately if you'd like, but they won't be part of this dish).
3. With the breast side facing up, make a small slit in the skin on the bottom, underneath the breasts and in between the legs. Gently work the skin up and over the top of the breasts, cutting away any connective tissue. Be careful not to cut holes in the skin.
4. Pull the skin up and over the legs too, cutting it lose at the ends.
5. Pop the legs out of joint. Then, use a knife to cut out the leg bones.
6. Cut carefully along each side of the breast bone and then up underneath the breasts so you can pull them up and to the side, away from the breast and back bones.
7. Flip the chicken over and cut the skin away from the backbone, avoiding holes in the skin as much as possible.
8. Work the backbone free, from whichever side is most comfortable for you. You need to cut through all connective tissue so you can pull the entire chest cavity free from the chicken.
9. Once you remove the breast and back bone system, you'll be left with a patch of skin, two breasts, and two thighs hanging off of each corner. Now you're ready to stuff.
Step 2: Stuff the Chicken
The next step is to make layers of ham and cheese in the chicken. The goal is to have alternating ham, cheese, and chicken. Start with a layer of ham and cheese, then tuck the legs back into the center and make another layer on top. Fold the breasts back down where they were prior to deboning, then add another layer of ham and cheese. Finally, stretch the skin back over the entire front of the chicken so it resembles a lumpier version of its original bony self.
If you want a crisp skin, you can rub the skin with a light layer of oil and salt prior to cooking. You can also use a rub or seasoning of your choice. Something with a fair amount of mustard powder works really well.
Step 3: Cook and Serve
The chicken is ready to cook in whatever method you like best. We did a slow roast in our smoker to give an added dimension of flavor, but you could also use a grill or oven (at 350 degrees, or indirect heat on a grill). However you cook it, make sure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees (take the reading in the thickest part of the breast, so you don't get a reading of melted cheese).
Once the chicken is done cooking, let it rest for 15 minutes, then slice. Because you've deboned the whole thing, carving is a breeze. Each slice will have beautiful layers of ham and cheese. You can serve the roast with sauce or all on its own.