One of our favorite old “standby” dinners at our house is Chicken Cordon Bleu. It sounds fancy, but it’s nothing more than chicken, ham and cheese that’s layered, folded up and baked.
Our kids grew up loving this dish.
I served this family favorite of ours to Elke and Wolfgang Karsten, a German couple with two young daughters, who lived across the street from us in New York. Right away, Chicken Cordon Bleu became a favorite in their house, too. We were neighbors for less than two years before they moved back to Germany.
Their older daughter, Christiane, came back to visit us in July 1985. She and our daughter, Whitney, who were close in age, had a great time together. I made sure to fix Chicken Cordon Bleu for Christiane so she would feel at home, which she did.
During her visit, I introduced Christiane to another of our dinner favorites called “Clean Out the Refrigerator Night.” This was an opportunity to get rid of all of those little half dishes of leftover things (hopefully without mold on them!) clogging up your refrigerator shelves. You’d end up with lots of mismatched meats and vegetables but nobody seemed to care.
Basically, it’s a gastronomic free-for-all.
On these nights I’d lay everything out on the counter and everybody got to choose what they wanted. Whoever came first to dinner got to be first in line. No one was ever late to dinner on those nights!
This concept was a real novelty for Christiane, who had never heard of such a thing. When she returned home she asked to have a “Clean Out the Refrigerator Night.” I don’t think this translates into German very well. Elke had no clue.
In the summer of 1987, our son, Blake, who was 14 at the time, visited the Karstens in Germany. He had a great time while he was there, experiencing lots of new people, places, and things. Elke made Chicken Cordon Bleu for him one night so he would feel at home, which he did.
It turns out that Chicken Cordon Bleu was the common denominator that made two kids far away from their families feel right at home. It’ll make you feel good too. Try it and see. Your family will love it, and the leftovers will be a big hit at your next “Clean Out the Refrigerator Night.”
Joy Smith of Fort Mill has many recipes – and the stories behind them – to share.