The Bachelor on the Cheap guide to making wine selection and food pairing easier - Merlot

Wine FunBy Mike Thayer

This is the first of an ongoing series of wines and food pairings

Wine, it's the perfect beverage for a romantic dinner, a go-to for a casual get-together/party and a holiday meal is complimented by it.  Whether it's a meal for two, a small party for friends or a gathering of family, having the right wine elevates the occasion. 

And while most people follow the basic rule of thumb - red wine for beef and white wine for chicken - selecting the right wine can still be challenging.  What KIND of red for that roast beef?  Or, What KIND of white for that lemon chicken dish?  Does dessert call for a different wine?

The choices are many and can be intimidating, with the reds there's Merlot; Cabernet Sauvignon; Zifandel; Syrah/Shiraz; Malbec; Pinot Noir; Nebbiolo; Sangiovese; Grenache and all kinds of red blends to choose from.

With the whites there's Chardonnay; Sauvignon Blanc; Moscato; Pinot Grigio; Riesling; Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Torrontes, Albarino and yes, white wine has it's share of blends as well.

So you walk into the liquor store in need of a bottle of wine for a dinner date or special occasion... 

Sure, you can rely on the store attendant to help you with a selection but that can be hit or miss.  A good attendant will ask you if you prefer wines on the sweeter or dryer side and what you might be pairing it with.  But keep in mind the attendant's palate is different than yours, their sweet and dry preferences are different than yours and they might try to push a particular brand on you that's in the store's best interest, not yours.  So why not walk in the store knowing what you need?  That's what this guide is for, to help you with food pairings, what is sweet, what is dry and getting a good wine for under $15 a bottle.  That's the Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly thing to do, get something nice, without paying too much for it.

So let's start off with the reds, with today's feature:  Merlot

This is one of the more popular reds and if you're looking for a wine to go with a good steak, Merlot might be for you.  A Merlot is a hearty wine that pairs well with grilled steaks, roast beef, braised lamb and tomato based pastas. If eating lighter fare, a Merlot goes well with bold flavored cheeses, such as a good sharp cheddar, gouda, or a blue cheese such as Gorgonzola.  For dessert lovers, a nice Merlot pairs well with chocolate.  And for those that like a wine on the dryer side, it's a good wine to drink by itself as well. A traditional Merlot is a medium bodied, full flavored red wine the carries fruity notes such as strawberries, raspberries, plum and/or dark cherry.  Serve Merlot slightly chilled at 60 - 65 degrees (refrigerate for about 15 - 20 minutes before serving).  If you don't finish the bottle, cork it and refrigerate, it's good for up to 4 days.  Just be sure to pull the bottle and let it come up in temp (a refrigerator chills to about 41 degrees) a bit before serving to appreciate the full flavor profile.  If you haven't finished the bottle by the four day mark, cook with it.

Bachelor on the Cheap Recomendation:  Bogle Merlot - $9.99.  A California wine with notes of plum and dark cherry.

And something to consider, subscribing to a wine club.  Here's one that I've tried and I have to say every bottle I sampled was something I would order again.  WineShop at Home

Next Up in the series:  Cabernet Sauvignon

$pend Wisely My Friends...


What to do with that leftover Easter ham - make ham fried rice

Leftover ham
Chop up some leftover holiday ham to make an easy and delicious fried rice

By Mike Thayer

If' you're running out of ideas on how to use up that leftover ham, here's something super easy to try using ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Ham Fried Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cubed ham
  • 1 cup leftover rice (cold rice gives you that crispy edge you're looking for in a good fried rice)
  • 1/4 cup onion - diced
  • 1/4 cup carrot - rough chopped, if you want to make it look 'purdy', cut julliane
  • 1/4 cup peas or whatever veggie you have on hand really, that's the beauty of fried rice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2Tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • Pinch of red pepper flake (optional)
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions:

Put a large skillet over medium high heat.  Assemble all your ingredients for easy dump in to the hot pan.  That and cold rice is the key to a good fried rice, having everything right there, ready to go.  Once the pan is hot, add the oils and once that gets hot and easily coats the bottom of the pan, dump in the veggies (mushrooms are really good in this too, but like I said, pretty much whatever leftover veggie you have on hand works).  Once the veggies start to caramelize, toss in the rice and ham.  Stir to incorporate.  Add the soy and hoisin sauces, stir to incorporate.  For the egg, you can either scramble and add it to the fried rice at this point stirring to incorporate, or you can push the fried rice to the side of the pan and fry your egg over easy so you have an egg yolk that oozes over the plated fried rice.  The latter is my preferred method, which also allows that rice to crisp up on the bottom.

Fried rice is the easiest way to kill a bunch of leftovers in the fridge - talk about being Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly!  And the best part, it's another dose of YUM!   Don't get take out or delivery - do your own fried rice!

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Wine Review: Apothic Rose - Bachelor on the Cheap

By Mike Thayer

Apothic Rose
Always have a Rose or two on hand

Keeping things simple one night for dinner, a small charcuterie board, I needed something light to drink with that baguette, brie cheese and prosciutto.

Enter, Apothic Rose.

I've had the Apothic Red before and really liked it, so on this night, I decided on trying the Apothic Rose.  TIP:  Always have a Rose or two on hand in addition to your favorite whites or reds.  Not only is it flexible with food pairings, there's going to be those times when a white or red just doesn't sound right.   On this occasion, the Apothic Rose was a perfect choice with my impromptu charcuterie board.

Here's the description from the Apothic website:  A refreshing wine that is light in color, yet dark in nature. Apothic Rosé offers crisp notes of strawberry, raspberry and watermelon. A touch of sweet fruit stays through to the finish, creating a refreshing take on a Rosé that's perfect day or night.

After reading about the layers of strawberry and watermelon flavors on the label, I kind of expected a fruity frontal assault when I opened the bottle.  But the nose on this wine isn't too fruit forward, it's actually quite nice, almost too subtle.  The first sip was indeed crisp, delivering on those notes of strawberry, watermelon along with a nice hint of raspberry.  A little bit sweet, a little bit dry, this wine is light, yet rich in flavor.   Providing a refreshing mouthfeel, this is a nicely balanced Rose, a great choice for any occasion. 

Costing me about $12, I'm giving Apothic Rose 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's reasonably priced, refreshing and a repeat buy.  This is a Rose you'll be happy to have on hand.  Chill 30 minutes before pouring.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...


Bacon-Wrapped Corn on the Cob - Bachelor on the Cheap

Bacon-Wrapped Corn on the Cob
Easy Peasy Preparation

By Mike Thayer

Try making this great appetizer at your next party.  It combines the great summertime flavor of corn on the cob, the subtle bite of jalapeno pepper and it's all brought together in a blanket of smoky bacon.  It's another dose of YUM! 

Ingredients:

  • One pound of regular cut bacon
  • One package of Green Giant Nibblers corn on the cob (You'll need 8 mini ears)
  • Two jalapenos, finely diced
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions:

Bacon-wrapped corn on the cob
A perfect summer time appetizer for a party on the patio

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.  Take two slices of bacon and place on parchment paper with one slice just slightly overlapping the other.  Hit it with some black pepper.  Sprinkle on some diced jalapeno, then wrap the corn.  Repeat until all corn is wrapped and arrange on parchment paper seam side down.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the bacon is crispy and the corn is tender. 

These can easily be done on the grill as well.  Make sure you have a hot zone and an indirect heat zone on your grill, we are doing bacon after all.  Grill the bacon wrapped corn, seam side down over direct heat moving as necessary to avoid flare ups.  Rotate every 5 minutes or so until the bacon is crispy and the corn is tender.  Serve immediately.

bacon, corn, jalapeno
Bacon, corn, jalapeno, what's not to like?

You can also do full ears of corn, but you'll need about 3 pounds of bacon for that, pretty much turning an appetizer, into a meal.

This flavor combination is tremendous, it's a perfect marriage that is a little bit sweet, a little bit spicey, a little bit smoky.  You're going to want more than one of these!

Costing me about $11 for the bag Green Giant Nibblers, a pound of Oscar Mayer bacon and a couple jalapenos, this appetizer serves 8 and took me maybe 5 minutes to prepare.  People will ask you for the recipe!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

For other great recipes, food & drink reviews and grilling ideas, go to BachelorontheCheap.com

Bacon-wrapped corn on the cob done the Bachelor on the Cheap way
It's another dose of YUM!

 


Food Review: Oscar Mayer Smokies - Bachelor on the Cheap

Oscar Mayer SmokiesBy Mike Thayer

Without question, burgers and hot dogs (that’s spelled, D.A.W.G.S) are the most popular meats to be placed on a grill in the summer time.  They're also an easy peasy, go-to meal for many families prepared on the stove top any time of year as well.   

Oscar Mayer Smokies are a great choice if you're looking for a quick and easy hot dog meal but can't take advantage of a grilled preparation.  Desiring a little smoky flavor in that dawg but cooking on the stovetop tonight?  No problem, Smokies are your friend.

Here's the description from the Oscar Mayer website:  Oscar Mayer Smokies are hardwood smoked and made with all the great taste and quality you crave. Made with no added nitrates or nitrites, no artificial preservatives, and no by-products so you can enjoy the great taste and quality you expect, with no guilt.

This is no ordinary hot dog.  Made with beef and pork, you get nice smoky notes in each bite along with a good snap, the mark of a quality dawg.  When cooking, these things plump up nicely, those smoky note juices flowing.  And hey, BONUS!  It's an eight count package of dawgs, matching the bun count!

Oscar Mayer Smokie on a street tortilla
Simple, but quite tasty!

I picked up a couple packages of Smokies the other day, on sale at my neighborhood grocery store, 2 packages for $5.  That's cheap eats and frankly (pun intended), I'll take these over the classic Oscar Mayer all beef hot dog 9 times out of 10, on sale or not.

The price is right, the smokiness is tasty and these dawgs are SO easy to prepare.  Heck, microwave for 60 seconds, put on a street taco sized tortilla (perfect size), top with any kind of mustard be it yellow, brown or Dijon to embrace that smokiness and voila, quick eats, good eats!  I'm giving Oscar Mayer Smokies 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars, these are a routine buy for me!

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Burgers, Sausages and Hot Dogs


Wine Review: Bellavita Sweet Red - Bachelor on the Cheap

Bellavita Sweet Red Wine
Excellent fruity notes

By Mike Thayer

It's been awhile since I've had a glass of wine, let alone done a wine review.

I've had this bottle sitting around since a house warming party back in October, so I figured it was time to uncork it before I have to start dusting the bottle...

This is a sweet red that has some really nice fruity notes which you catch right away when you uncork.  Lightly sweet with a bit of effervescence (that means bubbles for those of you who live in Haysville), the stars of the show are those fruity notes that are rich in character from start to finish.

Scratch Made Macadamia Nut Cookies
The nuts and chocolate pairs well with the sweet red

Pairs well with with all Italian dishes and it's an excellent dessert wine as well.  I enjoyed a glass with scratch made Macadamia Nut Cookies!

Costing me about $12, this is a sweet red that's reasonably priced and easy on the palate.  I'm giving it 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars and it's worthy of a repeat buy.

4 stars

 


Whiskey Review: Georgia Moon Peach - Bachelor on the Cheap

20220114_123359By Mike Thayer

So I recently ventured away from enjoying the more traditional flavored whiskeys such as Jim Beam Orange (Great for making an Old Fashioned) or Ole Smoky Peanut Butter which in my humble opinion is better than Skrewball!

Lately I've been into trying Moonshine, a.k.a., "White Whiskey."

White Whiskey is "new" whiskey, as in a raw, unfinished product, "unaged." White Whiskey skips the aged in oak barrels step so what you get is naked grain alcohol - Moonshine!

Looking for a different flavored Moonshine to try, I picked up a Mason Jar of Georgia Moon Peach at my neighborhood liquor store, Everton Liquor at the corner of Harry and Rock.

Here's the description:  Kentucky- Moonshine Georgia Moon Peach is another reason why the state of Georgia has its nickname. World famous Georgia peaches give the classic corn whiskey blend a new, fresh picked flavor in every sip. The smell of sweet corn accompanied by peaches in a mouth watering invitation.

Some folks might describe Moonshine as harsh and that would be a reasonable description if we were talking home made, unregulated or otherwise made without a license Moonshine.  That backyard stuff is commonly 'bottled' at 150 proof.  Yes, harsh.  But Georgia Moon Peach is a commercially made White Whiskey and at 70 proof, makes for a smooth chilled shot or better yet enjoyed on the rocks.  You get the pleasant peach notes in the nose, it delivers Georgia Peach in the sip, no harshness at all and you get the warm white whiskey finish going down.  Peach is a great pairing with Moonshine.

Costing me $13.99 for a reusable Mason Jar, I'm giving Georgia Moon Peach Moonshine 5 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  It's reasonably priced and a super change-of-pace flavored whiskey, it's a definite repeat buy.

5 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Drink Review: Ole Smoky Sour Apple Moonshine

 


Product Review: Kingsford Cumin Chili Flavored Charcoal

By Mike Thayer

Kingsford Flavored Charcoal Cumin Chili
Does this stuff really add flavor?

Make no mistake, I am a charcoal enthusiast.  In my humble opinion, for a grilled meal, you can't beat charcoal and a Weber Kettle. 

I do like to throw some added flavor through wood in combination with the charcoal, chunks of pecan wood to do up some brats, chunks of a fruit wood for pork or chunks of oak for beef.  It all depends on what you're grilling or smoking.  The key is creating layers of flavor, so when my girlfriend texted me a pic of Kingsford's lineup of flavored charcoal with a caption of "Flavored Smoke?"  I was intrigued.

I have to admit, I've never used the stuff before and my initial reaction to flavored smoke was "Isn't that what spices are for?  Talk about lazy grilling...."

But I have to try it!

The Kingsford lineup comes in three "Flavors," a combination of traditional Kingsford charcoal and the flavored briquettes.  Here are the descriptions pulled from the Kingsford website:

Garlic Onion Paprika:  "Savory, caramelized flavor featuring an earthy base of garlic paired with the mildly sweet notes of onion and warmth of paprika."  The flavored briquettes are hickory based.

Basil Sage Thyme:  "Smooth, balanced flavor that channels a peppery blend of basil harmonized with mellow hits of herbaceous sage and earthy thyme."  These flavored briquettes have an oak infused base.

Kingsford Cumin Chili Charcoal
In the bag, traditional Kingsford briquettes and 'Signature Flavor' briquettes

Cumin Chili:  "Bold, smoky flavor built on a warm and hearty foundation of cumin with a spicy pick-me-up pop of chili heat."  These briquettes have a mesquite wood base.

So, inspired by my girlfriend I went to my local grocery store and picked up a bag of the Cumin Chili flavored charcoal and some chicken thighs to test it out with.

As I previously stated, I questioned whether 'spices' could be infused through smoke into whatever I might be grilling and after all, isn't that what marinades and dry rubs are for?

But, being open minded, boy is this adding another layer of flavor!

I marinaded a little less than two pounds of boneless/skinless chicken thighs as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked salt
  • juice from half a lime

After bagging and letting the chicken get all happy in the fridge for three hours, it was time to fire up the grill.

I lost all skepticism I had for 'flavored smoke' when I dumped the chimney.  You can smell all those spice notes, it's like I was already grilling something and I hadn't even put any food on the grill yet!  The aroma of the cumin and chili was enticing!

Kingsford Cumin Chili Flavored Charcoal
Winner, winner, Kingsford Flavored Charcoal Chicken Dinner! This stuff delivers another layer of flavor!

So with the marinaded chicken in mind, as a control measure to see if this smoke can infuse spice flavor in food, I included baked potatoes in this meal.  Potatoes are great for taking on flavor.  On the grill they went, simply prepped with olive oil, salt and pepper.  They went on the grate over indirect heat, no foil.  Rotating those taters every 15 minutes (for a total cook time of one hour), I put the chicken on over the coals in a lid off preparation to avoid any flare ups.  Once I got the grill marks I wanted, I transferred the chicken over to indirect heat to finish cooking, lid on.

Let me tell you, I am a FAN of this spice infused charcoal!  The marinaded chicken was outstanding, but the potatoes were actually the star of the show!  They really picked up the spice notes.  I served them up "loaded" with butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon and green onion.  But that was all complimented by the cumin, chili and mesquite notes in that flavored charcoal.  PHENOMENAL!

5 starsCosting me $10.99 for an 8 pound bag, I'm giving Kingsford Cumin Chili Flavored Charcoal 5 out of 5 stars.  It's reasonably priced and most definitely delivers another layer of flavor on whatever you're grilling!

Marinade and/or dry rub + Kingsford Flavored Charcoal = Another Dose of YUM!

This charcoal is certainly a repeat buy and I can't wait to try the other flavors!

I take great pleasure in grilling good eats!

~ Mike Thayer


How long can you keep meat in the freezer? - Bachelor on the Cheap

By Mike  Thayer

Frozen SteakA lot of people are stocking up on freezer items these days, with a focus on meats.  Some folks are doing so to fight inflation, prices of all meats are way up and will continue to do nothing but climb.  Other folks are buying up meats as a result of world events and supply chain concerns, out of fear some items will become scarce or unavailable.

Having some ground beef and boneless/skinless chicken breasts stashed in the freezer is pretty standard for a lot of us.  But how long can you keep meat in the freezer before it goes bad? 

According to FoodSafety.gov, frozen meat that's kept at a temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower will actually be safe to eat indefinitely.  But there are tangibles, like how the meat is wrapped and even how your freezer is packed that can make a difference in the meat quality down the road.  So the question isn't really if the meat is safe to eat or not (given your freezer never quit at any point), the real question is, "Will the meat be good to eat?"

Freezer burn is the #1 culprit in making meat from the freezer not so good, as in tasty, to eat.  Freezer burn is when air circulating in the freezer to keep things cold hits the meat, drying out a spot and making it leathery.  A rip in the packaging and/or poor wrapping will result in freezer burn and you can't pan sear, roast or grill freezer burn out of a piece of meat.  You can cut the freezer burn out of that burger patty or steak, but who wants to do that and eat 3/4 of a burger?  Nonsense.  Freezer burn is totally preventable.

Below is a list of meats and the recommended maximum time it should stay in your freezer.   Going beyond the recommended time doesn't mean the meat will go bad, it just means the flavor and tenderness is in decline.  Included with the recommended freezer times below are some tips and other guidelines so you won't have to ask yourself whether that steak you pulled out of the freezer is good to eat or not...  Keep in mind that with most meats, the flavor factor hits its peak at the four month mark.  Sure, you can freeze it longer than that, but that four month mark is key, when the flavor profile starts the decline. 

Beef - Roasts, Steaks:  Up to six months

Chicken - Whole:  Up to one year

Chicken - Parts, skin on, bone in:  Up to nine months

Chicken - Boneless/skinless breasts or thighs:  Up to six months

Pork- Shoulder:  Up to one year

Pork - Steaks, Ribs, Chops:  Up to six months

Bacon:  Up to six months...  Um, I've NEVER had bacon stay in my freezer that long, it's TOO TASTY!

Sausages, raw - Brats, Breakfast Links/Patties/Chubs, Italian Sausage, Mexican Chorizo and the like:  Up to four months

Sausages, pre-cooked, smoked - Andouille, Kielbasa, Hot Links and the like:  Up to eight months

Hot Dogs:  Up to eight months

Ground Meats - all types:  Up to four months

Lamb - Rack, Shanks, Chops:  Up to six months

Fish - Fatty types like Tuna and Salmon:  Up to three months

Fish - Leaner types like Cod or Tilapia:  Up to six months

*Vacuum sealing meats will extend freezer life another three to six months, but that is a story for another day.

Freezing chicken
Don't just throw it in the freezer like this...

Tip #1:  Make sure your freezer is free of frost, clean and the temperature set at zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower.   And did you know an empty freezer is not a very efficient one?  The only thing that keeps an empty or nearly empty freezer at the proper temperature is the electricity needed to run it.  When stocked properly, a freezer does not need to run as often to maintain the proper temperature, the frozen food inside is helping it do that.  But an overstuffed freezer isn't so efficient either.  Without proper air circulation a freezer has to work harder to maintain temperature and overstuffing can lead to blocking vents and sensors.  Ideally, your freezer should be 75 - 80% full for optimum performance.

Tip #2:  You can leave that steak you just bought in the Styrofoam bottom and plastic wrapped top if you want to, but doing so is the leading cause of freezer burn.  Don't get lazy in thinking, "I'll be eating this next week, it'll be fine," and just toss it in.  That packaging is designed for a fresh presentation, marketing you to buy it.  It's not made for the freezer.  Thin plastic wrap is also easy to tear when it gets placed in the freezer and bumps up against other products.  Perhaps you didn't get around to having that steak the next week and you finally pull it out to grill three months later.  Guess what?  Freezer burn!  Always have freezer bags on hand when stocking the freezer.  Foil and freezer paper are fine too but if none of that is possible, repurpose the plastic grocery store bags and double wrap your meats.

Tip #3:  Always label and date the meat your are freezing, i.e., Pork Chop, 02/26/2022 and keep a copy of this blog post in your kitchen or by the freezer somewhere.  Properly labeling and dating your meats takes any guesswork out of the picture.  Some people will just throw something in a bag and toss it in the freezer, then four months later pull it out and the bag is all frosty/icey and they ask themselves, "What the "F" is this?"  Kind of makes meal prep a little harder, don't you think?

Tip #4:  Organize your freezer and rotate your meats.  Try to arrange your freezer by meat type and then date, with your oldest meats towards the front or top of your freezer.  A beef section by date, a chicken section by date, a sausage section by date and so on...  Don't just toss items in the freezer, that too, leads to freezer burn.  It may sound time consuming to organize and rotate, but it actually saves you a lot of time in the long run.  Look at all the bonuses:  Bonus #1 - an organized freezer that is 75 - 80% full is a happy, efficient, air circulating right freezer, running at proper temperature.  Bonus #2 - Items are much easier to find, no rummaging, no digging and pulling the older cuts of meat for a meal aides in the rotating process.  I've read countless Facebook posts where a guy asks if the twice frosted over steak he found at the bottom of his freezer dated two years ago under a bag of chicken wings is OK to eat.  Bonus #3 -   When making a list for the grocery store or butcher shop, take a quick peak in your organized and properly product rotated freezer, it makes shopping easier and you won't spend as much.

Now that you know how to keep frozen meats at their optimum flavor profile, go stock up!  You'll save money over future higher prices, you won't waste money by becoming a victim of freezer burn and you'll spend money more efficiently at the grocery store.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Bachelor on the Cheap: Essential must haves for stocking your pantry and fridge

Related:Grilling Tips & Essential Tools


Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu on a Stick

By Mike Thayer

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu on the Stick prep
2 pounds ground chicken, rotisserie spice, one egg

I love Chicken Cordon Bleu, it's a classic French dish of chicken that is pounded out thin, which is then wrapped around ham and Swiss cheese.  The whole thing is then breaded and fried or baked until golden, brown and delicious.

Chicken Cordon Bleu packs SO much flavor and why it's so high on my list of all time favorite eats, but it's also a labor intensive dish to make in the classic preparation.  It's not exactly a meal one can prepare in under 30 minutes.  

Enter the grill...

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
Deli sliced ham preparation

I also love just about anything grilled, so it hit me, why not try to incorporate Chicken Cordon Bleu flavors in a grilled preparation and to be specific, a meat on a stick preparation.  Who doesn't LOVE meat on a stick!?

So today, I'm developing a new recipe for Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu on a Stick, which you get to witness at the experimental/entry level.

I'm going to use two pounds of ground chicken, mixed with a chicken rotisserie spice made by a local spice merchant and incorporate an egg to bind it with.  Ground chicken is lean, so some extra fat will be needed to help prevent dryness and any falling apart on the skewers.

For the ham and cheese portions, I'm going to do this three different ways to find out which works out best, evaluating ease of preparation and taste.

  1. Wrap a slice of Swiss cheese and deli sliced ham on the skewers then wrap with the ground chicken mixture
  2. Lay out a portion of the chicken mixture, flatten on plastic wrap, add diced ham and diced Swiss cheese, then roll it and skewer
  3. Wrap skewers with ham loaf from my local butcher, add strips of Swiss cheese, then wrap the ham & Swiss with the ground chicken
Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
The deli sliced ham version turned out the best

Going in, I'm going to predict option 3 tastes the best.  But it will also need the most grilling time since it's not a pre-cooked ham product.

To make it as "Cordon Bleu" as possible, I'll be hitting the skewers with a garlic butter and bread crumb mixture just before pulling from the grill, letting the flame kiss the meat on a stick a little bit to crisp the topping. 

In staying as classic as possible with the first preparation, the deli sliced ham was easy enough to wrap on the skewers, the Swiss cheese, not so much.  I was tempted to half the cheese slices and layer them, but I finally was able to get everything all under control and properly wrapped under the seasoned ground chicken layer on the skewer.  Once that was done, they went back in the fridge to chill.  Remember Grilling Tip #1 from Chapter 2:  Ground meats should be cold when putting on the grill. If they’re at room temperature, ground meats tend to fall apart or droop through the cooking grate.

In working with the second version, the diced ham and diced Swiss cheese, what I thought would be the easiest wrap and skewer was actually the most difficult.  I'll admit to putting too much ham and cheese on initially, but the dice of the ham was too large, it ended up poking through the ground chicken and maneuvering the plastic wrap in a sushi roll type preparation was a bit of a challenge.

The third version - using the ham loaf - was easy to put on skewers and I did slice the Swiss cheese into strips before wrapping things up with the ground chicken.  Points here for the easiest prep.

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu with sauce
Sauced with a Dijon Cream

After getting some chill time in the fridge, it was time to grill.  I started things off by grilling versions 1 and 2 and the skewers over indirect heat, a reverse sear.  The ham in these versions is already cooked, so all I had to worry about was ensuring the ground chicken was cooked through, with the ham warmed through and the cheese melted.  Grill marks would come later when applying the garlic butter and bread crumb mixture over direct heat.  I kept the skewers away from the flame, turning a quarter turn about every 10 minutes.  Then using my handy dandy grill safe butter dish, brushed on some garlic butter and Italian seasoned Panko bread crumbs over the flame.  The ham loaf version needed a little more cooking time over indirect heat, to ensure the ham loaf on the interior was cooked through.

Developing this recipe was a lot of fun to prep, take notes, grill and eat!  My prediction however, that the ham loaf version would taste the best, was wrong.  It was second best.  The more classic preparation, using the sliced deli ham won the day in both flavor and presentation.  You get layers of flavor with the slices of ham and a different texture element along with the consistent and wrapped slice of melted Swiss cheese within.  The ham loaf version while tasty, lacked the texture element - all meats being ground - and the cheese flavor wasn't as robust using the Swiss in strips.  Coming in third out of three, the diced ham version.  Diced just doesn't measure up to sliced or loaf, in fact one of the diced skewers fell apart on the grill, there was too much moisture in the ham dice, it steamed the inside of this preparation resulting in flavors that just came out flat.

With the deli sliced ham version being the champ, I'll be posting the full recipe in the Poultry section of Grilling Good Eats, to include the Dijon Cream Sauce.

Enjoy everybody!

I take great pleasure in grilling good eats!

~ Mike Thayer

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu
Deli sliced ham version fresh off the grill
Cordon Bleu
Diced version sauced, not a good presentation
Grilled Cordon Bleu
Ham loaf version ready for sauce, check out the cheese ozzing out the side...