Before we delve into Chicken Kiev, let’s remember some of the great international classic chicken dishes that we have done in the past. These are wonderful, proven recipes that you ought to try:
Coming soon are two more international stars: Coronation Chicken from Britain and Chicken Pad Thai from Thailand.
We will continue the international theme now with a great Russian favorite, Chicken Kiev.
Chicken is such a wonderful protein source – low in fat, relatively inexpensive and able to be prepared in a thousand ways. I always remember the 25-year old Queen Elizabeth requesting that curried chicken salad be served at the traditional lunch after her coronation instead of the traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Mouths dropped agog, but she got her way and the Brits still call it Coronation Chicken. My list of chicken favorites goes on forever, starting with simple roast chicken that we all like to pick up at the last minute at the local supermarket. How about chicken cacciatore, chicken françese, chicken parmesan, chicken noodle soup, chicken fried rice, chicken curry, etc. etc.
In our continuing search for new ways to prepare this wonderful bird, we decided to try the famous stuffed chicken breast called Chicken Kiev. This is a classic Russian and Ukrainian dish with an interesting history. Throughout the 1800’s, French cuisine became very popular with the upper classes in Russia. A famous French chef, Marie-Antoine Carême, was appointed to the court of Alexander I in 1818. Numerous Russian chefs studied in France and many French chefs were coaxed to St. Petersburg and Moscow to ply their trade. All of the restaurants began using French names for the dishes. Côtelette de volaille (chicken cutlet) stuffed in a variety of ways became very popular.
In 1897 the grand Continental Hotel was built in Kiev in the Ukraine. Their menu featuredthe Chicken Kiev that we know today; of course, they called it Côtelette de Volaille a la Kiev. When the Revolution came in 1917, all these bourgeois trappings, like French names, were quickly out of fashion and the name was changed to kotleta po-kiyevski, which means cutlet Kiev-style.
Russian and Ukrainian emigres brought the dish to the western Europe and the U.S. after the first and second World Wars. It remains extremely popular in its original homeland and is almost a staple in the UK. It was the first “fast food” offered by Marks and Spencer in 1979. It is truly a classic dish and you should give it a try.
This is not the easiest of recipes so make sure you have some time to do it right. Consider doubling the recipe. The prepared breasts can be frozen and ready for a great meal later. Read the Tech Notes before starting.
Tech Note: Slicing and pounding chicken breasts: A number of recipes, including Chicken Kiev, need chicken breast scallops about ¼ inch in thickness. To do this, take the chicken breast and remove the filet that is on the inner edge of the breast. Save these to make homemade “chicken fingers”. Most chicken breasts are too thick to pound and need to be sliced first. Lay the breast on a cutting board and hold down with your non-dominant hand. With your sharpest knife, carefully slice the breast horizontally. Take each scallop and place between two sheets of plastic wrap. With the flat side of a pounder, gently flatten the scallop with a little outward motion as you pound.
Here’s how you do it:
Large 5-1/2 qt. sauté pan
- 5 chicken breasts – boneless, skinless – prepared as cutlets ¼ inch thick
- 1 stick of butter, softened to room temperature
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup of vegetable oil or as needed to achieve ¼ inch depth in sauté pan
- 2 cups of Panko breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of flour
Serve with a rice pilaf or potato and a green vegetable. The real joy of the dish is when you cut the rolled breast open and see the butter mixture ooze out.
Tech Note: Oil temperature is very important when frying. The magic number is 350 degrees F. Anything lower and fried foods have a bland yellow look. Anything higher and you quickly get an ugly dark brown or black. The best way to check temperature is with an instant read thermometer. The best one is Thermopen, available on-line for about $80. Costly, but it will last a lifetime and is great for checking temps while grilling.
- Cream together the butter, parsley and garlic. This can be done on a cutting board using a silicone spatula. Form the butter mixture into a 6-inch log, wrap in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to harden – about 30 minutes.
- Prepare the chicken scallops as described above in the Tech Note.
- Lay the breasts on waxed paper and season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Once the butter mixture has hardened, cut into 10 equal pads and put a pad in the narrow end of each breast.
- Roll each breast around the butter mixture and fold the wide end of the breast to close up the ends. Transfer each breast to a piece of plastic wrap and roll tightly. To do this, grab the ends of the plastic wrap, stretch your arms out over the counter, set the packet on the counter and quickly roll towards yourself. Fold the twisted ends of the plastic wrap under the breast and set on the wire rack on the baking sheet. Each breast should be a neat 4-inch long “sausage”, as shown in the photo below.
- Put the rolled breasts in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This helps maintain the shape while cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Get three wide, low bowls and put the flour in one, two beaten eggs with one tbsp. of water in the second and the Panko breadcrumbs in the third.
- When ready to proceed, make sure you have ¼ inch of oil in the sauté pan and heat to 350 degrees (see Tech Note below).
- Remove the breasts from the plastic wrap. Generously dredge each one first in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the Panko breadcrumbs. (At this point, take any breasts that you want to freeze, wrap them in plastic wrap, twist the ends of the wrap and put the packets into a gallon freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.)
- Fry the breasts for one minute on each side or until golden brown. Work in batches to not overcrowd the pan.
- Put the breasts on the baking sheet with the wire rack and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Allow to sit for five minutes before serving.