Chicken (of the Big Apple) Kiev

In and of itself, Chicken Kiev is a relatively easy, albeit time-consuming, dish to prepare, but figuring out its origins is a whole other story or should I say stories. Seemingly named after Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, there are contingents of native sons, who would contend that the savory chicken dish was far too bourgeois for real Ukrainian people.

Moscow Merchant Club

Moscow Merchant Club

Then there are the educated guessers, particularly Russian food historian, William Pokhlebkin, who asserts that Chicken Kiev was first served at the Moscow Merchant’s Club some time in the early 20th century. This is roughly right around the same time Lucien Olivier’s “Salade Olivier” or “Russian Salad” had reached critical mass in terms of popularity.

Nicolas Appert

Nicolas Appert

As is the case with the aforementioned Russian Salad; Chicken Kiev is the creation of a French chef by the name of Nicolas Appert, who was considered to be a master brewer, canner and confectionist (1749-1841). Originally, Chef Appert had coined his creation, “The Supreme,” but the name would later be changed to Chicken Kiev by savvy New York restauranteurs looking to pander to the large influx of Russian immigrants entering the country at the time. How about that – a chicken dish with a Russian namesake, a French author and an American tipping point?

To clarify things as to why there seems to always be a French chef behind Russian cuisine dates back to the late 18th century when wealthy Russian tsars had taken a particular to French cuisines. Russian households and restaurants alike would send their cooks to train in France and in the meanwhile hire French chefs to prepare their favorite dishes, which would be copied and reproduced.

Regardless of the who, the when and the where, what is for certain is how. You’ll need a mallet to tenderize with as well as the following ingredients:

  • 1-2 boneless chicken breast fillets
  • a few pinches of dried tarragon
  • a few pinches of dried parsley
  • a few pinches of chopped chives
  • a few squirts of lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
  • breadcrumbs
  • flour
  • 2-3 whipped eggs
  • ¼ cup of whole milk
  • vegetable oil
  • a stick of butter

Au Jus: For starters, let’s whip that butter into shape. Mash the dried tarragon, dried parsley, chopped chives and the lemon juice into the stick of butter to prepare the au jus. Using a sheet of wax paper, shape the seasoned butter into cubes, which you will store in the fridge until they’ve hardened.

Chicken Breasts: While the au jus is chilling to a more solid state, we’ll go to work on those boneless chicken breasts. Set the fillets on another sheet of wax paper and use your mallet to tenderize the meat until it is nice and lean. Season the fillets with salt and pepper then thoroughly coat them in flour.
Once you have cocooned the butter and or cheeses, store the chicken breast fillets in the refrigerator. To help maintain the fillets’ shape, consider wrapping them in wax paper or some other shaping mold. Let the chicken breasts sit in the fridge for an hour or two until the ingredients have bonded tightly enough.

Chicken Kiev unrolled

Chicken Kiev unrolled

The Tricky Part: Hopefully by now those cubes of butter are cold enough to keep its shape. Take the chicken breast fillets and wrap them around the butter cube. At this point, you also have the option of adding a cheese of your choice whether it be cheddar, gouda or feta. Just make absolutely sure the butter is completely covered as you don’t want to lose any of the flavor during the cooking process.

NOTE: Depending on how tightly you have wound up your stuffed fillets, you can either opt to bread the chicken breasts now or do so after refrigerating.

Batter Up: Whip up those eggs until they’re nice and creamy then add the ¼ cup of whole milk to the mix. Continue stirring until the consistency is gooey and liquidy. You should also have a tray lined with breadcrumbs at the ready

Take the stuffed chicken breast fillets and drench them in the batter. Next, roll those fillets in the bed of breadcrumbs. Leave no surface of the chicken unbreaded.

Chicken Kiev, mangeable!

Simmer/Sautee: Grab a saucepan or skillet and lace it with the vegetable oil. The trick to cooking the chicken breasts is to make sure the oil doesn’t flare up too much; otherwise, the breadcrumbs and chicken will cook unevenly.

Bathe each breast in oil sealed-side down. Depending on how hot the oil is running, the breaded chicken fillet should turn a tantalizing golden brown within 5-6 minutes. All you have to do now is let the oil dry and voila – you have homemade Chicken Kiev! That wasn’t so hard was it?

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