Despite its title, the origins of Chicken Kiev are not as straightforward as the name would suggest.
Ukraine for evident reasons, considers Chicken Kiev to be Ukrainian in origin. It is their national dish after all. However, its origins may stem from a French chef named Marie-Antoine Carême who created the dish in St. Petersburg, Russia during 1818. He spent only several months in St. Petersburg, but nevertheless made a profound impact on Russian cuisine during this short time. The Russian Tea Room Cookbook reports that Chicken Kiev was “most likely a creation of the great French chef Carême at the Court of Alexander I.”
Many of Russia’s most famous dishes are actually inspired by French cuisine. If you are sensitive to these things, you can see this fascination with French cuisine reflected in much of Russian dining culture.
What’s in a Name?
Originally called Novo-Mikhailovsky cutlet (Ново-Михайловский), the dish was subsequently renamed. Some say it was renamed by a Soviet restaurant, due to a large number of patrons from Kiev ordering the dish. Other sources say it got its name, when this dish was served in Kiev, to honor a Ukrainian delegation returning from Berlin in 1947.
Russian: kotleta po-kiyevski (Котлета по-киевски)
Ukrainian: kotleta po-kyivsky (Котлета по-київськи)
French: côtelette de volaille
Literal translation: “cutlet Kiev-style”
There is actually a correct way to eat this dish. Traditionally, this dish is filled with garlic, butter and herbs. Cheese with ham is also a common filling for Chicken Kiev. As a result this dish is known for its ability to splatter.
There are two ways to correctly eat your meal, in order to avoid mess. The first way is to take your fork and poke holes through the top of your chicken, making sure to pierce through to the center. This will release the pressure that has built up in the center during the cooking process.
If you are eating hand made (not frozen) Chicken Kiev, then the second way is to pierce the top of your chicken at the same end you see the bone. It is important not to cut through the whole piece, but rather to create a one to two centimeter slit that will release the pressure in the center and prevent splatter. (Cut perpendicularly to the bone.) Personally, I prefer the second method, because I don’t like the look of poking holes into the top of my food.
The Preparation & Cooking Process
In order to create this dish, a chicken breast must be pounded with a kitchen mallet to be made flat and easily molded. The breast must be cut into two sections with a larger outer cutlet that should include the attached shoulder bone and a smaller (boneless) inner cutlet. The larger cutlet must be laid flat on your cutting board, and the smaller cutlet will be used to cover the filling.
We used butter and fennel to create the center of this Chicken Kiev. It is best to use very cold and or frozen ingredients for the center.After the center has been covered the chicken must be pressed firmly by hand into shape while taking care not to leave any gaps where the butter (or cheese) can escape during the cooking process.
At this point the chicken must be fully coated in a mixture of 3 egg yokes to 1 egg white, and coated in breadcrumbs. This step must be repeated 3 times to create a thick crust, all while molding the chicken firmly.
The first part of the cooking process is to fry the chicken in hot oil until the crust is a golden brown. Then the chicken must be removed, patted dry and placed into the oven for 30-45 minutes at 375 F. If the chicken was properly wrapped during preparation, there will be no escaped sauce during this process. A recipe for traditional Chicken Kiev can be found here.