Everything You Need to Know About Chicken Kiev
Chicken Kiev is easily my favourite Ukrainian recipe. Here is everything you need to know about this delicious dish!
What Is Chicken Kiev?
If you are ordering it for the first time, here is what you should expect:
The most basic recipe calls for a chicken fillet, some butter, eggs, and bread crumbs. The fillet is pounded well and rolled around in cold butter. Then they coat it in beaten eggs and bread crumbs and either fry or bake it.
But perhaps the most important aspect of the Chicken Kiev is missing in this basic recipe:
You can get as creative or as traditional as you want with this. There are virtually thousands of variations on it. Every Ukranian babushka has her own spin on it!
But let’s go back to the origins story:
History Lesson: Is It Even From Ukraine?
Legend has it that the first to serve “cutlet de volaille Kiev-style” was Continental hotel in Kiev. This luxury hotel was build in the late 19th century and quickly became a local legend. It was the accommodation of choice for everyone that was someone in early 20th century Kiev.
Supposedly, they started serving the French-inspired dish at the beginning of the 20th century. It was the signature dish of the chef. Unfortunately, not much is left from the legendary Continental hotel restaurant today. It was destroyed during World War II by the retreating Red Army.
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The hotel has since been reconstructed t become the Kiev Conservatory.
But the history of the Chicken Kiev goes further back than that…
The fancier way to call Chicken Kiev is suprême de volaille à la Kiev.
Chicken fillets are referred to as suprêmes in haute cuisine. The word has the same meaning in French as it does in English. The fillet is the “supreme” cut you can get from a chicken. And “de volaille” means “from a bird”. Finally, obviously, “à la Kiev” means “Kiev style”.
Anyway, the original Chicken Kiev recipe might actually come from France.
Back in the 18th century, wealthy Russians would hire French chefs for their houses. It was a status symbol. Even if you couldn’t afford to bring the 18th-century version of Gordon Ramsay from France, as an upper middle class Russian, you wanted to eat French food.
That is how a lot of French recipes and techniques came into Russia. But, little by little, these were changed and they just kept the French names. For instance, in French cuisine, côtelette de volaille or suprême de volaille can refer to any sort of poultry breast dish.
In Russian and Ukrainian cuisine, on the other hand, suprême de volaille à la Kiev is chicken Kiev.
So how did they come up with the breadcrumbs, butter, and egg combo? It’s a technique that the French call Marshall-style, à la Maréchale. Somewhere along the road chefs got lost in translation. The marshall part was lost and the recipe developed into what we now call Chicken Kiev.
Still, the original idea was French. Give credit where credit is due!
The Easiest Chicken Kiev Recipe
Chicken breasts aren’t easy to work with. If you don’t season them right (or cook them at the wrong temperature), they can end up dry and tasteless. If you are not a French-trained chef, try this simpler recipe to impress… Well, anyone that you want to impress, really.
N.B. This is a deep fried version. You could bake it for a lighter option but the taste will not be the same. Renew your gym card after sampling this one!
For this recipe, we’ll be using a herb butter, flavoured with a bit of garlic, some herbs, and lemon. If you are making it for date night, reconsider the fresh garlic. You can always use a powder or skip it altogether. If you’re ready to risk it, though, the minced garlic really makes a difference.
- 3 large chicken breasts
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon of salt (you could go lighter on this, especially since it’s already a non-heart-friendly recipe)
For the filling:
- 7 tablespoons of grass-fed butter (or normal unsalted butter but grass-fed is much tastier)
- 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley (personally, I switch for basil because I can’t stand parsley)
- 1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary
- 2 garlic cloves (crush them under a knife and mince them)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper
Start With The Filling
You will need to take the butter out of the fridge for a few hours. If you forget (as I always do), just throw it in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 20 seconds. It’s enough for the butter to soften but not enough to melt it.
Pulse the butter with the lemon juice, the herbs, the garlic, and the salt and pepper. It only takes a few seconds… And then a few minutes to get all the butter out of the blender. Sorry, but I promised an easy recipe, not a super fast one.
Time To Prepare The Chicken Breast
Cut the chicken breasts in half (to get two fillets of the same thickness). Do not separate the halves. Then cover the fillets in plastic wrap and hit them a few times with a meat hammer. No need to go ballistic on it. A few hits is fine, this is a fairly tender cut of meat.
Now stuff each chicken with a tablespoon of the filling. Try to disperse it evenly. It’s fine if it isn’t perfect. Cold butter isn’t exactly easy to manage. Do your best and move on.
Grab three plates. In the first one, you pour in the flour. You don’t need a lot of flour for this, just enough to dust the chicken breasts.
The second plate is for the eggs. Beat them until they are homogenous. Add a sprinkle of salt in there.
Finally, the bread crumbs go into the third plate.
You dust the chicken breasts in flour first. Then you wash your hands and pour some oil in a deep skillet. You want to have around 1/4 inch in there – enough for frying, not enough to cover the fillets on both sides. Turn the heat on.
Once the oil has been heated, it’s time to dip the chicken breasts in the egg mixture and the bread crumbs. Then they go directly to the pan. This way you get the crunchiest results!
They need around 4 minutes on each side (until the crumbs turn golden brown). Take them out on a kitchen rack and then transfer to a plate covered in kitchen paper. This is to absorb the oil and keep all the crunch. Honestly, is there even a point in deep frying if the end result isn’t going to be crunchy?
Squeeze a lemon wedge over each chicken breast. Sprinkle some chopped parsley (once again, I do basil because I hate parsley). Don’t skip this step. It adds a dash of freshness and elaborates the flavour. Also, a bit of sprinkled herbs is always nice for decoration.
Chicken Kiev Fillings
It’s really up to your creativity here. If you’re not afraid of making changes to the original recipe, one of my favourite options is using cheese instead of butter. Caramelised onion and goat cheese all the way!
For a more Mediterranean style recipe, you could try feta or ricotta cheese with some Italian spices. One of the best “Chicken Kiev” recipes I’ve tried was olive tapenade, feta, sun dried tomato, and basil. And yes, I know that the Kiev Continental chef that came up with the original recipe is turning over in his/her grave right now. A fair number of Ukranian babushkas would be furious, too.
There are even vegan options (you’ll have to use a meat replacement for the chicken too, duh). I’m not going to lie, these don’t even come close to the original recipe. They are a separate dish if you ask me. But if you want some vegan filling inspiration:
- Coconut cream, macadamia, and spinach
- Pumpkin seeds, vegan ricotta, and sundried tomatoes
- Garlic and ginger
- Sundried tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh basil leaves, olives and crumbled tofu
- Agave and mustard
The closest you will get is the coconut cream. You can pick out a more traditional herb and nut combo – parsley and walnuts, for instance, come much closer to the original thing. Anyway, to each their own. The chicken Kiev recipe has been changed up so many times that nobody should be offended if you take your own spin on it!
The Best Chicken Kiev In Ukraine
Finally, if you don’t have a Ukrainian girlfriend, grandmother, or the cooking skills to make it yourself, here are some great restaurants to sample chicken Kiev:
- Chicken Kyiv – self-explanatory, it’s the signature dish of the restaurant
- Rebra & Kotlety – the name translates to “Ribs and Cutlets”. Other than amazing chicken Kiev, you can sample tons of delicious cutlets and meat dishes!
- Ostannya Barykada – traditional Ukrainian food with a modern twist. All of their drink options also come from Ukraine. Careful with the alcohol, no amount of greasy deep fried chicken will ease a proper Eastern European hangover!
Which is your favourite place to enjoy chicken Kiev? Tell us in the comments below!
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