Food & Drink
Chicken kiev recipe

Chicken kiev recipe

Chicken Kyiv is a food that was so ingrained in the culture in the 70s it might surprise some to realize it was slowly bubbling with butter before Abigail had sent out invitations. The dish’s exact origins appear obscured in the shadow of the Iron Curtain. My 1990 copy of The Cooking of Russia, for example, asserts it was “in fact only created about 30 years ago for the opening of the Moscow hotel in Kiev”, a “fact” repeated by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in his River Cottage Meat Book. Still, a little more research suggests this isn’t quite the case.

A Ukrainian hotelier mentioned by the New York Times dates it to 1819, and the Russian Tea Room cookbook credits it to “the great French Chef Careme at the Court of Alexander I,” and culinary historian Vilyam Pokhlebkin thought that its decadence was typical of the final times during the Tsarist regime. A reference within The Chicago Daily Record in 1937 regarding that city’s Yar Restaurant, run by an ex-officer from the Imperial Army, is about what the most recent evidence suggests.

No matter the background that it was an essential part of Soviet food service (Intourist brochures warned travelers of the dangers it posed to the wearer’s clothes) and enjoyed the best days in America throughout the 70s as well as the 80s. It was the first chilled ready meal to be promoted with Marks & Spencer; it was a Friday night special in our house. According to Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham write in the book The Prawn Cocktail Years, it has since “disappeared, almost without trace, from the tables of good restaurants, … along with … beef stroganoff and trout with almonds” as a result of the changing trends in cuisine.

The combination of crispy Fried chicken and molten butter with herbs could be deadly to wear on school uniforms. However, it’s worth a couple of minutes at the Vanish. There’s a certain nostalgia; however, prepare your own if you want to taste it as a “decadent” dish in all its glory and splendor. You’ll be glad you did.


The most authentic dish, as per Hugh and Simon, and Lindsey, is made using an entire chicken breast with the wing still attached. It’s not clear why Darra Goldstein claims, the author of A Taste of Russia, says that it’s because it’s a way to let it become “outfitted with an aluminium or paper frill to look fancy,” and that’s not my taste. This also means that crispy breadcrumbs are thrown away. Usually, I’m a big fan of food that resembles meat, but if it’s simply to show off, then I’m not likely to care.

Jesse Dunford Wood, head chef at the Mall Tavern in Notting Hill, is a man who isn’t convinced that chicken Kyiv is no longer out of style. He is known for his version of the classic dish that wraps the chicken around a piece of buttery garlic, creating an oblong shape that, he says, has led customers to complain that they did not purchase the Scotch egg. It’s undoubtedly impressive; however, it’s a bit of an extreme departure from Kiev. I remember I’d prefer chicken breasts with bone or without bone.


I had believed that garlic butter was the main ingredient in chicken Kyiv’s character. I was a bit surprised to discover this in the Time-Life book of Russian Cooking describes it as “chilled fingers of sweet butter wrapped in boned, flattened chicken breasts with ends neatly tucked in, the whole dipped in seasoned flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs.” The New York Times says that many of the writers in the publication “admit the dish is bland, it is best enjoyed for its texture and for the surprise of the hot geyser of butter”.

Flavorings are reportedly a contemporary addition: “A fancy food shop in Washington does offer it with Muenster cheese,” the writer sips. “Others use parsley, garlic, basil, tarragon and who knows what else.” It’s true; however, in the United States, we’re accustomed to butter made with garlic and herbs, and that’s the recipe I’ll make. Even though I adore butter, I’m not convinced by the idea of it being a filling, particularly without salt.

Prawn Cocktail Years recipe chicken Kyiv. Photograph: Felicity Cloake

The most straightforward recipe I can find is from The Cooking of Russia, written by Karen Craig and Seva Novgorodsey, and Seva Novgorodsey, that calls for butter flavored with chopped parsley or tarragon and lemon juice and chives. It’s delicious, and I like it better than the American Cooks Illustrated’s version that uses shallots and tarragon and gives the dish a slight French taste; it’s not really,  Kyiv it’s concerned.

Prawn Cocktail Years recipe Prawn Cocktail Recipe uses all three herbs, lemon juice, and zest, Tabasco, and Pernod. I cannot distinguish the lemon zest or Tabasco; however, the pastis joins the tarragon so that you don’t hear any echoes of garlic – it’s all anise. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall perhaps feels the same: he eschews the tarragon altogether, preferring just parsley, but as long as you don’t allow it to dominate, it’s a classic pairing. Chives, however, are unneeded distractions away from garlic.

Dunford Wood makes a garlic confit butter by adding garlic cloves to a boil ten times before slowly simmering them in oil until they are tender. The butter is then infused with “a lovely garlic taste without the strong element.” It’s delicious; however, as I’m not averse to the taste of garlic, I’m convinced it’s worthwhile for someone who cooks at home. Chicken Kiel isn’t a typical food you would want to serve on a first date. Let’s face it.


The crumbing of chicken Kyiv has been conducted (as if we’re all aware that it’s meant to keep the butter inside). Cooks Illustrated mixes the egg wash with Dijon mustard, and seasoning is all that dolling of this coating requires. Dunford Wood suggests using panko breadcrumbs that, as you would expect, will be worth the weight in a crunch. The double layer Hugh recommends “is extra insurance against escaping garlic butter,” (although, unfortunately, it’s not the case in his case) and creates “doubly crispy.”


Simon and Lindsey are both firm in their belief that “for best results it really is necessary to deep fry,” and there’s minimal variation from this. Jesse Dunford Wood fries them until golden and then cooks them to perfection in the oven, which isn’t a good idea. However, Cooks Illustrated bakes them at 180C for 45 minutes, which tastes delicious; however, it doesn’t provide the crispy crust I want, which is a shame, considering that there is garlic butter; the result is similar to drinking a diet Coke alongside your food and chips.

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