Chicken Kiev: When you were a kid was there a special food in your family’s life?
There was at my house. It was called Chicken Kiev, and despite my mother’s love of classical French cooking styles, this was a dish that we three kids always asked for on special occasions.
Because it was more than just “fancy food”, we were quite used to fancy food. I have shared some of my childhood food memories when I started this week-long tribute to the recipes of my mother. Click here if you’d like to revisit that story.
So when my brother set to work compiling all the collected recipes of my mother after she passed away in 1993, I was happy (but not at all surprised) to see that he included Chicken Kiev in the cookbook he put together for me. It’s a recipe that means something to me.
However, it would probably not please my mother to be most remembered by me for this particular recipe. It is not the style of cooking that I actually associate with her or her tastes. But I can’t think of Chicken Kiev without smiling a little… feeling that little tingle run down my spine, and yes– tearing up a little too. So… sorry mom, but you’ll always be Chicken Kiev to me!
Because childhood is a funny thing. The impressions made on us at a young age stick with us in ways I cannot fully understand or am able to communicate to you here. But I know you know what I am talking about.
I am sure you are wondering why the heck Chicken Kiev is so special to me. As I said, by my mother’s standards and abilities in the kitchen, this recipe is “no great shakes”. Whatever that means, but that was one of her sayings so I thought I’d throw it in…
Speaking of throwing things in, I also decided to include a photo of my mother from the 1960s (pre-me!). I know she wouldn’t like me doing this. But by not including a photo I think it leaves you with the impression that perhaps she wasn’t a beautiful woman. Well, she may not have been perfect, but she was she a beautiful woman, and a great cook too!
She was also good at fantasy. So the thing that separates Chicken Kiev from crêpes and the other “fancy foods” my mother adored is this: Chicken Kiev wasn’t just “fancy food”, it was “fun food”. Because we had a family game attached to this recipe. The kind of game that only my mother could have invented. You see, or so the lore goes, there is a little test to know if your Chicken Kiev is done properly. It’s called “the squirt”!
Our mother told us that you could always tell a perfect Chicken Kiev by how much and how far the butter squirts when you cut into it the first time. Naturally, it became a competition, with the winner (usually me) claiming that the butter squirted all the way up and splashed him (me) in the face.
Now the funny thing about “the squirt” is this. I’m not sure it’s actually true. I mean, I’d like to believe it’s true. I certainly remember the squirt. But in truth, it may be more of a household legend. In other words, it’s like the infamous green flash at sunset. Absolutely you remember seeing it. Certainly, it’s a fact of physics. Or is it? Is it just so much fun to play the game that it doesn’t matter if you actually saw the green flash or not? But saying you did, now that’s the point of the whole game! Well “the squirt” is the same. It’s way more fun to play the game than it is to worry whether it’s real or not. ‘Cuz, here it is more than 30 years later and I’m still talking about it. I still feel that little tingle run down my spine and I’m still wiping that butter from my face– real or imagined.
You can’t beat memories like that. So I bring you my mother’s Chicken Kiev. I got my brother Grant to do a wine pairing too because Chicken Kiev was, is and always will be a Henry family tradition.
- unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
- 2 T fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 t dried basil
- salt and pepper as needed
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 6 slices Monterey jack cheese about 1x2 inches and 1/4 inch thick
- 1 c fine dried bread crumbs
- 1⁄2 parmesan cheese, grated
- vegetable oil
Prepare the herb butter by combining 1/4 cup butter, parsley, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl, mix well.
Place chicken breasts, 1 at a time, between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using a mallet pound the breasts to about 1/4‑inch thickness. Season each piece of chicken with salt and pepper.
Lay 1 chicken breast on a new piece of plastic wrap and place 1/6 of the compound butter and 1 slice Monterey Jack cheese in the center of each breast. Using the plastic wrap to assist, fold in ends of breast and roll breast into a log, completely enclosing the butter; roll very tightly. Secure with toothpicks. Repeat with each breast. Place chicken in refrigerator for 2 hours, or up to overnight.
When ready to bake pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Melt the remaining 1/4‑cup butter and pour it into a wide shallow bowl. Put the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese into another wide shallow bowl, mix well.
Heat 1/2‑inch of vegetable oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat.
Un-wrap the breasts, and remove toothpicks. Then one at a time dip each breast in the melted butter and then roll in the breadcrumbs. Gently place each breast into hot oil and cook on all sides until golden brown all over. Transfer each breast to a baking dish once browned. This may be done an hour or two in advance and set aside until serving time.
To serve: Transfer all 6 breasts to the pre-heated oven and bake, approximately 10 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Serve immediately.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD