If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen.
Insofar as it is basically a wad of butter wrapped in a flattened chicken breast and fried in oil, Chicken Kiev ranks high on the Food Nazi List of Verboten Eats and I’m surprised the idiot nanny-state mayor of New York City hasn’t yet gotten it outlawed. For those of you who understand and accept that all us mortals will assume room temperature one day and therefore aren’t content to spend your lives eating bean sprouts and tofu, I offer a recipe for this decadent dish, which, by the way, did not originate in Ukraine or in Russia: it was the creation of French chef, Nicolas Appert (the inventor of modern food canning) who presented it to the Romanov Royal Court in the early 19th century. It became instantly popular and was finally dubbed Chicken Kiev by New York City restaurateurs in the early 20th century.
16 tbsp (2 sticks) butter plus an additional 2 tbsp, room temperature
6 large garlic cloves, finely minced
½ cup fresh flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup grated parmeggiano-romano cheese
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups all purpose flour, seasoned with 2 tsp each salt and black pepper
4 large whole eggs, beaten with 1 tsp water
2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
Canola oil, for frying
8 tbsp fresh lemon juice
For best results, use eight large, skinless chicken breasts. Place the breast flat on the cutting board with side where the skin once was facing up. Using a very sharp butcher knife, slice the breast in half lengthwise, keeping the blade parallel with the cutting board so that each half has the same consistent thickness. Use only the upper half for this recipe; reserve the lower half for use in any recipe calling for cutlets.
Take the upper half of the breast and place it cut side down on a large piece of plastic wrap. Place another piece of plastic wrap over the chicken. Using a meat mallet, gently and evenly pound the chicken into a larger and thinner cutlet – be careful not to break it apart. Set aside on a large platter and pound the remaining chicken breasts. Cover platter and place in refrigerator.
In small saute pan, melt 2 tbsp butter on low heat and gently sweat the minced garlic until fragrant. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and place bowl in freezer for 5 minutes to cool down the butter. Remove bowl from freezer and add the stick of butter, parsley, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with a spatula and then turn out onto one side of a fresh piece of plastic wrap. Fold over the other side and then, using the flat end of a long metal spatula, gently push the herbed butter back toward the fold, creating a sort of “log” that is no more than 2″ in diameter. Twist the plastic wrap at the ends of the “log” to create what looks like a big piece of wrapped taffy. Place in the freezer for two hours or so until the herbed butter log becomes solid.
Remove the pounded chicken breasts from the refrigerator and place on a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter or table, making sure the narrower end is closest to you. Remove the herbed butter log from the freezer and cut into 8 equal pieces.
Place a piece of the butter an inch or so away from edge of the narrow end. Fold the narrow end up and over the butter, tucking it in tightly. Then take the left edge and the right edge of the cutlet and fold each inward to seal in the piece of butter. Then roll up the thin cutlet, sort of like a burrito. Repeat for the remaining cutlets.
Place seasoned flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dredge each chicken roll in the flour, making sure that flour makes its way into the folded edges. Dip the ends and the folded edge of the chicken roll into the egg mixture and then dredge again in the flour. This will help create a tight seal to prevent the butter from leaking out.
Dip each floured chicken roll in the beaten egg mixture and then dredge in the bread crumbs; shake off any excess and place on a clean dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for a minimum of three hours to ensure that the chicken firms up and doesn’t unroll when it’s being fried.
Before cooking the chicken, bring a large pot of water to the boil and reserve enough extra-wide egg noodles for four generous portions. In a large, preferably cast iron, frying pan add a half- inch of canola oil and heat on high to 375 degrees F.
Add the noodles to the boiling water. Then place each of the chicken rolls into the hot oil, seam-side down – you may need to cook them in separate batches of 4 at a time. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes or until deep golden brown. Turn over and cook the other side for another 8 minutes. Chicken must have a temperature of no less than 165 degrees F. to be properly cooked. Remove from oil and drain on baking rack. If cooking in batches, place the first cooked batch on a plate in an oven set to 200 degrees F and proceed to cook second batch.
When noodles have finished cooking, drain in a large colander and turn out into a large bowl. Drizzle with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper and then toss to ensure noodles are evenly coated with oil to keep them from sticking. Cover with aluminum foil and place in oven to keep warm.
After second batch of chicken rolls has finished cooking and is draining on rack, transfer equal portions of noodles to 4 dinner plates. Place the previously cooked rolls on the cooling rack and then drizzle each roll with 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice. Place two rolls on the bed of noodles on each plate and serve immediately with a small side salad.
Chardonnay goes well with this dish.