Chicken Kiev is a Ukrainian dish, possibly influenced by the French roulade (I’m a big fan of roulades – check out my German Rouladen recipe). This dish is characterized by rolling herbed butter into chicken cutlets. To me, this is an ideal meal; chicken breasts tend to be bland without some added fat or spices, and Chicken Kiev has both in spades. To make the butter easier to roll, my recipe calls for freezing the butter for 30 minutes before rolling – it makes a huge difference.
As a Russian linguist and teacher in my day job, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the spelling of the word “Kiev” in my recipe. The Ukrainian government officially changed the romanized spelling of their capital city’s name to Kyiv in 1995, mostly due to the fact that Kiev is the Russian pronunciation of the word. But in truth, Kiev is the original, Old East Slavic pronunciation of the city (technically it’d be spelled Kyev today). I think it’ll be interesting to see how the world spells and pronounces the word for this important city in the future – especially given the amount of attention this corner of the world has received recently. Personally, I like Kiev, but not as a slight to the Ukrainian people or government; I’m just a fan of Old East Slavic.
In keeping with Eastern European tradition, I cooked my Chicken Kiev in lard. Lard is an excellent, stable cooking fat that is ideal for higher heats. Rendering lard is a time-consuming (but rewarding) process; luckily, there are some vendors out there that render and sell high quality lard online. One of my favorite fat vendors, Fatworks, makes quality lard, tallow, and duck fat from healthy animals. Tendergrass Farms is also now offering rendered lard, which I’ve tried and is very delicious.
Paleo Chicken Kiev
2 sticks (16 tbsp) unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley, thyme, sage, or any combination)
2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp dried herbs (dill, parsley, marjoram, or any combination)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
6 chicken breasts
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup tapioca starch, divided
1/4 cup coconut oil or lard
1. Combine the butter, herbs, chives, and 1/2 tsp each of the salt and pepper. Spoon the herbed butter onto some plastic wrap in a line about 12″ long. Wrap the butter and form into a 12″ long log, then put in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.
2. While the butter hardens, place a chicken breast cut-side-down over a piece of plastic wrap, then cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Using the flat end of a meat tenderizer, gently flatten the chicken to 1/8″ thickness. Repeat for the other chicken breasts.
3. Once the chicken has been flattened and the butter log is hard, slice the butter into 6 pieces, 2″ in length each. Place a chicken breast on a flat surface, cut-side-up and with its widest end away from you; place the piece of butter horizontally onto the bottom end of the breast, then tightly roll it away from you. Be sure to completely cover the butter. Place the rolled breast on a plate or small baking sheet, with the seam down. Repeat for the other breasts, then place them in the fridge for one hour (cover with plastic wrap) to help them retain their shape.
4. After an hour, preheat your oven to 400F and place a baking sheet lined with a wire rack in the oven. In a large skillet, heat the lard or oil over med/high heat. Set up three shallow bowls for dredging the chicken: one with 1/4 cup tapioca starch, one with 1/4 cup tapioca starch mixed with the remaining 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper, and another bowl with the beaten eggs. Dredge a rolled chicken breast in the plain starch, then the egg, then the seasoned starch, then add to the oil (again with the seam down at first). Depending on the size of your skillet, repeat the process (I cooked two breasts at the same time using a 12″ skillet). Keep the other chicken pieces in the fridge as you cook the breasts.
5. Cook the rolled breasts until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side, 12 minutes altogether. Once the chicken is browned, place it in the oven and bake until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Dredge more chicken and add it to the skillet, adding cooking fat if needed. If you get your timing right, you should be pulling the baked chicken out of the oven as you add in the browned chicken. Repeat until finished, then serve. Приємного апетиту!
** The specific herbs for this dish aren’t set in stone, but I would definitely recommend at least using dill and tarragon to get a more authentic-tasting final product.
** When baking the chicken, some butter may leak out – that’s okay, just pour the melted butter on top of the chicken before slicing.