A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 14, 2007
Chicken Kiev (Chicken a la Kiev)

Chicken Kiev (or Chicken a la Kiev) is named after the capital of the Ukraine. The origin of the dish is uncertain. Some hold that the dish was invented by Russian immigrants in cities such as New York.

Several Chicago restaurants (such as Yar and the Imperial House) served Chicken Kiev in the 1930s and 1940s, and it appears that this is earlier than when New York City restaurants offered the dish.


Wikipedia: Chicken Kiev
Chicken Kiev is a dish of boneless chicken breast pounded and rolled around cold unsalted butter, then breaded and fried. It is also known as Chicken Supreme. As its popularity spread internationally, various seasonings have been added to the butter. Fresh peas and fried julienned potatoes are the traditional accompaniments to the dish in Ukraine.

This famous method of preparing chicken or pheasant is not of Ukrainian origin as the name Kiev, the national capital, would imply. It was invented by the Frenchman, Nicolas François Appert (1749–1841), a brewer, pickler, confectioner, and chef who discovered the principles of canning and preserving of food. Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (1741–1762) of Russia preferred French foods and fashions, and by the late 18th century wealthy Russian households were hiring French chefs, or sending their cooks to train in France. Because of this, French dishes were widely imitated.

Russian cookbooks have recipes for a similar French dish called côtelettes de volaille—not Chicken Kiev. It is generally thought that early New York City restaurants trying to please the many Russian immigrants gave the name Kiev. The name went back to Europe and has become a popular moniker to describe the food. After World War II, Chicken Kiev became popular in Russian restaurants. 

(Oxford English Dictionary)
chicken Kiev [Kiev, the name of a city in Russia], chicken breast fried or baked with a stuffing of (garlic) butter
1950 Gourmet Cookbk. 301 (heading) *Chicken cutlets Kiev.

25 February 1938, Dallas Morning News, “Unusual Dishes From Sirniki to Blinys Discovered by Food Expert on Recent Trip,” section 1, pg. 10:
Some of my Chicago friends took me to the same restaurant (a Russian restaurant called Yar—ed.) for dinner one night and ordered the specialty of the house, stuffed breast of chicken, Kieff. If you have ever eaten chicken prepared in this manner you know that you must begin at the small end of the batter shell which surrounds it. When you cut into it a savory butter sauce pours out.

26 October 1938, Washington Post, “News of Capital Night Clubs,” pg. X16:
A rare morsel is Troika’s breast of chicken a la Kieff.  The commendable Mr. Kieff seems to have been the Ziegfeld of chicken breast.

6 October 1939, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 28:
Chicken Kiev at The Yar—breast of chicken with so much butter inside it spurts out when your fork goes in.

16 March 1939, Chicago Daily Tribune, “Chefs Reveal a Fondness for Plain Dishes,” pg. 18:
Michael A. Thompson, who has been a chef for twelve of his thirty-two years, is in charge of the kitchen at the Yar. His favorite recipe is chicken a la Kiev, which he introduced to Chicago, he says, ten years ago. It is chicken-breast with sweet butter and prepared in a fashion which Mr. Thompson has no intention of bandying about. He says he’s told a few other chefs how to make it and that’s enough.

July 1948, Gourmet, pg. 59:
Chicken Cutlet a la Kiev

21 April 1959, Dallas Morning News, “Recipes of the Day” by Julie Benell, section 3, pg. 4:
The Imperial House in Chicago is one of the well-known restaurants in the country. Here is their recipe for Chicken Kiev for which they are famous. It’s a lot of trouble, but worth it.

CHICKEN KIEV:
IMPERIAL HOUSE

Breasts of 3 3-pound chickens, 9 tablespoons chilled sweet butter, 1 cup flour, 4 eggs beaten, 1/3 cup milk, 3 cups sifted fresh finely crushed bread crumbs, vegetable shortening.

Bone chicken breasts, leaving a joint of wing attached. Flatten the breasts with a cleaver, then stuff each one with 3 tablespoons of chilled butter. Carefully seal the edges with toothpicks. Dip the stuffed breasts in flour, then in egg beaten with milk and roll them in bread crumbs. Then redip the breasts in flour, in egg and milk mixture and bread crumbs. Fry in 3 inches of hot vegetable shortening, 375 F. for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove toothpicks, serve immediately. Serves six.

Mash potatoes and broccoli with hollandaise sauce go well with this chicken entree.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Saturday, April 14, 2007 • Permalink