Chiken Kyiv: brief history

Let’s start from afar. At the beginning of the 18th century Russian Empire – along with the left bank Ukraine as a part of it – was obsessed by gallomania. Passionate interest to anything French, having started with language and literature, covered clothes and gastronomy and nearly led to total vanishing of local aristocratic cuisine.

After 1812 the drift to French culture aspired a bit, but in a short while it had come up again with renewed vigor: in the second half of the 19th century french restaurants would massively  open in large cities, wealthy families invited french cooks, who not only brought in new products and receipes, but also changed technologies of preparing traditional dishes. Simplified variations of such culinary techniques and dishes were thereafter reproduced by smaller restaurants and finally – average families. some recepies were afterwards lost and some – rediscovered.

For example Chiken Kyiv, being totally different from traditional Ukrainian cuisine, has become a gastronomic visit card of old Kiev.

Cutlets «à la Maréchal»

A new expression – «à la Maréchal» (literally – a dish for marshal, a refined dish, made of best products) – has spread over Ukrainian territory with a new wave of gallomania. A meat dish «à la Maréchal» would quite likely be staffed or- even more likely – breaded with ground truffles or crackers (English style). In France dishes «à la Maréchal» were popular at times of Louis XIV. Cooking books of the 19th century contain lots of relevant recepies: vension cutlets «à la Maréchal», veal glands «à la Maréchal» (Jules Gouffé «Le livre de cuisine», 1867), salmon or flounder  «à la Maréchal» and even staffed fowl or rabbit «à la Maréchal» (Charles Elmé Francatelli «The Modern Cook», 1859).

The Russian Empire cooking bestseller (was republished 49 times during the author’s life) – “A Gift to young houswives” – has a recipe of grouse cutlets «à la Maréchal» (first published in 1861 edition).

Acccording to the receipe, the grouse fillet (with a humerus bone) is to be snicked, staffed with sauce of champignons, fresh truffles and madeira, sawn up, breaded in egg and ground crackers and, finally, grilled.

Côtelette de volaille

There is a version, that Chicken Kyiv is a version of côtelette de volaille, invented, according to the legend, by Nickolas Appert.

Such receipe can be met in another popular cooking book – “Practical basis of culinary art” by Pelageya Aleksandrova-Ignatyeva: clear the chicken breast of tendons, beat it off, form cutlets, having added milk or cream, insert a bone, bread in scrambled yolk and crackers, fry in butter. Such cutlets are to be staffed with meat or dough quenelles instead of truffles of butter.

It is the receipe, that William Pohlebkin – a famous culinary explorer – referes to, when describing novomykhaylovskie cutlets, invented in 1912. It was a popular dish of St. Petersburg Merchant club (the name is said to be connected with Mikhaylovskiy Palace, situated near the Club). Still there is a supposition that novomykhaylovskie cutlets are only a variety of the legendary pozharskie cutlets, made of fawl or capon. However Chicken Kyiv is made of a whole rolled up piece of meat (not mince).

Stormy years of war and revolution (1917-1918) have left very little data on how the legendary cutlet appeared in Kyiv.

Explorers state, that one of the positions in the menu of the “Continental Hotel” restaurant was Kyiv de volaille cutlet. It was served to officers of of Hetman Skoropadsky headquaters.

Civil war, USSR foundation, collectivization, industrialization, world economic crisis, Stalin repressions, World War II – were not the best time for gastronomic experiments.

We might never have been certain of the origin of the receipe if it was not for mentioning Chicken Kyiv in the 1930’s in USA. It was said to be an unusual chicken breast stuffed with butter and cooked according to the Kyiv receipe. It was served in Chicago in “Yar” restaurant, owned by a former colonel of the emperor’s army Volodymyr Yashchenko.

In 1946 american newspapers wrote about Gabriel Sydorenko – chef of “Casino Russe” restaurant in New York – and his secrets of preparing Chicken Kyiv.

In 1947, according to William Pohlebkin, Chicken Kyiv was cooked for Ukrainian delegation, that had returned from Paris after a succesful execution of an international agreement with one of the german satelites.

Soon after – this dish appeared in the menu in one of Kreshchatyk restaurants. And in about ten years it became a classic dish of all Intourist restaurants. Soviet cooking books often used this receipe, naming the dish “Sunrise”, “Surprise”, “Nova” and even “Chicken Minsk” or “Chicken Moskow”. But it will always be remembered as Chicken Kyiv.

Where can you try real Chicken Kyiv?

classic – in “Chicken Kyiv” restaurant

made of zander – in Ostannya Barykada

without breading – in Kanapa

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