Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we’ll check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Usually, we here at The Bite try to avoid controversy, but it seems to find us anyway. So this week I decided to embrace the controversial, and headed out to Cherry Hill Market to throw myself in the midsts of one of the neighborhood’s biggest, most heated controversies.

And by that, I mean I picked up one of the more contentious dishes in Russian/Ukrainian cuisine: Chicken Kiev. Oh, what controversy did you think I was talking about?!

For the uninitiated, Chicken Kiev is a butterflied pounded chicken breast filled with a mixture of garlic butter and herbs that is then coated with bread crumbs and deep fried. Most American cooks would use boneless chicken cutlets for this dish, but  purists would insist that the wing bone must be included to make the dish authentic.

The Chicken Kiev ($5.00 per piece) served at the take out counter at Cherry Hill Gourmet Market is one large golden pillow filled with the traditional garlic dill butter enrobed by white meat chicken and a thick bread crumb crust. Here, it does include the wing bone; just look at that little handle sticking out on one end. Huzzah!

Now a perfect Chicken Kiev, when cut open, would gush with melted butter. In brochures offered at the Soviet-era Intourist Hotel, where this dish was a menu staple, they warned foreign travelers of the risk of splattering their fronts with the melted butter hiding inside. This offering wasn’t perfect, but it was darn close. No butter erupted, but the flavors of the butter, garlic and dill remained along with some very moist white meat chicken. This is a hefty dish and one piece easily satisfied me for lunch.

So where’s the controversy? It lies in the dish’s origin. According to Wize Geek, it was invented by a French chef, Nicolas Appert, at an American Hotel in New York to appease Eastern European immigrants. I find this claim hard to fathom, as Chef Appert is credited by the Encyclopedia Britannica with inventing commercial canning and does not mention the dish. According to Lesley Chamberlain‘s cookbook, The Food and Cooking of Russia, “Chicken Kiev is a Soviet hotel and restaurant classic which has no pre-revolutionary history as far as I have been able to discover.” If that’s not enough, Vyacheslav Kozachuk, head chef at Kozak Mamai in Kiev, states, “It’s an old, old recipe which my teachers had been taught about in turn by their tutors,” and “I couldn’t give you any exact explanation as to its origins, such as some chef from Kiev cooking it for Lenin in 1917.”

Food writer and historian Vilyam Pokhlebkin probably got the origins right. According to Marcus Warren in Email From Ukraine, “Pokhlebkin traces the recipe’s origins back to the decadent dying days of Tsarist Russia, when restauranteurs tried to attract the custom of moneyed men of the world with gypsy choirs, exotic dancers and erotic ‘tableaux vivants’ as much as food. The Novomikhailovsky Cutlet, as the dish was then known, was invented by an unnamed chef in the newly opened Merchants’ Club in St. Petersburg and named after a palace nearby. Its vulgar extravagance was typical of the period, Pokhlebkin argues.”

Along with the Czars, Chicken Kiev’s popularity died out some time around World War I, and according to Pokhlebkin, “It was revived for a banquet to welcome a delegation of Ukrainian diplomats back home to Kiev after signing peace treaties in Eastern Europe post-1945.” Today it is a staple of banquet halls everywhere.

Cherry Hill Gourmet Market, 1901 Emmons Avenue,  (718) 616-1900.

Cherry Hill Gourmet Market on Urbanspoon

Related posts

  • Anonymous

    Hell yea!

    I remember eating that back in Kiev! my Great Grandmother would make an Awesome Cutleta po kievski!

    • Anonymous

      Amen to that brother

  • levp

    As someone who was born and raised in Kiev, I agree with Vyacheslav Kozachuk: my grandmother at one point told me that nobody knows where this dish came from and that she was taught this recipe by her friends when she was a young woman (that would make it late 1920s).

    In the Soviet Union, it was always prepared WITHOUT the bone.

  • nolastname

    The prices on prepared foods, very reasonable. The imported sausages, fresh. Breads and salads, healthy. Cleanliness, yes.

  • http://www.flickr.com/knightmare6 Knightmare6

    Ah food controversies! Wouldn’t be the first! (pizza, for example) Maybe Appert is credited for the first to name the dish what it is, and the addition of any variation to the traditional recipe?

    I’ll have to try it next time I’m there!

    • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

      Pizza was invented at Lombardi’s in the city. Whatever came before wasn’t pizza, even if was related or inspired the dish.

      • http://www.flickr.com/knightmare6 Knightmare6

        Yep, just like I doubt Chicken Kiev was called Chicken Kiev in the Soviet Union.

        • Anonymous

          Why’s that? We have Virginia Ham here in the United States. Boston Baked Beans. Buffalo Wings. Long Island Ice Tea. Chicago Dogs. Philly Cheese Steaks. Chicago Style Pizza. Kentucky Fried Chicken. New York Strip Steak. Texas Toast. Monterey Jack Cheese. Vidalia Onions. New York Cheesecake. Cincinnati Chili, Boston Clam Chowder. Manhattan Clam Chowder. Rhode Island Clam Chowder. I could go on and on.

          • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

            Coney Island Dogs arent from Coney Island, they are more popular in the Midwest.
            Buffalo Wings arent called Buffalo Wings in Buffalo, despite being born at the Anchor Bar. They are called Chicken Wings there.

            Long Island Ice Tea has nothing to do with Long Island and used to be made from fermented fruit.

            Not all foods have anything to do with their namesake, but some do. Chicago Pizza for example, is called that to distinguish it from New York style pizza.

          • Anonymous

            Coney Island Dogs were indeed from Coney Island originally. It’s a frankfurter on a bun and that creation was invented on the Coney Island boardwalk.

            As for Buffaloians calling Buffalo Chicken wings – that’s true. Just as native Long Islanders refer to a Long Island Ice Tea simply as Ice Tea. I never heard the phrase Long Island Ice Tea until I went to Albany in 1980.

            If a food is named after a town, it does have something to do with it. Chicago style pizza is called that because it was popularized in Chicago. Virginia Ham was a style of curing pork that was “standardized” in rural Virginia, much like prosciutto di parma which was “standardized” in Parma Italy. You can buy Virginia ham and prosciutto that is made other places, but they are copies of the originals.

            New York strip steak was a cut popularized by the restaurants of NYC in the 1800s in places like Delmonico’s. They didn’t invent the cut of beef, but they popularized it and used it so often it became associated with NY.

            Cincinnati Chili is just chili served over spaghetti. But like the NY strip steak, it may not be unique to Cincinnati, but it is standard restaurant fare there and just about no where else.

          • http://www.flickr.com/knightmare6 Knightmare6

            We need New York Not-Tso’s Chicken, since it was created in Manhattan, and never served to General Tso…

          • http://www.nedberke.com Ned Berke

            You’ve totally misunderstood the name of General Tso’s Chicken. It’s not named after General Tso, the Qing Dynasty statesman and military leader. It’s named after all Tso’s. General Tso. Like… generally. Generally Tso’s chicken… The chef really liked the name Tso. Every Tso he met was just a really nice guy, so he dedicated his chicken to them. Generally…

            One mystery solved. Back to work.

        • levp

          It absolutely always was! “Kotleta po-Kievski” – literally, “Kiev-style Cutlet”.

  • Wanderinglioness

    Wow – it looks big – and like a club!!

    • Anonymous

      best 5 Dolla’s you’ll ever spend if your hurting on Money and are hungry!

  • Local Broker

    I dont remember there ever being a bone in it.

  • Anonymous

    Ned now it’s time for you to try Vareniki s Veshnay a.k.a Ravioli with Cherry also Potato are good.

    • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

      I hate cherry Vareniki. Potato is my Vareniki of choice.

      • Anonymous

        I love the Cherry Vareniki. My wife’s Aunt used to make them from scratch.

        • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

          I can’t stand fruit that’s been cooked. Cherry’s especially. I just don’t
          like the consistency and flavor. Fresh Fruit only. I don’t even eat fruit
          from compote, I just drink the liquid.

          • Holly

            The fruit in compote is GROSSSSSS.

          • levp

            For the record, I can’t disagree more! Fruit from “Kompot” is always my favorite part.

          • Holly

            Lol, we should have dinner together then! I can drink the juice, you can have my fruit,

          • levp

            I should probably mention that my wife is reading this blog as well…

      • Guest

        Especially if your Grandmother makes them with some caramelized onions, right.

        • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

          Oh hell yes, mixed right into the potatoes….

          • Anonymous

            ooh that’s good.

          • nolastname

            Just bought some frozen from Net Cost, that with Russian Style sour cream, yummy. The left overs (if any) are great browned up with a little butter.

          • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

            You went shopping at 6am?

          • nolastname

            No, last night. I am making them for lunch today. LOL
            $3.69 a bag. Makes 2 portions.

          • http://www.njluxurymotors.com Arthur Borko

            For you maybe, sounds like a snack to me…

          • nolastname

            I’d like some home made for sure.
            We made perogies from scratch (which we still do) filled with potato/onion, mushroom/potato, corned beef/potato and saurekraut/potato. Served with sour cream and/or honey. Pretty much the same I guess.
            The process takes the whole day but worth it.

  • Holly

    I’ve had their Kiev! It’s fantastic, I enjoyed it a lot, much better than the popular chicken Kievs served in England.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DrAlex16 Alex Nathanson

    Thanks Robert for going over the history of this decadent piece of Russian cuisine. Am I only the one who likes it without the bone? That bone is put in just for show.

  • Kasquar

    That’s not a bone as a handle…it’s the chicken’s ass.

  • Pingback: Aziza 7: Chicken Tabaka – The Bite | Sheepshead Bay News Blog