Weeknight Cooking

Stuff Chicken with Herbs, Garlic & Butter to Win at Dinner

March 28, 2017

If all you'd ever really like for dinner is garlic-y, wine-y, herby butter sauce by the spoonful, keep reading. If you're also desperate for a way to work boneless, skinless chicken breasts into a weeknight dinner that isn't bone-dry and lifeless, keep reading quickly!

Popular in Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish cuisines, Chicken Kiev is made by wrapping a flattened chicken breast around a lump of cold butter and garlic, and then frying the whole happy pouch in a breadcrumb coating. When you cut into one, the melted garlic butter spills out onto your spoon whatever starch or steamed vegetable you've got on standby. It's ridiculously good—and weeknight doable!

What's more, you probably have 90% of the ingredients lurking in your crisper.

A few notes:

  • If the idea of prepping and rolling up Chicken Kievs before a weeknight dinner sounds nutso, you can do all that the night before. Just leave them to set overnight rather than the allotted 30 minutes; all you'll need to do is sear them off before dinner the next day.
  • Don't worry too much about making them perfectly seep-tight. Some of the butter will escape during cooking, which will just add to the flavor of the pan sauce.
  • Feel free to swap in other herbs you have, or use just one (like parsley) rather than a medley.
  • It would be a shame to let any of the butter sauce go to waste, so serve your Kievs with some sort of starch: hot white rice, crusty bread, even mashed potatoes would be nice. Or in bowls, with spoons.

Pick these groceries up on the way home:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 handful Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • A bottle of white wine (you'll only need a cup for the recipe)

We're assuming you already have salt and pepper, 3 garlic cloves, a stick of butter, 1/2 cup flour, 4 tablespoons olive oil, and a lemon—but if not, pick those up too!

And get to making it:

  • About an hour before you'd like to eat, prep your Kievs. Finely mince the garlic, chop the thyme and parsley, and chiffonade the basil; then stir these ingredients together in a bowl. Using a rolling pin or mallet, flatten each chicken breast to 1/4-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap, then discard the plastic wrap and slice each beast in half lengthwise—you'll now have a total of 8 long, flat chicken strips. Season them, then sprinkle each with 1/8th of the garlic-herb mixture, and place a tablespoon of cold butter that you've formed into a cylinder shape with your fingers on top of that. Now, wrap the chicken around the butter as tightly as possible (the idea is that no butter can escape during cooking!). Secure with a toothpick if you need some added security, roll them in flour, then leave uncovered in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
  • About 15 minutes before dinner, sear them off. Heat the oven to 300º F. Add the olive oil to a heavy skillet over medium heat, then brown each Kiev on all sides (some will have 3 sides, others 4, plus a top and bottom). Set them on a sheetpan in the oven to keep warm. Add the wine to the pan, scraping up the brown bits, followed by a small pat of butter if you're feeling it; reduce until shimmering, and add lemon juice if it needs some brightness. Spoon over each Kiev to serve, accompanied by a slice of that lemon.

What are your go-to ways to turn chicken breasts into dinner? Tell us in the comments.

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Written by: Amanda Sims

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Marc C. April 9, 2017
The best Kiev keeps a pocket of butter that doesn't release until you cut the breast. I don't know how this is possible when cutting each breast in half. The taste was good but every ounce of butter was in the pan, not the chicken
maria March 31, 2017
Thanks for reminding me about this great recipe. Haven't made it for a long time. If you don't want to keep in the fridge overnight, freeze pieces of the butter so that it doesn't melt too quickly while frying. Also, my Russian friend who gave me this recipe uses parsley and dill for the herbs.
Sarah C. March 29, 2017
Mike B - Can you share the mid-60's NYT recipe for Cranberry Chicken Kiev? I tried googling it, but it did not come up on the NYT site. Thanks!
Bevi March 28, 2017
Thanks for the article, Amanda!
Author Comment
Amanda S. March 28, 2017
Thank *you*! It's one of my favorite F52 recipes.
Mike B. March 28, 2017
blast from the proverbial past. I have a version from the mid 60s NYT for a cranberry chicken kiev- it is utterly amazing to say the least. I'd add to the above that chives are integral part of the herb medley- something about butter and chives... also- a ~slightly~ non-traditional breading procedure- egg,flour,egg then breadcrumbs- also since we're here- fry it butter or at least 1/2 n 1/2 butter and olive oil.