Many years ago when I worked as a development chef for the supermarkets, every season some smart-alec sales guy would say “let’s redo the chicken Kiev. Let’s make the best, tastiest, most indulgent chicken Kiev anyone’s ever had – it’ll fly off the shelves!” and no matter how much we grumbled & begged, one of us chefs would be sent into the kitchen to come up with the ‘new Kiev’. Bechamel, bacon, butter, cream, the finest farmhouse Cheddar – we played with variations on them all, in the attempt to make this classic-turned-trash into something smart & fancy the average posher-than-Tesco-but-not-Selfridges-food-hall customer would be thrilled to pop into their overpriced basket. But every time, sure as eggs are eggs, we’d finally get a product the buyers were happy with & then they’d say “Now, about the nutritionals on this…” and that’s where the whole concept would crumble, as we’d always known it would.
Y’see – you can’t make a Chicken Kiev without butter. Or salt. In generous quantities. And a luxury one? Well then you’ll be wanting cream too, and good cheese (whose sodium quotient is almost as alarming as the fat content) and don’t even get me started on the nutritional values on bacon. And so we’d be sent back to make a Kiev that didn’t have a big fat red warning light on all its RDAs, and it’d be, well, okay, but really, it was nothing special anymore. And so the idea would get shelved for another 4 months until someone new joined the sales team….
This Kiev is actually a halfway house between Kiev and chicken Cordon Bleu – that indulgent dish of cream, bacon & cheese in which lucky, devout chickens are sent to finish their days if they’ve been REALLY good. I’ve taken pains to censor no ingredient in pursuit of rich, creamy, indulgence, so loosen your belt and remember that the diet always starts Tomorrow…..
Chicken Cordon Kiev
2 big, plump skinless chicken breasts
75g clotted cream or extra thick double cream
50g soft butter
25g extra mature Cheddar, finely grated
3 fat cloves garlic, crushed
A handful of parsley, finely chopped
6 slices smoked pancetta
A little plain flour
1 egg, beaten
2 large handfuls panko breadcrumbs
15g finely grated parmesan
Vegetable oil, for frying
Mix together the cream, butter, cheddar, garlic and parsley, and season with plenty of salt and black pepper. To make a hole for oodles of stuffing that won’t ooze out everywhere, insert a thin-bladed knife into the centre of the thickest part of the breast, then (with the knife still in the heart of the meat), slide the knife around to make a pocket within the breast. Hard to picture? You can see a great how-to video here.
Stuff your pocketed chicken breasts with the filling. This is easiest if you use a piping bag but perfectly easy to do with a small spoon and your fingers. Keep smoothing the stuffing down inside the meat, just as you would if you’d stuffed butter (or stuffing!) under the skin of a whole chicken for roasting. Now wrap each chicken breast in the pancetta, making sure you cover the opening of the pocket with at least one slice. Coat your chicken breasts in first the flour, then the beaten egg, and then the breadcrumbs (mixed with the Parmesan). This is best done in three plates or shallow bowls, rather than Nigella-style in bags, as the stuffed breasts are rather fragile. Make sure they’re really well coated, and don’t be afraid to double-coat for extra crunch if you want. Place on a wire rack and chill until very very firm (to stop the filling exploding out when frying). Preheat your oven to Gas 5/190˚C and stick a baking tray in there to heat up too.
Heat a couple of centimeters of oil in a deep-sided frying pan or wide saucepan to 180˚C, or until a crumb of bread sizzles immediately when dropped in. Carefully slide the chilled Kievs into the oil, and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning once, until golden all over. Transfer to the preheated baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with some greens (to pretend it is healthy) and some carbs (new potatoes for preference) to help mop up the buttery, creamy, cheesy juices.