Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Icon: Chicken Kiev

MT
The chicken Kiev cutlet, served at every Soviet restaurant after World War II, has a convoluted history similar to that of the olivye salad, also known as the Russian salad. Neither is actually Kievan or Russian, and their roots are not in the proletarian Soviet restaurant system that popularized them.

As culinary historian Vilyam Pokhlebkin pointed out, chicken Kiev was originally called "Novo-Mikhailovsky cutlet." The place that first served the dish in 1912, the Merchants Club of St. Petersburg, was located near Mikhailovsky Palace. Paris-trained chefs based the tender herb and butter-filled chicken cutlet on the French cotelette de volaille.

Events of 1918 erased the Novo-Mikhailovsky treat from Russia's gastronomical map until 1947, when a Kiev restaurant chef cooked it up to celebrate the Ukrainian delegation's return from Paris, where they had signed several peace treaties with Germany's former allies.

The second debut of the cutlet was met with wide acclaim, spreading first to the kitchen of the Ukraina restaurant in Moscow, and then to other venues.

Another theory about the cutlet's name is that chicken Kiev is exactly the same as the original French cotelette but was renamed by New York restaurateurs to please the immigrants.

The Russian version of the story makes fun of foreigners who eat their cutlet with a knife and fork, unlike Russians, who simply impale it on a fork and take bites out of it. Foreign gentlemen attempting to cut the chicken Kiev with a knife would inevitably trigger a spurt of butter right onto their fancy attire. It must have been the hidden weapon against bourgeois spies.