Chicken Kiev

I thought this would be my first Cook's Illustrated recipe, but I made some oatmeal cookies the other night (highly recommended!), so this is actually my second. I recently started subscribing to Entertaining from Cook's Illustrated because it seemed like a magazine I would enjoy more than the traditional one. It's hard to keep my attention on a food magazine without the glossy pictures to lure me in. But as I read through the first two issues, I found lots of helpful hints and recipes I was interested in making, despite the lack of color photos.

One such recipe was revamped Chicken Kiev. I used to make the Chicken Kiev you can find in a two-pack in the grocery store freezer section but had never made my own before and hadn't had any in a long time. So I decided right away that I would, at some point, try this recipe.

You can find it on Cook's Illustrated's Web site if you're a subscriber -- or get a 14-day free trial if you're not.

The key things to think about when making Chicken Kiev, according to Cook's Illustrated, are the butter, the breading, and the thickness of the chicken.

I started by making the herbed butter -- butter mixed with lemon juice, parsley, shallot, thyme, and salt and pepper. The thyme is my own addition. The regular recipe calls for tarragon, which I don't really like.

You have to form the butter mixture into a square and throw it back in the fridge to harden. Later, you cut it into rectangles, and wrap the chicken around it. I found that my chicken didn't fit well around the rectangles, and I ended up only using half a rectangle in each piece of chicken. (I might have to get Whole Foods' chicken next time. We had bought a huge pack of chicken breasts at Costco to be more cost-efficient, but I find that Whole Foods' chicken has better flavor and is usually bigger.)

Anyways, while the butter hardened, I made my bread crumbs. This was so simple. I don't know why I've never made my own before. Just cube some slices of bread, pulse them in the food processor, mix whatever seasonings and some oil into them, and then throw them in the oven to crisp up and dry out.

Next, butterfly and then flatten boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a meat mallet. Then take the hardened butter, place it on the chicken and wrap the chicken around it, tucking in the sides as you go. The point is to get the butter all tucked in so it doesn't leek out.

I had a lot of trouble with this part. I think I may have done my butterflying wrong because my chicken pieces did not come out as solid sheets of chicken. There were definitely some gaps. But I somehow managed to still get the butter all wrapped up, though not as prettily as I should have.

At that point, I stuck them in the refrigerator for a while. This just helps them hold together better when you bread them. Breading them is the usual dredge in flour, dip in egg wash, and press in bread crumbs. (Okay, maybe there was something added to the egg wash for flavor.)

Lay them on a rack set in a pan, and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. I tried to follow the directions, which say to use a meat thermometer and take them out when they hit 160 degrees. I was already wary of my meat thermometer's accuracy but decided to give it this last chance. It only got up to 120 when the chicken was fully cooked and on its way to drying out. I trust my instincts a little more.

I served the Chicken Kiev with some roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Though mine weren't perfect, I really loved this new rendition. It felt great knowing I had made this myself rather than poured the contents of a box onto a baking sheet. The bread crumb coating was crisp without being greasy, and the herbed butter added fresh flavors without being overwhelming.

You'll notice I left out the ingredient list and a ton of details here. Because Cook's Illustrated doesn't make this recipe readily available online, I don't feel right posting it. I also think it's important to read the story, hints, and suggestions that go along with the recipe. If you're comfortable in the kitchen, I'm sure you could figure out how to make a version of it, but if you have the desire to learn about Chicken Kiev and the best way to make it, then get the full scoop on the Cook's Illustrated Web site.

Do you like Chicken Kiev? Have you ever made your own?