Chicken Kiev -- butter filled fried breasts of chicken -- deserved its fashionable status in mid-century America based on taste. But in another sense it deserves its contemporary degraded status as food for hospitals and bad dorm cafeterias. Tasty the classic recipe may be, but unhealthy is also is.
Fortunately, Jacques Pepin has a solution. The lovely and gifted Ms. Garlic purchased his new Essential Pepin for my birthday, and the title ain't lyin'. Among the book's many virtues is that Pepin has a good instinct for knowing when tweaks to classic dishes can eliminate fat and calories without major sacrifices of flavor. His updated Chicken Kiev -- baked, not fried, and with a filling from which butter can be reduced to taste -- is a perfect example.
Nor is it difficult. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt a little butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add one large or two small diced white onions. Saute for a couple minutes. Add 2-3 cups of chopped mushrooms. Add some salt and fresh pepper. Then add 4-5 cloves of minced garlic and a chopper herb of your choice. (The recipe calls for cilantro; since I'm a cilantrophobe, I would use tarragon or parsley.) After the mushrooms have substantially reduced, remove from heat and let cool a bit.
Butterfly boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pound relatively thin. Set up a breading assembly line, with seasoned bread crumbs and a lightly beaten egg. Put some filling into the center of the breast, fold over, insert a toothpick if desired, wash with the egg and then cover in bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet and repeat as many times as necessary. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Reserve any leftover onion and mushroom filling; it makes a nice topping for the chicken and/or your vegetable sides.
We served them with roasted asparagus and potatoes, and it was delicious:
Definitely a keeper; a proof that classics can be made healthier without losing their soul.