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Owen Matthews in his lively and interesting book Glorious Misadventures: Nikolai Rezanov and the Dream of a Russian America explains in vivid detail how:
Russia really did once have an American empire. By 1812 the border of the Tsar’s dominions was on what is today called the Russian River, an hour’s drive north of San Francisco along California’s Highway 1. Russia also – briefly – had a colony on Hawaii. Glorious Misadventures
Remnants of the southern border of that “Russian American empire” still exist.
Fort Ross, seventy miles north of San Francisco, was the southernmost outpost of Russia’s American empire from 1812 until 1842 … Fort Ross never became the thriving colony that Rezanov envisaged and was eventually sold to John Sutter, a Mexican citizen of Swiss origin, in 1842. Glorious Misadventures
Just a few years before Fort Ross was sold to John Sutter, Richard Henry Dana Jr. arrived on the Pacific coast of California after a harrowing voyage around Cape Horn. The voyage brought Dana to a number of settlements as far north as San Francisco. Just a few years after sale to Sutter, the Frolic, a Baltimore-built clipper brig wrecked off the coast of Mendocino. TITM wrote briefly about both of these events surrounding the Russian American Empire in The Ethical Optimism and Integrity of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
It would please me to say that the recipe for the Sea Gull’s famed Chicken Kiev came from Olga, great-great-great granddaughter of those early Russian settlers at Fort Ross. Alas, it did not. It probably came from Martin and Marlene Hall, the previous owners of the Sea Gull, who may have pinched it from the kitchen staff of the Russian consulate in San Francisco. Of course they won’t admit it. The origin of the idea and recipe is clouded in mystery as Felicity Cloake writes in an article published in the Guardian: How to Cook the Perfect Chicken Kiev.
The one thing I do know is that Chicken Kiev was a very popular dish at the Sea Gull. It was on the menu before my arrival and remained there after my departure. It was the favorite choice of our vegetable tsar, Clyde Ware, who ordered it every time he visited preceded by Old Taylor and soda and accompanied by a bottle of Green Hungarian wine.
As an interesting aside, consider this unrelated fact from Glorious Adventurers:
In all, Catherine [the Great] had twelve lovers during her life. She had long, passionate and faithful relationships with great men such as Grigory Orlov, the man who had helped her depose her husband, with Stanislaus Poniatowski, the brilliant Polish magnate whom she would elevate to the kingship of his native land, and with Potemkin … Stanislaus Poniatowski had been made King of Poland and presided over the division and then disappearance of his homeland into the Russian Empire.
This caught my attention because of my great respect for the Mexican/French/Polish journalist and author Elena Poniatowska. She is indeed a relative of Stanislaus. What has this to do with Chicken Kiev? I don’t know. But, I read the entire book before writing this post and I wanted to include a few quotes to encourage you to read it.
Glorious Adventures is full of interesting facts other than Catherine the Great’s love life although Owen Matthew’s description of that justifies the price of the book and then some. One further quote, also irrelevant to the topic at hand:
The Juno’s crew found California every bit as agreeable as their officers. Rather too much so, in fact. Within three days of arrival five of D’Wolf’s men – four Bostonians and a Prussian – who had signed up for Company service the previous autumn in New Archangel, requested permission to remain in San Francisco. Several Russians appeared keen to join them. Clearly, if Rezanov were to let them go he would soon have no crew left with which to return to Sitka. Don Luis was not keen on Protestant Yankee sailors wandering his colony and offered a picket and mounted patrol to guard the Juno and prevent any desertions. A court martial was held on the Juno’s quarterdeck, which condemned the five for conspiracy to desert and ordered them confined to a small stockade on an uninhabited island in the Bay known to the Spanish as La Isla de los Alcatraces – the Island of the Pelicans. Thus the Juno Five became the first prisoners of Alcatraz.
Clyde Ware was not the only enthusiast of our Chicken Kiev. One restaurant guide put it like this:
Entrees include red snapper or ling cod (when the boats come in), rainbow trout, shrimp sautéed with mushrooms and herbs, sweetbreads, and the finest chicken Kiev outside of a Russian restaurant.
So, this is how we did it.
Chicken Kiev Recipe
Chicken Kiev Filling:
1 1/2 cups butter (3/4 pound)
6 Tbs chopped pardsley (1/2 cup)
1 Tsp granulated garlic
1/2 Tsp cayenne
6 Tbs lemon juice
Heat and mix above ingredients together. Freeze the mixture into a flat 1-1/2 inch block. When needed the block can be cut into appropriate sized pieces depending on the size of the chicken breast.
Use a whole, boned chicken breast. Pound slightly to tenderize. Stuff with filling and secure using toothpicks. Dip in egg wash then coat with fresh cracker crumbs. Fry on each side in butter and olive oil until golden brown. Place in 350 degree oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.