This here is my take on another Russian classic – ground chicken patties, lightened with slices of crustless white bread soaked in milk or cream, rolled in bread crumbs, and sauteed in a combination of butter and oil. This addition of dairy-soaked bread is fairly common for Russian ground-meat dishes, resulting in richer, juicier, and more delicate patties than our familiar American hamburgers.
I decided to additionally ramp up the the patties with grated onions and rubbed sage (a choice I am still debating since rubbed sage can be overpowering if you are not careful with the amount). I also decided to encase whole “fingers” of cold butter inside each patty, Chicken Kiev-style, so it could melt during the cooking and come flowing out once the patties are cut. It was only later that I realized that I could have skipped the sage and used flavored compound butter instead of plain.
As to meat, I used a whole chicken breast and two tenderloins (the long, narrow muscles tucked under each breast in a chicken) and ground it all in a food processor (details below).
I also happened to be out of milk and cream when I was about to make this, so I soaked my bread slices in yogurt thinned with some water (the difference was undetectable). I also used slices from the same loaf to make homemade toasted breadcrumbs for rolling the patties (also below).
I then I sauteed my patties in a mixture of butter and oil and finished them in a hot oven. Everyone in my family loved these, even the kids, because, when you think of it, these here are nothing other than giant homemade chicken nuggets and, as such, have some universal kid appeal.
How to Grind Meat in a Food Processor
I’ve used this method for both beef and chicken, and it works great every time. If you are grinding beef (for some other recipe), be sure to trim it the best you can of any connective tissue and gristle. You don’t need to worry about that with chicken breast, as it has virtually none.
Cut your trimmed meat in roughly 1/2″ by 1/2″-inch chunks. Place about 2 C of meat cubes in a food processor and pulse it several times for 3-seconds at a time until your meat begins to turn to mush. Now depress the “ON” button and process your meat continuously for another 10 seconds, or until it’s all ground-up and fluffy. Expect your food-processor-ground meat to be fluffier and not nearly as packed as the butcher stuff. Remove the finished product into a separate bowl and proceed with the rest.
Homemade Toasted Bread Crumbs
I wanted my coating to be pretty crispy and golden, so I cut a few slices of white bread, removed the crusts (note that my crusty homemade bread is denser than most supermarket white bread you’ll find in this country, so your results may or may not be quite the same), and toasted them in the oven at 450 degrees until they began to turn golden. I then cooled them and ground them in a food processor, which didn’t give me the crumbs quite as fine as I wanted since the bread was still soft inside and hard to grind. I decided they could be toasted a bit more, poured them back onto the rimmed cookie sheet I’d been using, and toasted them a little longer until they turned really golden (some of the crumbs turned brown). I then cooled the crumbs and ground them up again, at which point I thought they were perfect – slightly crunchy and definitely the right color.
Russian-Style Ground Chicken Patties
Makes 6 patties
- 2 large chicken breast halves and 2 tenderloins
- 1 medium onion, grated (NOT minced or processed in a food processor – it needs to be rendered practically liquid, which only a grater has been able to do for me so far – the copious onion juice and the absence of onion chunks make all the difference).
- 1 large egg
- 2 slices white bread (if the bread is crusty, remove the crusts)
- 2/3 to 3/4 C milk, cream, half-n-half, or thinned yogurt if you have neither, for soaking the bread slices
- a pinch of rubbed sage (optional – you could also substitute parsley, tarragon, or whatever strikes your fancy)
- salt and pepper to taste (or Montreal Steak Seasoning)
- 1/2 stick cold butter, for making butter “fingers” to hide inside patties, or an equivalent in herbed and/or garlicky compound butter
- 2 beaten eggs, for dipping the patties
- 6-slices-worth of homemade bread crumbs, or enough packaged ones to coat 6 large patties
- butter and oil, for frying
Soak bread slices in milk for 15-20 minutes or until the bread absorbs most of the milk and turns to mush.
Grind chicken in a food processor and add bread/milk mush, grated onion, egg, herbs, salt, and pepper. Process until well-blended and fluffy (if your food processor cannot accommodate everything, you can also mix it all in a bowl by hand, although the food processor gave the mixture this whipped quality I really liked).
Slice the cold butter lengthwise into 3 slices, then slice each in half cross-wise. If your resulting butter “fingers” still seem too thick for your patties, feel free to trim them so they can be completely hidden inside the meat mixture.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Melt butter with a little bit of oil in a high-quality stainless or cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
Place the beaten egg in a shallow bowl.
Shape a handful of the meat mixture into an oblong patty, wrapping it around the butter so no butter is showing. Dip the patty quickly in the egg and then roll it quickly in breadcrumbs. Immediately place your patty into the sizzling butter-oil mixture. Repeat with 2-3 more patties, depending on the size of your skillet and making sure the patties are not crowded. Cook until golden-brown on both sides.
Transfer into a casserole dish and bake, uncovered, until fully cooked (you can make a tiny cut with a knife and peek in to make sure that no pink remains – but don’t poke so far that you get to the butter), approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your patties.
I like to serve mine with fried potatoes of one kind or another (which, in my mind, would be the Russian way to do it). Here are some options: