City Chicken (It’s not what you think is!)
City chicken is an entrée consisting of cubes of meat (usually pork), which have been placed on a wooden skewer (approximately 4-5 inches long), then fried and/or baked. Depending on the recipe, they may be breaded. The dish is popular in cities throughout the eastern Great Lakes region of Ohio and Michigan as well as the northeastern Appalachian regions of Pennsylvania and Upstate New York, and at least as far south and west as Louisville, Kentucky. City chicken is commonly found in the metropolitan areas of Binghamton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Erie, hence, the dish’s ‘urban’ title. In Canada, the deli-counter version is popular in the Ottawa Valley and Kitchener area.
Pork is the base meat in the common versions of the dish, although recipes vary regionally. For example, Pittsburgh-area preparations are almost always breaded and usually baked, while in Binghamton, the meat is usually marinated, battered and then deep fried. The Cleveland version is generally baked without breading, but the meat is dredged in flour, browned in a pan, then finished in the oven, and served with a rich brown gravy. Grocery stores in both in the Greater Cleveland area as well as those in the Pittsburgh metro area include wooden skewers with pork cubes specifically packaged as city chicken. In Ottawa, Canada, at least one variation involves skewers of three kinds of meat: pork, veal and beef. My favorite method of serving is pictured below.
18 5 inch wood skewers
Cut into 1 X 1 1/2 inch pieces:
1 pound top sirloin steak
1 pound veal steak
1 pound pork steak
Sprinkle them with salt, pepper
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
Arrange the veal and pork, and beef cubes alternately on 9 skewers. Press the pieces close together into the shape of a drumstick. Roll the meat in flour.
Melt in a skillet 1/4 cup shortening ( I like to bacon fat)
Add 1 tablespoon minced onion (optional)
Brown meat well. Cover the bottom of the skillet with heated stock. Put a lid on the skillet and cook the meat over very hot heat until it is tender. Thicken the gravy with flour (2 tablespoons four to 1 cup of liquid). If preferred, the skillet may be covered and placed in a slow oven 325 degrees F. Until the meat is tender.”