Why City Chicken on a Stick has No Chicken: A New Look at a Century-Old Recipe by Cleo Coyle #NationalFoodOnAStickDay

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Behold the "mock drumstick" of our (baked not fried)
City Chicken, smothered in a delicious pan gravy.
A century-old recipe bringing comfort food joy...

O
ne hundred years ago, when you couldn't afford real chicken, "City Chicken" was a tasty alternative, a way to enjoy mock fried chicken drumsticks using meat scraps (pork, beef, veal) from the butcher. 
Click here for the
Free Recipe PDF.

Different regions have their own take on this dish. Some deep fry the mock drumsticks, others have no breading. My husband's mother prepared it, "Pittsburgh style" (breaded, sautéed, baked, and served with pan gravy). And that is the very recipe I'm sharing with you today, which also happens to be National Food on a Stick Day. City Chicken definitely qualifies.

AND since my husband (and partner in crime writing) has been craving it lately, I thought it was about time I aided and abetted his desire to...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo




What? No Chicken in City Chicken?




Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime writing—her husband. 
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.
Cleo Coyle's
City Chicken


So why is it called City Chicken?

During the Depression, when this mock chicken dish really took off, fatty trimmings and meat scraps of pork, beef, and veal were less expensive than chicken, especially in urban areas that were far from poultry farms. In other words, city-dwellers were the ones making it because chicken was too expensive to eat.

And how does it taste?

Incredibly good. Marc and I grew up just outside of Pittsburgh, where the dish has been popular for years. Wednesdays were City Chicken night at my husband's house, where his mom served her hearty mock drumsticks with string beans and mashed potatoes—to soak up all that good pan gravy. 

For years, many of the grocery stores in the Pittsburgh area sold "City Chicken" packs of pork pieces with skewers included. Wikipedia's entry on City Chicken even features a picture of one of these Pittsburgh packs. (See Wiki photo below.)


The Wiki Entry for City Chicken includes
this photo of "A package of All Pork
City Chicken, found in Pittsburgh, PA"


Credit: By AstroErika (Own work)
Click for more info via Wikimedia Commons

Here in New York, where we've lived for decades, we've never seen "City Chicken" packs—ironic since it's the biggest city in the country! But, hey, that's okay. Marc and I don’t need those packs. And neither do you. Just look for packages of boneless pork and/or veal pieces (usually marked for stew, see my pictures below), follow our recipe, and you’re all set to make your very own Pittsburgh-style comfort food.



To download a PDF copy 
of this retro recipe that
you can print, save, 
or share, click here.

Click here for the
Free Recipe PDF.


Cleo Coyle's
City Chicken Recipe



Makes six servings
INGREDIENTS:

- 6 six-inch wooden skewers (in a pinch, simply cut down longer skewers)
- 3 pounds of meat cubes (we use):
    1-½ pounds boneless pork pieces (or "stew meat") +
    1-½ pounds veal pieces (or "stew meat")
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs (we use Italian seasoned)
- 2 large eggs 
- 1 tablespoon milk (or water)
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped 
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil 
- 2 Tablespoons butter 
- 2/3 cup chicken or veg stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon (or so) Wondra flour or cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

Note: If you bought "stew meat" packages as shown above, you should be ready to go. If you can't find stew meat, purchase pork loin chops and/or veal steaks and cut them into small pieces ( about 1- to 1-1/2 inches in size). 

Step 1: Prepare the Meat - Arrange the meat pieces on each of the six skewers. If using more than one type, alternate them (pork, veal, pork, veal, etc...) Fit the pieces together tightly to create a mock chicken drumstick. Dredge each of the mock drumsticks in flour, then in egg, and finally coat generously with the seasoned bread crumbs.




Step 2: Brown the meat – Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is heating, place the vegetable oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. When this shallow oil is hot enough to ripple, add 1 tablespoon of butter and allow it to melt. Sauté the mock drumsticks about five minutes in the hot oil, turning often, until the outsides are golden brown. Remove the mock drumsticks from the pan and set them aside on a holding plate. Turn the heat to low.

Step 3: Sauté the onions – Add the chopped onion to the hot oil, along with about 1 tablespoon butter. Cook and stir over the low heat until the onions are brown, about five minutes. Now return the mock drumsticks to the pan (along with any drippings that may have accumulated on the holding plate). Cook them only for another minute or two.


Step 4: Bake in the oven – Add ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock to the skillet, cover with a lid, and bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes, or until the meat is tender. 




Step 5: Make the gravy - The onions and stock create a nice gravy as the meat cooks. While you can spoon this thin gravy over the mock drumsticks as is, we prefer to thicken it. To do this, you'll need to remove all of the mock drumsticks from the pan while leaving the liquid in there...



Over low heat, whisk the Wondra flour (or cornstarch) into the liquid. If you like, you can stir a bit of butter into the gravy for richness, as well, although it's not a necessity. Simmer for a minute or two, whisking in more flour or cornstarch until the gravy thickens to your liking. Then plate the mock drumsticks, spoon the gravy over them, as shown, and...





Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
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75 comments :

  1. Wow, not only does this look absolutely deliciously amazing, but if made a bit smaller, they would be perfect for cocktail parties!! I can see major grazing at the table for these!
    sharo

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  2. Why does everything taste better on a stick? And the pictures look great! jsmit

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  3. My grandma used to make city chicken! I was just a little kid and had no clue what it was made from but I kinda knew it wasn't chicken lol. barbi.....

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  4. This chicken looks delectable and wonderful. saubl

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  5. I don't eat chicken, but I can say congrats on the new release! mbrad

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  6. I remember having this when I first moved to Ohio. I always thought it was so funny to call something chicken that wasn't made from Chicken.
    ash50

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  7. This chicken looks yummy. I will have to try it. Thanks for the recipe.

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  8. A local butcher shop sells the mock chicken on a stick. I'd like to try it using your recipe. Sounds delicious. serve

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  9. Looks great with all that gravy.
    Cblis

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  10. Yum!!! I love trying new recipes. sarac

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  11. Chicken free "city chicken" is worth making, just to confuse my husband :)

    Adbec

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    Replies
    1. Becky - LOL on confuse-a-husband City Chicken! By now you know that (by random draw) you've won our Coffeehouse Mystery Newsletter giveaway. Congratulations to you, Becky! We hope you enjoy your prizes. And we'd like to add...

      Thank you to EVERYONE for joining in the fun on this recipe post and adding your wonderful comments to Becky's. Marc and I hope you will all stay subscribed to our Coffeehouse Mystery Newsletter so you won’t miss our future recipes and a chance to win another giveaway. Until then...

      May you eat (and read) with joy!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter
      www.CleoCoyleRecipes.com

      Delete
  12. I love city chicken! We had it often when I was growing up and I'd forgotten all about it until I saw your recipe. Adding those ingredients to my grocery list! Thanks! durm1

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  13. Pictures ate making me hungry. Thanks for the recipe.

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  14. This looks very appalling and I am going to try it very soon.

    Ledon

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  15. So it's like chicken-fried pork chops, but on a stick, right? Looks good, especially that Gravy! stampa

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  16. I think my mom used to make this when I was growing up. mcast

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  17. I remember city chicken in grocery stores growing up (near Pittsburgh). This recipe looks yummy - can't wait to try it. miche

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  18. Looks pretty good, can't wait to try it
    Kjohn

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  19. I grew up eating city chicken. We loved it dr.olds

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  20. Meat on a stick, you can't go wrong there. Funny, I think of pork and veal as more expensive meats than chicken now, but it is supposed to replace chicken.... jessica

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  21. Wow. I grew up in Coraopolis and I never heard of it! Looks good though...

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  22. Forgot the first part of my email. Mberb

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  23. yum, sounds great! parkeremma2003 at yahoo dot com

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  24. This looks so good!! I am going to have to try this recipe soon. darho

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  25. Not something I've heard of here in Texas, but something I'm sure going to try.

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  26. Never heard of "city chicken" but food on a stick always reminds me of the great Iowa State Fair. Efhen

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  27. Love the chicken recipe. We are spoiled with the newsletter. Gives us something to enjoy while enjoying all of your books! cmeie

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  28. You've made me so hungry I just went to the freezer and took food out for tomorrow. I'm going to have chicken. kphan

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  29. This sounds wonderful! I'll have to try this one! alici

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  30. Wish I had time to try this today! Ultim

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  31. This sounds exactly like something the kiddo would love to eat. Thanks os much for sharing the recipe. brend

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  32. The food looks delicious. I could
    almost taste it and smell the
    wonderful aroma.
    thanks.
    txmlh

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  33. Yum! Reminds me of the cookbook from the WWII years Mom passed on to me; it is amazing what could be done with "this is all we can get" provisions. barb. <<<-- that is b a r b . (period is the 5th character)

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  34. All this food on a stick makes me look forward to our state fair! Thx for the recipes! Esoli ��

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  35. Very familiar with city chicken from childhood in Ohio. Maybe it's a regional thing? Richr

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  36. Who knew that there was a Food on a Stick Day. So many yummy possibilities.
    turtl

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  37. Just love your recipes, the city chicken is my fav. ��

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  38. Always looking for new recipes. Definitely a new one for THIS city girl! mrscl

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  39. Never heard of city chicken before. It looks great! valle

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  40. This looks wonderful. Cant wait to try it

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  41. Delicious! Makes my mouth water just looking at it.

    first 5 of my email: bromi

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  42. Wow, this looks yummy! Something new to try this weekend. :)
    first 5 of my email: kathy

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  43. OMG, your books are amazing and the food you feature - totally appealing. I love kabobs with meat, roasted marshmallows and fruit on a stick! cathe

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  44. When in the city, I used to jokingly call the pigeons city chickens. I never would've guessed that the term meant something else. Lol. Dogmm

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  45. Thanks for sharing all of the recipes! Can't wait for the next Coffeehouse Mystery to come out! canby

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  46. I might make this as a vegetarian version since I don't eat meat. Phant

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  47. This looks really yummy! Sounds like something I would find at the Minnesota State Fair! 5lilc

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  48. never had city chicken but would love to try it!! karen

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  49. I have never heard of mock chicken but my daughter is coming over
    this weekend and I am going to try it out for her.
    kimf3

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  50. Can't wait to try this recipe! cyndi

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  51. I absolutely love all of your books and your recipes are wonderful. Mfg20

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  52. Recipe looks good and I love your books. Tennt

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  53. I can't wait to try your city chicken recipe. We used to go to this little local place that had the best city chicken but the owners retired and closed the business. utake

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  54. A family friend used to make city chicken every year for holidays. I love it. She died a few years ago so I'm looking forward to trying your recipe to honor her memory. Thanks for sharing it.

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  55. This looks absolutely delicious! I can hardly wait to read your new book! debbi

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  56. My goddaughter just bought 27 chicks (for future egg layers) so they will be thankful for this recipe!! kjkou

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  57. Never heard of city chicken until I moved to the midwest. ccbak

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  58. Looks Delish! Maceoindo(at)yahoo

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  59. Oh my...now I'm really starving ♥ k.ren

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  60. I have never heard of City Chicken before....recipe looks delish! Thanks for sharing!!

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  61. I can't wait to try it. I have had some much success with so many of your recipes. That's a miracle considering I cook for four children and my husband. I look forward to your newsletters and each book.
    First five email: harry

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  62. Thank you for sharing your recipe for "City Chicken". I haven't thought about that dish for years. We have lived in several states and the only place I ever found this labeled as "City Chicken" was when I lived in Pittsburgh. My husband grew up there and he always ate it as a child. Western PA has really blossomed as a culinary mecca. Now, if you could find the recipe for making the sauce for the chipped ham sandwiches...Yum.

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  63. Recipe sounds yummy, can't wait to try. Lou81

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  64. I have never heard of this. Interesting how we all have foods that relate to our area. I say one learns something new everyday. mnleo

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  65. Just dropping in to let you all know that Marc and I are enjoying your comments! Thanks to all of you for taking the time to join us for one of our favorite food-on-a-stick recipes...

    The comment-to-win drawing for our Prize Package giveaway won't take place until after midnight this Monday, April 3rd, so there is still plenty of time to enter. Good luck, everyone! And, yes, like the Terminator, I'll be back...

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter
    www.CleoCoyleRecipes.com

    ReplyDelete
  66. I have never heard of City Chicken. It sounds absolutely lip-smacking! The gravy; delicious. Your recipes are always so wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing. Love your books too.
    donna

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  67. I've never heard of City Chicken but it looks mouth-watering! a007g

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  68. I've never heard of city chicken but the recipe sounds amazing. I can't wait to try it. scarl

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  69. It sounds delicious. I thought my folks knew all the ways to cook cheaply. Guess not. I may have to try making it.
    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  70. Thanks sincerely to everyone for your wonderful comments on our City Chicken post. By random draw, we chose a winner among all of the comments to win our Coffeehouse Mystery Newsletter prize package...and that winner is Becky Brant! Congratulations, Becky, we hope you enjoy your prizes.

    Cheers again to all of you for joining in the fun. Marc and I hope you’ll stay subscribed to our Coffeehouse Mystery Newsletter so you won’t miss our future recipe posts and giveaways. Until then...

    May you eat (and read) with joy!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter
    www.CleoCoyleRecipes.com

    ReplyDelete