If it looks like breaded chicken and tastes like chicken, then it’s probably chicken, right? Well, not so when it comes to city chicken, a dish commonly served in the Great Lakes region. This “chicken” recipe doesn’t contain an ounce of poultry: it’s actually a skewer of pork or veal (or both) that’s been battered with flour and breadcrumbs, fried and baked.
Some early versions call for beef or mock duck, usually created with flank or round steak and lamb kidneys. What’s most surprising is this mock-chicken meal truly tastes like the real deal.
This is a dish that was created out of resourcefulness and became creative way to create a delicious meal. Using pork, veal or beef, mock poultry dishes allowed people to repurpose scraps or purchase more affordable meats. It was especially popular among Polish and Ukrainian heritage communities, which are prominent in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit and the Great Lakes region. People from Poland and Ukraine settled in these areas prior to the Great Depression.
Chicken used to be more expensive than it is today, so it would be reserved for special occasions or Sunday dinner. City chicken skewers aren’t typically sold in conventional grocery stores.
Traditional city chicken is served with brown gravy, but some like to use Italian red sauce as an alternative. This breaded meat-on-a-stick also tastes great on its own.
Making it is rather easy. Although recipes vary slightly, it typically calls for simple pantry ingredients, such as broth, oil, breadcrumbs, flour and eggs, in addition to the meat and milk. You thread the skewers with cubes of meat and dust them with seasoning. Next, you pan or deep fry the meat and bake it until it’s tender.
Does this mock chicken have you intrigued? Try cooking this tasty comfort food for dinner one night this week.