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Kitchen Mailbox: City Chicken an oldie but goodie 'faux' food

Thursday, February 24, 2000

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Today's recipe satisfies our occasional yearning for a hearty, homemade meal and has been an oldie but goodie for decades. It's the kind of dish you'd expect Aunt Bee from Mayberry to serve Andy and Opie.

City Chicken is a basic dish made with cubed pork, veal or beef. The cubed meat is placed on skewers, breaded, then fried in oil or butter. We found meat labeled city chicken at Giant Eagle. It was a combination of veal and pork (this seems to be the most popular). The package also contained the skewers. You can, if you desire, cube you own meat.

Try City Chicken with buttery mashed potatoes and a vegetable and maybe a salad on the side and you have delicious meal.

Why is it called City Chicken? Sandra Smerilli of Monessen tells us "It is called City Chicken because it resembles a chicken leg."

Sounds right to us.

Sunny Hoppe, formerly of Mt. Lebanon and now of Texas, requested a recipe for City Chicken. This easy recipe was sent in by Kathee Shabla of the North Side.

City Chicken

4 to 6 pounds city chicken (described above)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons flour
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
1 to 1 1/2 cups water
1 plastic bag for shaking

Place dry ingredients in plastic bag, mix thoroughly by shaking, set aside.

Alternate cubes of pork, veal or beef by piercing the meat onto the skewers (depending on the size of the cubed meat, you will probably use about four or five pieces of meat per skewer).

Place the city chicken, one piece at a time, in the plastic bag with the flour mixture. Shake bag, making sure to coat the city chicken thoroughly. Remove city chicken and place on waxed paper or rack. Coat a second time, return to waxed paper.

Heat butter and oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Brown all sides of city chicken, turning occasionally. City chicken should be cooked to a dark golden brown. Remove city chicken from pan, place on a paper towel. Drain oil from pan. Return city chicken to skillet; add 1 to 11/2 cups water (we used a little more than a cup). Simmer over low heat about 15 minutes while gently stirring the liquid and turning the city chicken. Cover and simmer another 15 to 20 minutes, occasionally stirring the liquid and making sure the meat is not sticking.

Note: This recipe makes a flavorful but thin gravy. If a thicker gravy is desired, remove the city chicken from the pan. Combine 2 tablespoons of the thin gravy with 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour or remaining flour mixture. Stir this mixture with a wire whisk until smooth. Combine this mixture with the thin gravy and stir until thick.

Donna Bernazzoli of Verona sent this recipe from "District VII's Gardeners' Cookbook," along with a letter telling how her family made city chicken. Here's an excerpt:

"My mother and later myself would simply dredge the city chicken in flour, dip in beaten egg and finally coat with bread crumbs. Brown in a skillet and then put in oven to finish -- sometimes with chopped onions on top -- mmm, good!"

City Chicken

2 pounds boneless veal and pork, cut in 11/2-inch cubes (or you can buy prepackaged city chicken)
1/2 cup corn flake crumbs
1/2 cup cracker meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 slightly beaten egg
2 tablespoons milk
2 to 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil or margarine
1 chicken bouillon cube

Push meat cubes onto 6 skewers.

Combine cracker meal and corn flake crumbs and seasonings in a bowl.

In another bowl, combine egg and milk.

Dip meat in egg mixture, then in crumbs. Brown slowly on all sides in hot oil in skillet.

Dissolve bouillon cube in 3/4 cup hot water; add to meat and cover tightly. Simmer one hour or until meat is tender, or cover and bake in 350-degree oven for about 1 hour until tender. Serve meat liquid as gravy. Makes 6 servings.

Note: You'll notice that the oil or margarine is not drained from the meat before the bouillon/water is added. Today many of us would consider this an unhealthful recipe. You may prepare the recipe as is or do what we did -- we drained most of the oil from the pan before we added the bouillon/water mixture. And we baked our city chicken in the oven, checking on it a couple of times and adding water as needed.


Joy Lang of Monessen writes: "Martha Stewart can't help. I hope somebody can. Shop & Save made a one-layer yellow cake split in half with the most fantastic butter pecan frosting. It was light and fluffy. I am writing to ask if anyone can tell me how to get a butter pecan flavor. Butter pecan extract is not sold anywhere.

Barb Balestreire of Glenshaw is looking for a recipe for lobster bisque.

From Kerry Lynn of Polish Hill: "Have you ever tasted the chicken or pork on a stick sold by the Asian vendors in the Strip District? I have been trying to find a recipe that's similar to that slightly sweet, garlicky taste. The commercial teriyaki bottlers just don't come close to that taste."

L. Bodnar would like the recipe for the black bean soup served at the Lone Star Restaurant or something similar.

Anyone have a recipe for sauerkraut balls? Paul Piatek of Wexford would like to have it.

Does anyone have the recipe for something similar to Dinty Moore's Bar B Cue? Joan Hulbert of Glenshaw would love to have the recipe.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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