Cavalcade of Food – Making City Chicken
Question: When is chicken not chicken?
Answer: When it’s city chicken!
I can’t remember how many times people have asked me, “What is city chicken?” If you didn’t grow up in the Midwest or eastern part of the country – especially in or near an industrial city, you may have never heard of this dish. First of all – it doesn’t contain any chicken. Here in the Detroit area, it was made using a combination of veal and pork, or with all pork. These are cubes of meat that are put on short wooden skewers and then breaded, browned and baked.
My understanding is that back during the Great Depression or even before, fresh chickens were not easy to come by in big cities. So someone came up with the idea of taking scraps of meat and putting it on a skewer – it looks a little like a chicken leg from a distance. However this dish started, it’s become a tradition and standard on most of the Polish restaurant menus in Detroit.
Mom made city chicken on a regular basis, and it was a meal everyone looked forward to. She would have the butcher make up the city chicken for her by putting cubes of stewing pork on a skewer. If you could find the right skewers, you could do this yourself. Many meat markets here regularly have city chicken all made up in the meat case. Generally, there are four or five cubes of meat on a skewer.
It also calls for using cream of mushroom soup to make the gravy. While a lot of people are turned off by using canned soups in recipes, this really works well here. I tried making my own gravy and it was a lot of extra work and didn’t impart the same flavor in the dish, so I break out the soup every time I make city chicken.
Whether it’s an old favorite or something you’ve never had before, city chicken is a great dish no matter where you are!
12 city chicken or 3 lbs. stewing pork, cubed
2 Tbsp. water
1 cup flour seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika – or you can use a ready-made seasoned flour like “Fryin’ Magic”
2 10-oz. cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can water
1 mushroom or chicken bouillon cubes
If you don’t have the city chicken already made up, put 4 or 5 pieces of pork on wooden skewers. Make an egg wash with eggs and water. Dip skewers in egg wash. Dredge in seasoned flour mixture. In a large skillet, add 1/4″ of oil and heat to frying temperature. Brown “City Chicken” on both sides and set aside.
Make gravy by combining Mushroom Soup with 1/2 can of water. Put 1 ladle full of gravy into the bottom of a roaster. Put City Chicken on top of gravy [OK to stack if 2nd layer is needed]. Pour on remaining gravy. Crumble bouillon cube and sprinkle over top. Cover entire roaster with foil and place lid over foil. Bake at 325ºF. 2 hours or until meat is fork-tender.