Does anyone remember having “city chicken”?
Question by pkdepp: Does anyone remember having “city chicken”?
The history of City chicken (aka mock chicken) is relatively easy to trace. The definative origin of the name continues to elude food historians. What we do know? This recipe calls western Pennsylvania “home.”
The culinary evolution of City chicken:
“Mock” foods (foods that are named for an ingredient that isn’t in the recipe) have a long an venerable history. Medieval cooks employed by wealthy families were fascinated with illusion food. The practice of calling one food by another name (mock sturgeon was composed of veal) or making one meat resemble another was quite an art and highly respected. Victorian-era cooks were also intrigued by mock foods. They enjoyed mock turtle soup (calve’s head…remember this character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland?), mock goose (leg of pork) and mock apple pie (soda crackers). Depression and World War II-era cooks created mock foods to stretch the budget and satisfy family tastes. The 1931 edition of Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking has recipes for mock chicken sandwiches (tuna), mock pistachio ice cream (vanilla with almond extract and green food coloring) and mock venison (lamb).
The Oxford English Dictionary does not have an entry for city chicken or mock chicken, but it does have an entry for “mock duck and mock goose.” These are defined as “a piece of pork from which the ‘crackling’ [skin] has been removed, baked with a stuffing of sage and onions.” The OED traces this usage in print to 1877. Here is the referenced recipe:
“Goose, Mock. Mock goose is a name given in some parts to a leg of pork roasted without the skin, and stuffed just under the knuckle with sage-and-onion stuffing. It is a good plan to boil it partially before skinning and putting it down to roast. When it is almost done enough, sprinkle over it a powder made my mixing together a table-spoonful of finely-grated bread-crumbs, with a tea-spoonful of powdered sage, half a salt-spoonful of salt, and the same of pepper. Send some good gravy to the table in a tureen with it. Time, allow fully twenty minutes to the pound. Probably cost, 11d. Per pound.”
—Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery [Casell, Peter, Galpin & Co.:London] 1877 (p. 262)
Late 19th and early 20th century American and English cookbooks contain many veal recipes. Veal loves (meatloaf!), veal cutlets, and roasts were popular. We find recipes for “veal birds” in depression-era cookbooks. Veal birds are composed of flattened veal stuffed with pork meat balls. The are held in place with toothpicks and served with cream gravy. Guessing from the pictures, the finished product is supposed to look like little birds. Hence, the name.
“Veal had never been an American meat staple…And though the amount ov veal we did geat fell off after the war [WWII], it was used occasionally (except by immigrants who liked it) as an inexpensive substitute for the desirable high-priced chicken or turkey, which where not yet being raised in huge numbers by poultry factories.”
—Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, Sylvia Lovegren [MacMillan:New York] 1995 (p. 142-3)
Curiously enough? German weiner schnitzel [breaded veal cutlets] morphed in the 1940s in many southern states into “chicken-fried steak.” The recipe for “city chicken/mock chicken” is almost identical. The difference is that city chicken is made with pork and veal cubes (as opposed to a single type of meat). Our notes on chicken fried steak.
The earliest recipe we find for Mock Chicken legs [pork & veal cubes on a skewer, dipped in egg, rolled in breadcrumbs and sauteed) is from the Granddaughter’s Inglenook Cookbook,[Brethren Publishing:Elgin Ill] 1942. The earliest recipe we find for City Chicken [same recipe as mock chicken] is from 1946:
“Mock Chicken Drumsticks (City Chicken) 6 servings
Cut into 1X 11/2 inch pieces:
1 pound veal steak
1 pound pork steak
Sprinkle them with salt, pepper
Arrange the veal and pork cubes alternately on 6 skewers. Press the pieces close together into the shape of a drumstick. Roll the meat in flour.
Beat 1 egg, 2 tablespoons water
Dip the sticks into the diluted egg then roll them in breadcrumbs.
Melt in a skillet 1/4 cup shortening
Add 1 tablespoon minced onion (optional)
Brown meat well. Cover the bottom of the skillet with boiling stock or stock substitute or water. 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.”
—The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer [Bobbs Merill:Indianapolis] 1946 (p. 171)
[NOTE: Mrs. Rombauer does not offer an explanation regarding the origin of the term “city chicken”.]
Answer by Sunshine
Never knew that much about it…just knew that it tastes good:)
Add your own answer in the comments!