HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


City Chicken

When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, PA in the '50's, my mother would make something called City Chicken. It was breaded meat cubes(veal, I think) on a skewer. I think she bought it that way from the butcher. Is this something anyone else had? Any recipes out there?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. My husband who also grew up in suburban Pittsburgh during the same time frame, loves City Chicken. I grew up in the northern plains approximately 15 years later, and the idea of eating veal "dressed up" as chicken always makes me giggle a little bit. The history of course is that chicken was much more expensive than other meats which made chicken a highly coveted dish.

      Yes, it was available from the butcher already skewered. I have a feeling that it was basically ends and pieces from chops, etc. My husband says it might also have been mixed meat, meaning veal, pork, and beef.

      I "borrowed" my mother's 1966/67 BH&G cookbook and there's a wonderful recipe for CC in that. If you like, I could post it tomorrow.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sdpfeiffy

        That would be great! I'd like to make it for my husband who was an Air Force brat and never heard of such a thing. Thanks so much.

      2. I remember it in the store. The wood skewers were packed with the chuncks of meat, but the cook still had to put them together. There were two kinds of meat, but I can't remember what.

        1 Reply
        1. re: yayadave

          It was veal and pork and kind of shaped to look like a drumstick. The kind I have had had a crumb coating and was fried. Expensive chicken now-a-days!

        2. when I was growing up, we called this dish "veal birds" - I was always fascinated with it. The "birds were breaded, cooked on skewers and served fried, then braised in gravy. I can only assume this all happened because veal was a commoner and cheaper meat than chicken at some point in time.

          BTW, the other day we visited Mehlman's cafeteria in St. Clairsville, OH, near Wheeling and they had city chicken on offer - big breaded cutlets. didnt try it, however.

          1. My introduction to City Chicken came in the early 1980s, when I went to college in Binghamton, NY. It was the same thing everyone's describing in this thread -- chicken on a stick. But it was called "3 City Chicken." Why? Because Binghamton and its two neighboring towns -- Johnson City and Endicott -- are collectively known as the Triple Cities. It was years before I discovered that that 3 City Chicken was actually just a regional spin on the City Chicken name.

            1. I grew up on City Chicken. I was also from the Pittsburgh area in the late '60's/ early '70's, but noone I knew had ever heard of it outside my family.
              It mainly consisted of pork and veal cubed (I buy small roasts and cube it myself to cut down on the expense, since veal CAN be expensive...) alternated on a wood skewer to resemble a chicken leg. Dip the "legs" in a couple of beat up eggs; roll the legs in cracker meal. Sprinkle w/ salt & pepper. Brown all around in a little bit (just enough for coating to not stick to pan) of oil.
              Bake @ 350 for about an hour/ 1-1/2 hours w/ about an inch of water in covered dutch oven. Thicken broth with a bit of flour, serve with mashed potatoes and corn.
              BTW... there are some butcher shops and grocery store in PA that sell the meat already skewered AND coated, especially in the Lancaster area.

              1. I had it many times as a kid in Pittsburgh. My mom also used to buy it already packaged on the skewers (veal cubes), breaded it, fried it and we devoured it. I loved it! My mom used to use cracker meal seasoned with salt and pepper, a little poultry seasoning and paprika as the breading. Just roll the scewered meat in the cracker meal mixture and fry in butter or cooking oil, pretty much how you would fry chicken. Allow the meat to get a dark golden brown and then remove if from the pan. Clean the oil from the frying pan ( wipe out with a paper towel) (if you don't the finished product will be very greasy). To the pan add 1/2 - 3/4 cups water (or you can used canned chidken broth) and a chicken boullion cube and the fried meat. Cover and simmer for about 30-40 minutes and wa-la, City Chicken is born. Left over liquid in the pan can be used as gravy.

                I haven't had it in years. I don't live in PIttsburgh anymore, and can't get the prepackaged "city chicken" already on scewers at the grocery store. I may just have to give it a try on my own...

                1. Thanks for the opportunity to take a walk down memory lane. Haven't had City Chicken since I was about ten years old (a VERY long time ago) and had forgotten about it until now.
                  I'm gonna reward myself with a bit of nostalgic culinary enjoyment with City Chicken tonight.

                  1. OMG City Chicken.... haven't had it since I was a kid! My Mom is from Pittsburgh and I was born in Charleroi... now living in So Calif.

                    Thanks for a skip down memory lane!

                    1. I remember City Chicken--as kid in the 60s. I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, and my mom and all of my aunts regularly made City Chicken for supper. It might be a Great Lakes sort of regional thing.

                      I have an older copy of The Joy of Cooking (1975 edition, I think), and it has a recipe for City Chicken in it. Surprised me to see it there.

                      Funny to think that chicken was the expensive thing back then. I guess they were more valuable to keep for laying eggs?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: weezir

                        I wonder if the origins of city chicken didn't use less expensive meat.

                        1. re: yayadave

                          Chicken was really quite expensive until the 1970's or so. A roast chicken dinner was a fairly big deal. City Chicken (which my great-aunt-in-law Milly used to make) was a less-expensive alternative, hard as it seems to believe now.

                          1. re: yayadave

                            Back when my mom was growing up (30's and 40's) veal was the cheapest meat you could buy, and had a very "low rent" image.

                        2. Curious about chicken being more expensive. I always thought the name came from the fact that city folk didn't have chickens running around in their backyards and had to improvise.

                          1. Wow, maybe it was primarily a Pittsburgh thing! Both of my parents grew up there in the 50s-60s, and so we had city chicken for dinner quite often. I think it was pork on skewers with a crumb coating (breadcrumbs or matzah meal)... usually pretty dry and not a dish I looked forward to eating. Since I've been cooking for myself, I have never made it. I think that recipe might die out...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: truman

                              I'm the original poster on this. Your reply cracked me up because breading pork with matzoh meal was the kind of thing my not very Jewish (we ate pork, bacon, etc.) family would have done!

                              1. re: The Librarian

                                The best city chicken comes from a little dive bar in Endicott NY called Stu's Place.. I've had city chicken across the country, and this is the tastiest I've come across. Strangely, it IS made from chicken.

                                1. re: spiedieking

                                  CIty Chicken is something I always thought of as a Michigan thing. It's considered Polish food around here....I LOVE IT! You can buy it in butcher shops around here. It's pork and veal on a skewer, breaded. Don't forget the paprika! Pan fry it, and then finish it in the oven.

                            2. I grew up in Northern Ohio and City Chicken was a staple growing up in the 70s and 80s. Like meatloaf, it is one of the best MidWest comfort foods you'll find. I find myself putting a batch together once a month or so. I've served it with rice and polenta, but mashed potatoes is the most homey. Add a side of green beans with bacon and I am transported back 30 years.