The Untold Truth Of City Chicken

Have you ever heard of city chicken? No, it's not a new entrant to the ongoing fast-food chicken sandwich wars. In fact, it's not a chain at all, and it's definitely not anything new, and it isn't even chicken. What it is, is a regional specialty that dates back to the Great Depression, and the cities in question, according to The Takeout, are Pittsburgh and Cleveland. And, presumably, points in between.

So, if city chicken isn't made out of chicken, what is it? City chicken is actually made of pork. Although it may seem a bit weird to us today when we're used to chicken being the cheapest of meats, 80 years ago, a surplus of pigs meant that pork was the most affordable protein. (Kind of like how lobsters, which are now notoriously expensive, were once a dirt-cheap staple used to feed Colonial prisoners and slaves.) City chicken was an attempt to concoct fried chicken by city dwellers who didn't have any backyard hens they could sacrifice to the cause.

How to make city chicken

While The Takeout supplied a modernized, customized city chicken variant marinated in milk, coated in cracker crumbs, and cooked in an air fryer, Edible Cleveland's version is a more traditional way of cooking pork to resemble the fried chicken it was meant to imitate.

In order to make your own city chicken, you'll need boneless pork cut into 1.5-inch cubes. Thread four or five pieces on a wooden skewer (12 skewers should take care of 2 pounds of pork), then sprinkle them with salt and black pepper on all sides. Whisk two eggs with half a cup of water, and dip each skewer of pork cubes first into flour, then into the egg mixture, and finally into bread crumbs. 

Fry a few skewers at a time in hot oil until golden brown. Once all of the skewers are browned, place them on a rack in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, to which you've supplied with 2 cups of water. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, to one hour until the pork is fork-tender. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the foil so the crumb coating can dry out and become crispy. Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy.