City Chicken is a dish that fascinated me growing up, mostly because I didn’t understand why it wasn’t actually chicken. According to Wikipedia, it hails as far back as the early 1900’s, but was most popular during the depression era of the 1930’s. This is because it was usually made from pork and/or veal which was skewered on a short stick and made to resemble a chicken leg. Back in the day, chicken was a lot more expensive than pork, so in order to capture a “fried chicken” taste, this is what the working class did when they couldn’t afford real chicken.
City Chicken is also a regional dish, known primarily to the larger cities of the Great Lakes and Appalachian Regions, such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Cincinnati. I can’t speak to whether those other cities held onto the tradition of City Chicken, but today, skewers of pork tenderloin are still sold here in Cincinnati and labeled as City Chicken and I grew up with many a City Chicken Sunday dinner in my mother’s home. I loved the tender, juicy breaded meat kabobs and I remember asking my mother why it was so much juicier than chicken breasts. She laughed and told me that was because it was actually pork, but she had no explanation why it was called City Chicken.
I’d come to miss this dish quite a lot during the years I lived in other cities and had I realized it was simply pork tenderloin on a skewer, I probably would have made my own. I introduced my husband to it and he loves it so much, it’s become a twice monthly meal for us. It’s simple to make (even if your butcher doesn’t keep already prepared skewers) and tastes like little else. If you don’t want to cut your own tenderloin, just talk to the butcher at your local grocery, more than likely, they won’t have any problem doing it for you and may even skewer it for you. Kroger certainly will and has for me anytime their out. In fact, I found a 3 lb tenderloin discounted to $3.79 and one of their butchers cut and skewered the entire thing for me at no extra charge.
After referring to several recipes online, I also realized that my family recipe is a bit different than most. A lot of recipes call for browning it and then cooking it in the oven, but we’ve always cooked ours through in the skillet, which gives it an extra crispiness outside while still remaining tender and juicy inside.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb Pork Tenderloin cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
- 6 4-5” wooden skewers
- ¼ cup all purpose or gluten-free flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
Skewer pork tenderloin cubes through the center with skewers. Pack skewers tightly, leaving no space in between, from end to end. Preheat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Place flour, salt and pepper in a zip lock bag and place skewers inside. Shake to coat well with flour. Remove with tongs and place in skillet. Cook 5 minutes a side, rotating with tongs. Serve hot.
Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins