Family Recipe Friday – City Chicken

The women in our families have likely done the majority of the cooking, and many of us have fond memories of a mother, grandmother, or auntie in the kitchen making a favorite recipe. My father remembers his grandmother Mem (Elizabeth Linneman Speck Merz) making City Chicken as a child when they lived in Pittsburgh.

City Chicken actually isn’t chicken, but cubed beef, pork and/or veal on wooden skewers to resemble drumsticks. This recipe may have originated in Western Pennsylvania, and was popular in other areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Western New York. Early recipes for City Chicken show up in the 1930’s post-Depression Era. Chicken was costly or hard to find, while the other meats (especially pork) were generally cheaper.

Here is an ad from 1932 for City Chicken from McCanns in Pittsburgh: [1]

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My father remembers that Mem made it with pork, veal and beef. My parents have continued to cook this meal today, although they usually only use pork. Here is the Cubbage version (there was no written recipe):

City Chicken
1″ to 1 1/4″ cubes of pork loin (and veal or beef) – put 4 on a skewer
dredge in flour
dip in beaten egg
roll in flavored bread crumbs
brown on all sides
put a grate in bottom of a pot and add tiny bit of water
bake at 400F until the meat is done (not sure how long)- just test it with a fork.

I don’t have a picture of our City Chicken (I will be sure to take one next time we have it!). Instead, here is a picture of Mem in her kitchen – probably when she lived on Thelma Street in Pittsburgh.


SOURCES:

[1] “City Chicken” in McCanns advertisement, The Pittsburgh Press, 1 November 1932, p. 6, col. 2; digital image, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com : 26 March 2019).

© 2019 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Family Recipe Friday – Pierogi!

Family recipe Friday is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggersTRIBE which encourages the family historian to share a family recipe, as suggested by Lynn Palermo of The Armchair Genealogist.

Food can be such a big part of our family history, culture and memories. Family recipes are often passed down to children and grandchildren, sometimes after been kept a secret. There may be family stories and traditions attached to these recipes, adding richness to our family narrative.

I come from a pretty German-inspired food tradition in my family. My husband’s traditions are much more Slovakian-influenced. Three of his four grandparents were born in Slovakia! At Christmastime, they always had pierogis on Christmas Eve – those yummy filled dumplings associated with Central and Eastern Europe.

The pierogi filling varies by region and country. My husband’s maternal grandmother filled her pierogis with farmer’s cheese. In the 1980s, my father-in-law took over making them, but he made them with potatoes and cheddar – my husband’s favorite!

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About 12 or 13 years ago (we can’t seem to remember which year), my husband took over the tradition of making pierogi for the family after both his father and grandmother had passed away. He makes his father’s recipe, with a cream cheese dough and a potato and cheddar filling. Every December, Hubby spends a day making around 8 dozen pierogi, and then freezes them until we are ready to cook them on Christmas Day.

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The first years were tough … the dough was too thin and broke easily, or was too thick to stay closed.  Sometimes the pierogis broke open when they were boiled. On Pierogi Making Day in those yearly years, I would take our young boys out for some Christmas shopping, as Hubby’s language got a little salty 😊.

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But practice makes perfect, and they are delicious! He’s figured out the mechanics of making the dough, found the perfect sized cup to cut out the circles (we can never get rid of that NY Giants cup!), and the filling is just the right mixture of potato and cheesiness.

Whatever we make on Christmas Day (usually a pork roast) feels like the side to the main dish – pierogis! Hubby boils them, and we have melted butter with onions on the table to put over them (except for my German family who puts gravy on them, and everything else!). If it’s possible, I think the leftovers are even better – we fry them up with the butter and onions, and add a little garlic salt. Yum!

This recipe, and its connection to past generations, is such an important part of our Christmas traditions. The next time you make a family recipe, jot down some memories of the meal, the holiday or the traditions. Or call you mom or grandma and ask about the recipe, then add this to your family history.

What is your favorite traditional holiday recipe?

© 2018 LAURA CUBBAGE-DRAPER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.