Monday, July 2, 2012

Tribute to the 13 Colonies Part II - BBQ'd City Chicken

My super smart nephew, John, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh last year.
Photo taken by my big brother; Dan Shalenko (used with permission).
Today we are traveling to Pennsylvania, the state where I was born and raised, for more summer fun, flavorful warm-weather recipes, and a little history in honor of the upcoming 4th of July.

Named after William Penn's father as a repayment of a debt (and Sylvania means forest), this state is rich in history and culture. The east side of the state is remarkably different than the west. On the east, you will find Pennsylvania Dutch country and the marvelous jams, relishes, and German/Dutch influenced dishes. And, of course, we can't forget about the famous Philly Cheesesteak!

On the western side of the state where I grew up, a variety of ethnic influences including Polish, Italian, Irish and Slovak make for very interesting cuisine. Back in my grandparents' time, immigrants came to the area for work in the coal mines and the legendary Pittsburgh steel mills. Pittsburgh is a very different, high-tech city today.

I grew up in a Slovak/Ukrainian/Polish family where food was always plentiful. My Aunt Katherine used to make enough for an army when we came to visit on a typical Sunday afternoon.

My grandfather on my mom's side - Matt  - a self-made man - became district manager for a well-known meat company. He was best known around town for bringing quality hot dogs to Three Rivers Stadium in the 70's.  

Kielbasa, grandma's stuffed cabbage, or chipped ham aside, one of my favorite regional dishes while growing up in Pittsburgh was city chicken. My mom made it on occasion, although I would be hard-pressed to remember her recipe. It's really not chicken at all. This dish is prepared with cubed pork and sometimes veal.  I was told by my mom that the name, "City Chicken," comes from the 1700's.  Keeping chickens within the city limits  in those days was illegal. Cooks substituted other meats on sticks to make it look like chicken legs. 

I think mom used veal in her recipe.   I used pork.

Normally this dish is lightly floured and braised in the oven.  I 86'd the flour and I added a marinade and a BBQ seasoning (both store-bought). I braised the city chicken in a tasty blend of chicken stock, ketchup, mustard and soy.  Think of this as your quick BBQ sauce.

Important:  If you are using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for a couple of hours so that dinner doesn't go up in flames.

Serves 2 (2 skewers each):

1/2 pound pork shoulder, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/8 cup light Italian dressing (your favorite brand)
1/2 tablespoon BBQ Seasoning (your favorite brand)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon slivered elephant garlic
1 cup good quality chicken stock
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce

Other:  4 Small BBQ skewers


After cutting the pork into cubes, marinate in the Italian dressing for at least on hour. Refrigerate during this process.

Drain dressing from meat and pat off extra moisture. Let stand at room temperature for about fifteen minutes, covered.  Toss with BBQ Seasoning.  

Thread pork onto small wooden skewers. You can fit about four or five pieces of meat onto each, depending on how large or small you cut your chunks.  Repeat until you have four skewers total.

You can double or triple this recipe accordingly.

Add oil to a heavy skillet. Sauté garlic for one minute, making sure that it does not burn.

Remove garlic to bowl and reserve.

Add pork skewers and brown on all sides, about three minutes total.

Add the garlic back to the pan along with the chicken stock.  Whisk the ketchup, mustard and soy sauce together and pour over the chicken while it is braising in the stock. 

Bring to a low simmer.  Cover and cook for about  five (5) minutes.  Uncover and cook for 10-15 minutes longer until the stock thickens slightly with the sauce

I served my city chicken with fresh summer veggies with dill and my famous boiled and broiled potatoes.  I'll be sharing that potato recipe with you another time.   

Enjoy.  Up next, my husband's home state of  Connecticut.

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