Showing posts with label Depression era food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Depression era food. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Why City Chicken has No Chicken: A New Look at a Century-Old Recipe by Cleo Coyle

Behold the "mock drumstick" of our (baked not fried)
City Chicken, smothered in a delicious pan gravy.
A century-old recipe bringing comfort food joy...


One hundred years ago, when you couldn't afford real chicken, "City Chicken" was a tasty alternative, a way to enjoy mock fried chicken drumsticks using meat scraps (pork, beef, veal) from the butcher. 

Different regions have their own take on this dish. Some deep fry the mock drumsticks, others have no breading. My 
husband's mother prepared it, "Pittsburgh style"breaded, sautéed, baked, and served with pan gravy, which is the very recipe I'm sharing with you today. 

Our longtime followers may recall my sharing this recipe a few years ago. I thought it would be fun to share again for our new followers and readers. AND since my husband (and partner in crime writing) has been craving it lately, I thought it was about time I aided and abetted his desire to...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo



Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime writing—her husband. 
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.
Cleo Coyle's
City Chicken


So why is it called City Chicken?

During the Depression, when this mock chicken dish really took off, fatty trimmings and meat scraps of pork, beef, and veal were less expensive than chicken, especially in urban areas that were far from poultry farms. In other words, city-dwellers were the ones making it because chicken was too expensive to eat.

And how does it taste?

Incredibly good. Marc and I grew up just outside of Pittsburgh, where the dish has been popular for years. Wednesdays were City Chicken night at my husband's house, where his mom served her hearty mock drumsticks with string beans and mashed potatoes—to soak up all that good pan gravy. 

For years, many of the grocery stores in the Pittsburgh area sold "City Chicken" packs of pork pieces with skewers included. Wikipedia's entry on City Chicken even features a picture of one of these Pittsburgh packs. (See Wiki photo at left.)

Here in New York, where we've lived for decades, we've never seen "City Chicken" packs—ironic since it's the biggest city in the country! But, hey, that's okay. Marc and I don’t need those packs. And neither do you. Just look for packages of boneless pork and/or veal pieces (usually marked for stew, see my pictures below), follow our recipe, and you’re all set to make your very own Pittsburgh-style comfort food.






To download a PDF copy 
of this retro recipe that
you can print, save, 
or share, click here.



Cleo Coyle's
City Chicken Recipe



Makes six servings
INGREDIENTS:

- 6 six-inch wooden skewers (in a pinch, simply cut down longer skewers)

- 3 pounds of meat cubes (we use):
    1-½ pounds boneless pork pieces (or "stew meat") +
    1-½ pounds veal pieces (or "stew meat")


- 1 cup all-purpose flour

- 1 cup seasoned bread 
crumbs (we use Italian seasoned)

- 2 large eggs (beaten with fork)

- 1 tablespoon milk (or water) to make the "egg wash" for breading

- 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped 

- 1/4 cup vegetable oil 

- 2 Tablespoons butter 

- 2/3 cup chicken or veg stock

- Salt and pepper to taste

- 1 tablespoon (or so) Wondra flour or cornstarch


DIRECTIONS:

Note: If you bought "stew meat" packages as shown above, you should be ready to go. If you can't find stew meat, purchase pork loin chops and/or veal steaks and cut them into small pieces ( about 1- to 1-1/2 inches in size). 

Step 1: Prepare the Meat - Arrange the meat pieces on each of the six skewers. If using more than one type, alternate them (pork, veal, pork, veal, etc...) Fit the pieces together tightly to create a mock chicken drumstick. Dredge each of the mock drumsticks in flour, then in the egg wash (2 eggs beaten with 1 T. milk or water), and finally coat generously with the seasoned bread crumbs.




Step 2: Brown the meat – Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is heating, place the vegetable oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. When this shallow oil is hot enough to ripple, add 1 tablespoon of butter and allow it to melt. Sauté the mock drumsticks about five minutes in the hot oil, turning often, until the outsides are golden brown. Remove the mock drumsticks from the pan and set them aside on a holding plate. Turn the heat to low.

Step 3: Sauté the onions – Add the chopped onion to the hot oil, along with about 1 tablespoon butter. Cook and stir over the low heat until the onions are brown, about five minutes. Now return the mock drumsticks to the pan (along with any drippings that may have accumulated on the holding plate). Cook them only for another minute or two.


Step 4: Bake in the oven – Add ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock to the skillet, cover with a lid, and bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes, or until the meat is tender. 




Step 5: Make the gravy - The onions and stock create a nice gravy as the meat cooks. While you can spoon this thin gravy over the mock drumsticks as is, we prefer to thicken it. To do this, you'll need to remove all of the mock drumsticks from the pan while leaving the liquid in there...



Over low heat, whisk the Wondra flour (or cornstarch) into the liquid. If you like, you can stir a bit of butter into the gravy for richness, as well, although it's not a necessity. Simmer for a minute or two, whisking in more flour or cornstarch until the gravy thickens to your liking. Then plate the mock drumsticks, spoon the gravy over them, as shown, and...





Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of  
The Coffeehouse Mysteries


Friend me on facebook here. * Follow me on twitter here
Learn about my books here


* * *


Our Newest Mystery is
a Bestselling Hardcover!



Coffee. It can get a girl killed.

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A "Most Wanted" Mystery Guild Selection
A Baker & Taylor Trends Pick
Three "Best of Year" Reviewer Lists


Dead to the Last Drop 
is a culinary mystery with 
more than 25 delicious recipes!

See the free illustrated 
Recipe Guide by clicking here.



*  *  *



The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
15 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


GET A FREE TITLE CHECKLIST
OF BOOKS IN ORDER

(with mini plot summaries)


* * * 


Marc and I also write
The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries

Get a free title checklist, 
with mini plot summaries, 



Or learn more about the 
books and meet Jack Shepard, 
our PI ghost by clicking here.



Sunday, April 17, 2016

Soup Lines from guest author Connie Archer aka Connie DiMarco + book #giveaway

Please welcome guest Connie Archer, author of the Soup Lover's Mysteries and Connie DiMarco, author of the Zodiac Mysteries (one and the same person!), who gives us a soup recipe that's still right for our rather late spring.


AND A BOOK GIVEAWAY BELOW!!

Thanks to everyone at Mystery Lover’s Kitchen for inviting me over today! I love to scroll through this website and check out the recipes – rich pastries, fudge, casseroles heavy with cheese . . . yummm. I usually never get to blog about fancy desserts because I’ve been writing the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, so all my foodie posts inevitably revolve around soup.

And Julia, my new protagonist in the Zodiac Mysteries, is a San Francisco astrologer who doesn’t really have time to eat, or if she does, she eats on the run. She’s too busy solving crimes. Her idea of a gourmet meal is some lettuce and a chopped tomato wrapped up in a tortilla with tons of mayo and salt. If she wants to get fancy, she might add a few croutons to that wrap.



So, as I was musing over what to write for this post, I started thinking about soup, the American story of soup that’s embedded in our national consciousness -- the soup kitchens and soup lines of the Great Depression. The seeds of that economic failure had been planted years before in an era of prosperity that was unevenly distributed. Hmmm, sound familiar? Banks failed, factories locked their gates, shops were shuttered forever, and people lost their homes. Local governments couldn’t collect taxes to keep basic services going. There were no social nets in place, no Social Security, no food stamps, no nothing. Americans literally starved in the streets. 



As tough as times have been for some in recent years, most of us still have the luxury of worrying about our weight, our cholesterol, even our body mass index. I seriously doubt that anyone in that earlier era gave a hoot about any of that. They needed soup, that elixir of life, to keep body and soul together. In fact, soup has kept more people on the planet alive than any other food. A person can fill their stomach and be nourished with a bowl of hot water, bits of meat and spices and vegetables or leaves and berries and stay alive.

One popular Depression Era recipe, named after our President at the time was Hoover Stew. It was made with a 16 ounce package of some kind of pasta or macaroni, 2 cans of stewed tomatoes, undrained, 1 package of hot dogs, chopped in small pieces, and 1 can of corn or beans, undrained. Okay, the hotdogs aren’t really that appealing, but don’t turn your nose up. It was desperation recipes like this that kept body and soul together. If you’ve had family members who saved bits of string and reminded you that if you had grown up in the Depression, you’d never waste anything, you’ll understand.

As I left the supermarket the other day, pushing my cart with a few bags of groceries, I passed a woman pushing another cart. A cart that contained all her worldly possessions. I was still reeling from the shock of a $73 grocery bill for just a few items. When I got home, I checked my receipt, certain the clerk had made a mistake. Okay, the asparagus was $3.47 and the half and half was $3.79. The kitty litter was $5.99 but surprise, surprise, the little head of cabbage was only 56 cents!

I have no idea why I picked up that head of cabbage. It’s not something I usually buy on a regular basis, but it called to me. The afternoon was cool and foggy and the idea of soup seemed very appealing, so I decided to invent my own Depression era soup recipe. 




Depression Era Cabbage Soup
A spritz of cooking spray
1/2 onion, chopped and sauteed
1 head of cabbage, sliced and added to the pot.
4 cups of water
3 tbls. of dry chicken bouillon
1 peeled potato, cubed
(Optional ½ cup grated Cheddar cheese and crusty bread)

(Serves 4)

Sauté the onion and cabbage for 5 to 10 minutes, just enough to soften it. Add the water, chicken bouillon and potato. Cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, let the pot cool, then purée with an immersion blender and top each bowl with cheese and serve with crusty bakery bread. Okay, the cheese and bread aren’t exactly starvation fare, but no matter what, it was really delicious. Whole foods from the earth, loaded with vitamins, very few calories and really good. Believe it or not, this was one of the best soups I’ve made in a long time.

I thought about that woman with the shopping cart and I hoped she’d be able to find a bowl of nourishing soup somewhere. Maybe it’s time to bring back the American soup kitchen. What do you think?


Connie Archer was born and grew up in New England, ice skating on neighborhood ponds, clamming on the beach at Cape Cod and skiing in Vermont. As a schoolgirl, she spent several years wading through Caesar’s Gallic War journals and the twelve books of the Aeneid. During her summers she performed in a children’s theater troupe that traveled the suburbs of Boston, mounting productions in parks and children’s hospitals. After majoring in biology in college, she did an about face and earned a degree in English literature. Since then she’s worked at many different jobs — laboratory technician, cocktail waitress, medical secretary, and dinner theatre actress, to name just a few. Connie lives in Los Angeles with her family and a constantly talking cat named Basil.

You can reach Connie at: 

www.conniearchermysteries.comFacebook.com/ConnieArcherMysteriesTwitter: @SnowflakeVT

TODAY'S GIVEAWAY.  


Connie has agreed to give away one of her books. Leave a comment with your email!  
She'll be picking a winner tomorrow.

A Clue in the Stew

The village of Snowflake, Vermont is buzzing with excitement. Hilary Stone, the famous author of Murder Comes Calling, is planning a visit. Even the discovery of the body of an unidentified woman strangled in the woods hasn’t dampened the spirits of Snowflake’s avid mystery fans -- that is, until the villagers learn the murder mimics the popular novel. Could the killer be a deranged fan hoping for attention? Or is a copycat killer on the loose?










The Madness of Mercury

Astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought her chosen profession would bring danger into her life, but her outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, makes her the target of San Francisco’s recently-arrived cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet’s Tabernacle. The followers of the power hungry preacher will stop at nothing to quell the voices of those who would stand in his way and Julia’s at the top of his list. She’s willing to bet the charismatic Reverend is a Mercury-ruled individual, and she knows all too well that Mercury wasn’t just the messenger of the gods, he was a trickster and a liar as well.



Saturday, January 31, 2015

Depression Cake

No, it's not a cake that's feeling blue!  It's a cake that was made during the Depression and during the war without eggs, milk or butter which were either rationed or too expensive.  It's also something of a science project as you will see.  It's also known as Crazy Cake or Wacky Cake.  No matter what you call it, we thought it was delicious!  I was going to make a cream cheese frosting for it but opted for a dusting of powdered sugar instead--fewer calories and fat!

There are variations on this theme including one that is chocolate and made with cocoa powder.  But according to my extensive research (a glance at Wikipedia), this raisin/spice version dates back to the Civil War.

On another positive note, I made the whole thing in one large saucepan!  Easy clean up.

Ingredients:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups dark raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons water (separate from the 1 1/2 cups above)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine sugar, water, vegetable oil, raisins and spices in a pan and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

Dissolve baking soda and salt in the 2 teaspoons of water and add to cooled raisin mixture.  It will foam.  If I'd paid more attention in science class I might be able to tell you why!  (I'll bet Sheila knows.)

Blend in flour and baking powder and mix well.

Grease your pan (the recipe calls for  a 9 inch square pan but it worked fine in my 8 inch square pan).  Pour in batter and bake for 30 minutes (recipe says 55 minutes but mine was done at around the 30 minute mark.  Better to check sooner than burn later...)  Cake is done when the proverbial toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Don't over-bake.

Cool slightly before serving.  Cover with your favorite frosting or dust with powdered sugar.



Boil raisins, spices, oil and water in a saucepan


Add salt and baking soda mixture and it foams!




Everything mixed in one pan!

Out of the oven!

Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

My new cover!! My Cranberry Cove series debuts in August.



Available for pre-order now!


Hit and Nun, the third book in my Lucille series is out now!


Only $.99


Only $.99

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why City Chicken has no chicken: A new look at a century-old recipe by Cleo Coyle





Like "Chicken Fried" Steak, "City Chicken" is a delicious comfort food that makes use of the word chicken in the title but not in the recipe. So exactly what is City Chicken?

Well, if you take a six-inch wooden skewer, load it up with scraps of pork and/or veal, and dip it in flour, egg, and breading, you're on the right track. A good pan gravy should be made during the process, and in the recipe below, I’ll show you how I and my husband (and partner in crime writing) do ours. 
There are many variations, based on region. We do ours Pittsburgh style.

But first a bit of fun...

Do you remember the scene below 
in the biopic JULIE AND JULIA?

Julia Child is excited to meet the famous cookbook author Irma Rombauer, who wrote Joy of Cooking, and Irma tells Julia about her horrific publishing experience...


Here's an even greater calamity (in my opinion): My 7th edition (1997) JOY OF COOKING did not include the recipe! As noted above, City Chicken was included in earlier versions, and I'm happy to prove it from a photo of the page in my own well-worn copy of the 5th edition (the comb-ring bound version, which is over 40 years old now). If any of you have the 8th edition, you can check for the recipe in your index of "Joy Classics," to see if it's made a reappearance there!



How do "mock drumsticks" taste?

Incredibly good. City Chicken is a delicious way to cook pork. It's a relatively healthy entree, too, because pork is a white meat, and (in our Pittsburgh-style version) it's baked and not deep fried. 

Growing up just outside of Pittsburgh, Marc and I ate City Chicken regularly. Marc's mother actually made Wednesdays City Chicken night and served her hearty mock drumsticks with string beans and mashed potatoes—to soak up all that good pan gravy. Now if that's not a down-home comfort-food dinner, I don't know what is.

City Chicken is such a popular dish in the Pittsburgh area that some groceries sell "City Chicken" packs of pork pieces with skewers included. Wikipedia has an entry on City Chicken that actually features a picture of one of these Pittsburgh packs. (See Wiki photo at right.)

Ironically, though I now live in New York, the biggest city in the country, I cannot find "City Chicken" packs. Hey, that's okay. Marc and I don’t need them. And neither do you. Just look for packages of boneless pork and/or veal pieces (usually marked for stew), follow our recipe, and you’re all set to…

Cook with joy! 

Cleo Coyle's
City Chicken Recipe

To download a PDF copy of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here. 





Cleo Coyle, maker of mock
drumsticks, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
So why do we call it "chicken," 
when no chicken is in it?

Short answer: When you couldn't afford real chicken, City Chicken was an alternative--a way to enjoy mock fried chicken drumsticks using scraps from the butcher. 

Where does the "city" part come in?

Although published recipes for "mock chicken," were found as far back as one hundred years ago, City Chicken really took off during the Depression, when fatty trimmings and meat scraps of pork, beef, and veal were less expensive than chicken, especially in urban areas that were far from poultry farms. 

And there you have it--the name explained.

As I noted above, there are many regional variations of the dish. Some are deep fried, others have no breading. The recipe we’re sharing today was how Marc's mother prepared it, and therefore made "Pittsburgh style," which means it will be breaded, sautéed, and baked. We just love it this way, and hope you will, too...




Makes six servings
 
INGREDIENTS:

- 6 six-inch wooden skewers (in a pinch, simply cut down longer skewers)

- 3 pounds of meat cubes (we use):
    1-½ pounds boneless pork pieces (or "stew meat") +
    1-½ pounds veal pieces (or "stew meat")

- 1 cup all-purpose flour


- 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs (we use Italian seasoned)

- 2 large eggs (beaten with fork)


- 1 tablespoon milk (or water) to thin the beaten eggs, making an "egg wash" for breading

- 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped 

- ¼ cup vegetable oil 

- 2 Tablespoons butter 

- 2/3 cup chicken or veg stock

- Salt and pepper to taste

- 1 tablespoon (or so) Wondra flour or cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

Note: If you bought "stew meat" packages as shown above, you should be ready to go. If you can't find stew meat, purchase pork loin chops and/or veal steaks and cut them into small pieces ( about 1- to 1-1/2 inches in size). 

Step 1: Prepare the Meat - Arrange the meat pieces on each of the six skewers. If using more than one type, alternate them (pork, veal, pork, veal, etc...) Fit the pieces together tightly to create a mock chicken drumstick. Dredge each of the mock drumsticks in flour, then in egg wash (2 eggs beaten with 1 T. milk or water), and finally coat generously with the seasoned bread crumbs.




Step 2: Brown the meat – Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is heating, place the vegetable oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. When this shallow oil is hot enough to ripple, add 1 tablespoon of butter and allow it to melt. Sauté the mock drumsticks about five minutes in the hot oil, turning often, until the outsides are golden brown. Remove the mock drumsticks from the pan and set them aside on a holding plate. Turn the heat to low.

Step 3: Sauté the onions – Add the chopped onion to the hot oil, along with about 1 tablespoon butter. Cook and stir over the low heat until the onions are brown, about five minutes. Now return the mock drumsticks to the pan (along with any drippings that may have accumulated on the holding plate). Cook them only for another minute or two.


Step 4: Bake in the oven – Add ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock to the skillet, cover with a lid, and bake in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes, or until the meat is tender. 




Step 5: Make the gravy - The onions and stock create a nice gravy as the meat cooks. While you can spoon this thin gravy over the mock drumsticks as is, we prefer to thicken it. To do this, you'll need to remove all of the mock drumsticks from the pan while leaving the liquid in there...



Over low heat, whisk the Wondra flour (or cornstarch) into the liquid. If you like, you can stir a bit of butter into the gravy for richness, as well, although it's not a necessity. Simmer for a minute or two, whisking in more flour or cornstarch until the gravy thickens to your liking. Then plate the mock drumsticks, spoon the gravy over them, as shown, and...



Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries


Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.




The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 
To learn more, click here. 
 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure


Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
Mysteries
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here