Food History: CHICKEN “SANS VOLAILLE” -- CHICKEN WITHOUT BIRDS aka CITY CHICKEN, MOCK CHICKEN
CHICKEN “SANS VOLAILLE” CHICKEN WITHOUT BIRDS aka CITY CHICKEN, MOCK CHICKEN
Mock chicken (noun)
Definition of mock chicken
Meat other than chicken (as veal) cooked or shaped to resemble chicken
First stated by Henry IV of France(1367-1413) as, "Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu'il n'y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n'ait les moyens d'avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot!” -- “If God keeps me, I will make sure that no peasant in my realm will lack the means to have a chicken in the pot on Sunday.”
During the presidential campaign of 1928, a circular published by the Republican Party claimed that if Herbert Hoover won there would be “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.“ Chicken was a popular item and a measure of wealth, but not widely available or affordable to city folks.
Born out of desperate times, mock chicken was a way of bringing the luxury of a chicken dinner to those who simply could not afford it. Popular during the Depression for the working class, it came to be known as City Chicken, served in cafes, boarding houses, and available in meat markets for you to take home and cook.
First mentioned in 1908, mock chicken is a mixture of coarsely chopped pork and veal shaped to resemble chicken legs or cubes of pork and veal arranged on skewers, seasoned and cooked like chicken. Sometimes battered, breaded, or dusted with seasoned flour, it could be pan fried, deep fried or browned and baked, served with pan gravy and a side of potatoes.
When shaped to resemble drumsticks it certainly fools the eye. Taste wise, as we all know, everything tastes like chicken.
Today, it is hard to imagine a time when chicken was a luxury item, more expensive than beef, pork or veal. Before commercial/industrial operations started to turn out inexpensive chicken in the 1950's, most city folks could not afford to eat a Sunday chicken dinner. Chickens were sold live, so the buyer had to slaughter and clean the bird before cooking.
Even on the farm, where chickens were more valuable for their eggs than their meat, chicken dinner usually amounted to chicken soup or stew as the retired old birds were tough.
City Chicken has remained popular in the urban areas where it originated, Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburg, Philadelphia and Scranton, PA; Detroit, MI; New York and as far south and west as Louisville, KY.
I do not know the time period when the aluminum molds were available, but they were sold by several different vendors.
Griffith Labs in Chicago has a long history of selling spices and flavorings, and they made a mold for mock chicken drumsticks, possibly in the 1950's. Marked PAT. APPLD. FOR. Griffith Labs also sold a special spice mix for City Chicken.
Another version manufactured by AMPCO/BKI was inscribed with the phrase: “CHICKEN SANS VOLAILLE”, translated as chicken without birds or chicken without poultry.
CITY CHICKEN circa 1930 (Maybe stash the meat for this in your freezer--L. Watts)
Original source unknown
2 lb. pork and/or veal - cubed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. seasoned salt
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup butter
2 cups milk
2 cups beef broth
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
Thread meat cubes onto 4" bamboo skewers.
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a plate; roll skewered meat in flour
mixture; reserve leftover flour mixture.
Brown all sides of meat in butter.
Combine remaining ingredients with the leftover flour mixture; add to meat.
Cover and simmer over low heat for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.