Although it fits, city chicken isn't another name for pigeon. City chicken, also referred to as mock chicken legs, consist of ground or cubed veal or pork breaded and molded into the shape of a chicken leg. The crispy, golden-brown crust mimics the texture of its fried archetype, and a skewer through the center completes the disguise. Some sources say city chicken got its name from the time, probably during the Great Depression when veal cost less than chicken, and resourceful cooks used a little ingenuity to crafta reasonable mock-up. Although it's a special food, its cooking technique isn't anything special.
Wrap each piece of freshly made city chicken in plastic food wrap tightly and place them in the freezer. Chilling the chicken molds for a few minutes in the freezer helps them hold together when you sear them on the stove.
Melt a few tablespoons of butter on the stove in a saucepan over low heat. Set the stove to warm and hold the liquified butter until needed.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Heat about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of oil on the stove in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat for about five minutes.
Remove the city chicken skewers from the freezer and unwrap them.
Place the city chicken skewers in the pan side by side spaced about 1 inch apart. Work in batches if you have too many pieces to fit in the pan at once.
Fry the chicken until golden brown on all sides, using tongs to turn them over in the oil. It takes about two or three minutes to brown the city chicken over medium-high heat.
Remove the city chicken with tongs and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. If you have more pieces to brown, wait about one minute for the oil to heat.
Place a wire baking rack in a shallow backing dish. If you don't have a wire rack, cut one or two onions into 1/2-inch slices and place them in the shallow baking dish in an even layer. This keeps the mock chicken above the stock or water and prevents the crust from getting soggy.
Pour stock or water in the dish. Use enough stock or water to reach just below the rack or the top of the onions so it won't come in contact with the chicken.
Place the city chicken on the rack or the onions. Space each piece about 1 inch from the next. Pour the melted butter over the top of the mock chicken and place it in the oven.
Bake city chicken made with cubes of veal or pork for about 45 minutes to one hours, or until the have a minimum internal temperature of 145 F. If you have mock chicken legs made with ground meat, cook them until they have a minimum internal temperature of 165 F.
Check the temperature of the mock chicken by removing one or two pieces from the oven and inserting a meat thermometer into the center. Remove the mock chicken when fully cooked and place them on a cooling rack. Let the mock chicken sit for about five minutes before serving.
Never thaw frozen mock chicken legs before cooking them. They get soggy.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.