Funny how this Summer has worked out. At its start, I’d planned to continue making cheese with you, sharing some seasonal recipes, posting more ice cream flavors, and sharing photos of “my girls” and their companions in the garden. Suddenly, Labor Day is here and I’ve run out of time. We’ve still not made Italian mozzarella, I’ve a couple of tomato recipes to share, and there’s still a custard-based peach ice cream to make. Oh! Mustn’t forget the cobbler. Fall will just start late this year. To further complicate my schedule, today’s post was reserved for a special pasta celebrating the US Open Tennis Championship. That was before I saw a package of veal at the market. That changed everything.
Last year, Linda posted a recipe for City Chicken on her wonderful blog, Savoring Every Bite. At the time, I commented that I’d not thought about City Chicken in years. Mom prepared a version but it’s been some 35 years since I last tasted her City Chicken. Had Linda not shared her recipe, who knows when I would have remembered Mom’s? Anyway, after Linda’s reminder, I decided to put City Chicken on the schedule — last Summer! Well, as you know, it never made it but I had every intention of sharing Mom’s recipe this Summer — and then it again got lost. Last week, however, I saw veal cubes at the market and immediately thought of City Chicken. Since it would make a great dish for the coming holiday weekend, Mom’s City Chicken was suddenly on the schedule. Its addition pushed my special tennis pasta back a week and, well, Fall’s arrival, at least on this blog, has been delayed yet another week. By the way, don’t be surprised if Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated in one post this year. Hopefully, I’ll then be able to start the New Year sometime in January.
((cue the harp))
Throughout my childhood, Mom served us City Chicken almost exclusively on Wednesday or Sunday, when Dad was home to work the grill. Although I’ve already mentioned The Barbecue, I’ve not talked much of the rest of our yard. You see, the two-flat was built on a vast expanse of land, in the very center of which was the beautiful, privately owned, Lake Bartolini (pictured below, click to enlarge). While we kids frolicked, Dad was likely at The Barbecue, grilling that night’s meal, City Chicken being a family favorite. In the years following the barbecue’s construction in 1959, Grandpa would build a garage with an enclosed patio, attach a grape arbor, and plant his tomatoes on the lawn just beyond The Lake, after the first of what would become yearly land-grabs. (His tomatoes needed more land, always more land.) When The Lake was lost, the much larger and deeper Bartolini Sea, was erected and filled. As we would all come to learn, ripening beefsteak tomatoes can somehow attract errant pool toys, especially whenever Grandpa strolled through the yard. When the Sea gave way to what must have been near tectonic forces, it was replaced by the even larger and more formidable Bartolini Ocean, the last of the series.
OK, that is the official account of the Crystal Blue Waters of the Bartolini, the version you’ll see on the historical markers that dot the area. Here, for the first time anywhere, is the real story.
Grandpa wanted a garden, desperately, and even though Lake Bartolini stood in his way, he would never do anything to disappoint his adoring Grandchildren. No, not Grandpa. His was a problem that would have befuddled Solomon. You can well imagine, therefore, Grandpa’s relief the morning we kids awoke to find Lake Bartolini had been completely drained. Upon close examination, we saw that one side of The Lake was inexplicably peppered with holes, while the most attentive among us claimed to have overheard our Parents whispering something about buckshot. Grandpa’s subsequent claim that one of us kids was to blame fell on deaf ears. Our Parents, calmly and coolly, bought and built the Bartolini Sea. With walls made of corrugated steel, the Sea glistened just to the West of the where the original Lake once stood. Grandpa got his garden and we kids had a new, buckshot-proof, Sea in which to swim. All went well until that thing about tomatoes attracting pool toys was discovered, much to Grandpa’s great displeasure.
Not but a couple of years after it’s installation, again we awoke to find that our gorgeous swimming hole, the Bartolini Sea, was but a mere puddle. On one side of the Sea, in the corrugated steel, was a gash of not quite a foot long. Bent inward, the steel pierced the Sea’s lining and flooded the yard. Depending upon which Parent asked, Grandpa said that my Youngest Cousin or I did it with the lawn mower. In our defense, I will merely point out that an old push mower was used to maintain the lawns. Even if we teamed up, together pushing that relic and with a 100 foot running start, never could we two young boys get up enough steam to create so much as a dent, let alone pierce, that steel siding. Our wise Parents, though they never determined “the how”, quickly surmised “the who” and soon thereafter we were erecting the bigger, better, and even sturdier Bartolini Ocean. It remained in our yard until it died of natural causes, some years later. Grandpa, too, remained in his garden, ensuring both he and his tomatoes never went thirsty, for years to come. Though this marks the end of Grandpa’s Water Works, this is hardly the end of his story. Frankly, I’m just getting started.
Now, back to the Present. Mom’s City Chicken couldn’t be any simpler to prepare. Equally sized cubes of veal, beef, and pork are marinated, skewered, wrapped with a rasher of bacon, and grilled. It really is that easy. I don’t give any amounts in the recipe to follow because so much will depend upon how many skewers are to be prepared. You can add, or subtract, spices to the marinade. Just be sure to make enough so that some can be reserved and later brushed on the skewers as they come off the grill. (Something I forgot to do for the photos.) Although the FDA no longer requires pork to be cooked well-done, many still prefer it cooked more than beef or veal. To accomplish this, I always place 3 pieces of meat on each skewer, pork always being the last/top one. As you’ll see in the recipe to follow, this will allow you to keep the pork closest to the fire, assuring it is cooked more than the other meats.
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Mom’s City Chicken Recipe
- Beef, cut into approx. 1½ inch cubes
- Veal, cut into approx. 1½ inch cubes
- Pork, cut into approx. 1½ inch cubes
- Bacon, 1 rasher for every skewer
- juice and zest of one lemon
- rosemary, chopped
- garlic, minced or grated
- Italian seasoning
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- Add all the marinade ingredients to a bowl, whisk to combine, and set aside, reserving a ¼ cup for later use. Place the meats into the bowl, mix until coated, and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight
- Soak wooden skewers overnight. (This will prevent their burning during grilling.)
- When ready, light the grill.
- Using one thick skewer or 2 thin for each city chicken, pierce one end of a bacon rasher, followed by one piece of each type of meat. Be sure that the top piece of meat for each skewer is pork. After the pork is in place, wrap the meats with the bacon and secure its remaining end by piercing it with the skewer(s) tip(s).
- Once finished and the grill is hot, shut down part of the grill to facilitate indirect grilling. Use a rag dipped in oil to grease the grill plate.
- Place the skewered meat on the grill with the pork closest to the fire/heat.
- Turn the meat after a few minutes, more or less depending upon the grill’s heat. The object is to cook the skewered meat without torching the bacon. The pork, being closest to the fire, will cook faster.
- With the meat still very rare, move the skewers directly over the fire/heat. Now the object is to crisp the bacon and to finish cooking the skewered meats. Turn the skewers occasionally to ensure even cooking.
- When grilled to your satisfaction, remove to a platter, brush with reserved marinade, and serve.
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Although Mom used all 3 meats, you needn’t if you prefer otherwise. Use whatever meat(s) you like. The same is true for the bacon. I’m sure turkey bacon could be easily substituted.
Mom used 1 short, thick skewer for each of her City Chickens, skewers she got from her butcher. Try as I might, I’ve been unable to find them. Instead, I use 2 of the more readily available long, thin bamboo skewers. Before soaking, I trim off about 4 inches from each, making it much easier to grill them, especially if you’ve a small grill surface.
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It’s déjà vu all over again …
Although some have already reached the end of tomato season, many of us are still harvesting the red beauties. One of my first posts featured Mom’s Tomato Antipasti that she made with Grandpa’s tomatoes. This time of year, his vines produced enough fruit to keep both families well-supplied and rarely was an evening meal prepared without tomatoes playing a role. Those who missed it the first time around can find my post for Mom’s Tomato Antipasti by clicking HERE.
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By any other name …
This tour of roses began on one side of my yard with “Opening Night”, a red hybrid tea rose, and ends on the opposite side of my yard with “Don Juan”, a red hybrid tea rose. (Who better to indulge my girls?)
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