March 05, 2021. Dear Daughters, If ever there was a Dad Joke of a recipe, it’s City Chicken- a dish that has no chicken in it at all! I had never even heard of City Chicken until we moved to what some not so affectionately refer to as the “Rust Belt”. Aside, from the name, what I love about this dish is how it came about from struggling immigrants taking what they could afford and making it better and more fun for their family tables. In the case of City Chicken, this meant taking cheap scraps of meat, which at that time were pork and veal, and dressing them up on skewers to bread and cook like fried chicken. Akin to what the good people of the South were doing with Chicken Fried Steak- a cheap cut of steak floured and fried like chicken- but at least there was actual steak in that dish, so it’s not as funny to me as City Chicken. Certainly, chicken is no longer the elusive meat it was long ago, but City Chicken remains in the hearts and on on the tables of many and City Chicken veal and pork Scrap Packs can still be found at select Rust Belt meat purveyors.
The food industry has employed a similar technique to get the masses excited about eating meatless “poultry”, marketing it with such names as “Tofurky”, “Incogmeato”, “Just Like Chicken”, “Chik’n” “Beyond Fried Chicken” and “Like Nuggets”. You kids were known to enjoy such types of meatless treats, that we called “Fuggets” (a derivative of “fake” and “nuggets”), while growing up, so now I give you this meat free “chicken” recipe- “Buffalo City Chicken and Salad”! As you’ll see, I use tofu as the “chicken” and pay homage to the Rust Belt City of Buffalo, NY by marinating, saucing an salading the tofu, Buffalo Chicken Style. I even make a beer batter for the breading with Labatt’s Blue- Buffalo’s #1 Dad beer, at least according to this article– but your choice of Daughter Beer, club soda or even water will do just fine. Enjoy!
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2-4- make big salads if serving 4
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- Buffalo City Chicken Kabobs
- 14 ounce package extra firm tofu, fresh or frozen and thawed (See “Why Would You Want to Freeze Your Tofu” in Lecture below)
- 2 or more tablespoons Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce
- 1/4 cup leftover pickle juice or cider vinegar salted to taste
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 8-12 ounces Labatt’s Blue, other beer or club soda
- 4 cups crushed cornflakes or panko bread crumbs- cornflakes are better for Oven Frying
- 2 teaspoons homemade or favorite Hot Spice Mix (3/4 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp. Nooch, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes and salt to taste)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, optional
- 6-8 skewers- I used wooden, takeout chopsticks, which is a great College Student Hack!
- Buffalo City Salad
- 4-8 cups of your favorite lettuce(s), torn into bite sized pieces
- 1-2 carrots, grated or julienned
- 1-2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- handful of celery leaves
- 1/4-1/2 cup blue cheese, ranch or similar vegan dressing
- 2-4 tablespoon Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce
COOK AND PLAY
This is a good Dad Joke music recommendation- play Great Five Lakes (Buffalo is on one of the Great Lakes- Erie- BTW) by the all female, electro-rock group from Japan, Buffalo Daughter, while you get your tofu fit to eat.
- Flavor That Tofu. Cut your tofu vertically into 3 slabs, about 3.5”x4.5”x1.25”, and press in a tofu press or between two baking trays with a kitchen towel under and over the tofu and weighted down with a heavy object to press out water. Cut into 1” cubes- 3 cuts lengthwise and four cuts widthwise. Mix hot sauce and pickle juice together in a bowl and add it, with cubed tofu, to a ziplock bag. Press out air, seal and let marinate to suit your schedule, but at least 10-20 minutes.
- Prep That Other Stuff. Set up a middle oven rack in an oven preheated to 425 degrees. While the tofu is marinating, mix flour, baking powder, beer and a bit of salt in a large bowl to a smooth batter, the consistency of heavy cream, and refrigerate until ready to use. Toss cornflakes with Hot Spice Mix and then oil in another large bowl and cut carrots and celery for salad.
- Bread That Tofu. In batches of 4-5 cubes and with one hand (wet hand) or a fork, coat tofu in batter to fully cover, letting excess batter drip back into bowl. Place battered cubes in cornflakes with other hand (dry hand) or a spoon and toss to completely coat, pressing on additional crumbs with dry hand if necessary. Place on baking sheet and repeat until all cubes are breaded. You can move on to the next step immediately, but letting the breading set up 30 minutes or so isn’t a bad idea.
- Oven Fry That Tofu. Skewer tofu cubes, return to baking sheet and “fry” in oven until crispy on all sides, 10-15 minutes- turning skewers every 3-4 minutes makes for more even crispiness, but this is optional for sure. If you like it really spice, dust with some cayenne pepper once they come out of the oven. You can also shallow or deep fry these like a Dad, but I understand if you think this is not for you.
- Make That Plate. While the tofu is baking, toss lettuce, carrots and sliced celery together and portion on plates. Once tofu is cooked, place 1-2 skewers on each plate, drizzle everything with dressing and hot sauce and scatter a few celery leaves about to make if fancy!
Why Would I Freeze My Tofu? You would want to freeze your tofu so it turns into a sponge. Why would you want your tofu to turn into a sponge, you now ask? Because a tofu sponge is easier to squeeze to remove the flavorless water in which it is packed, allows for more flavorful marinades to be soaked into it and offers more texture than fresh tofu. On the more than you want to know front- this occurs because ice crystals form in the tofu when it freezes and when the tofu thaws, air pockets replace the crystals, making for a firmer and spongier texture. When I pressed fresh and thawed tofu for this recipe test, more water came out of the thawed, all the marinade soaked into the thawed tofu and a few tablespoons remained in the fresh and there was clearly more, some say “meatier”, texture to the cooked, thawed tofu. Still, I was happy with both fresh and thawed tofu in this recipe, so try both and decide which is best for you.
Fun with Breading. When you kids were young, and still eating chicken, we would have fun making oven “fried” chicken fingers with as many breadings as we could imagine- potato chips, melba toast, Ritz crackers, Cheetos, Fritos, to name a few, so try whatever you like for a breading and see where that takes you on your own flavor journey.
The Buffalo City Drumstick and More Fun. If you want to take this to the ultimate Dad Joke Level, get some moldable plant based meat, like Impossible Burger or Beyond Beef, and form that into small drumstick to bread and oven fry. For better flavor, be sure to mix in a few tablespoons of Frank’s Original Hot Sauce, a few tablespoons of bread crumbs and a few teaspoons of Hot Spice Mix, and salt to your taste, to your plant based meat before forming into drumsticks. You could even cut a “bone” out of some daikon or a carrot to stick into the bottom of each drumstick if you’re feeling particularly Dad-like. Full Disclosure- my plant based meat was frozen when I tested these recipes, so I used ground turkey for my test, but the plant based meat will work just as well.
You can also make Buffalo Chicken Nuggets by just losing the skewers in the above recipe or try out Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches- just leave the tofu as 3 large slabs and prepare as the recipe directs to stick in between buns with lettuce, pickles and Frank’s Original Hot Sauce with Blue Cheese.
Better Than McDonalds? When I was writing about the resourcefulness of people trying to make ends meet (dad joke unintended), I started laughing to myself, recalling a routine by Eddie Murphy on how his mom used to try and talk him into thinking that her homemade burgers were better than McDonald’s.
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option, fun food, tofu, oven fried
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