Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend, so I thought I'd share one of my family traditions with you. I'm not Ukrainian by birth, but my eldest aunt has been married to a Polish/Ukrainian man for over 45 years, and my uncle's culinary traditions made their way to our Canadian table.
Every year for Thanksgiving we have the usual turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie, but we also have pierogies, cabbage rolls and meatsticks.
My family has always called these fried, breaded pork skewers "meatsticks", but in many parts of North America where Eastern Europeans have settled, they're called City Chicken. Believe it or not, chicken was once such a luxury item that this imitation drumstick was created from cheap cuts of pork.
And they are SO delicious. If you're keeping track, we serve three kinds of meat at our Thanksgiving: turkey, pork and beef in the cabbage rolls. But the meatsticks have long been my favourite and they're great any time of year (we have them at Christmas too).
So here's my family recipe for meatsticks, courtesy of my wonderful aunt.
2 pounds pork (you can use shoulder, loin, or a combination but it should have some fat to keep it moist)
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 dozen short, thick wooden skewers, soaked in water
Cut the pork into cubes of about 1 1/4 inches. Season the meat with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Thread the cubes of pork onto the wooden skewers.
Make a breading station by beating the eggs in a dish large enough to dip the skewers, and mixing the breadcrumbs and remaining salt, pepper and garlic powder in a separate dish.
Dip each skewer first into the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumbs.
Press the crumbs into the meat so it is totally covered. Repeat with the remaining skewers.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large pan. If you have a griddle pan, that will work very well. Otherwise you'll need to work in batches.
Brown the meatsticks on all sides until golden brown.
Place the browned meatsticks in a large roasting pan. I'm doing a double batch here, because you always want leftovers!
Mix 1/2 a cup melted butter with 1/2 a cup hot water and pour over the meatsticks. Cover pan with foil and roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Rotate the meatsticks in the pan so the top ones are on the bottom and add more water if the pan is dry. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes until pork is tender inside and crisp on the outside.
Serve the meatsticks alongside your Thanksgiving turkey, or as a main course any time. I love to serve them with pierogies and sour cream.
The crispy bottoms are absolutely my favourite part.
Whatever your traditions and whenever you celebrate, have a very happy Thanksgiving!