Mock turtle dates back to the days before "London broil" when the thing to do with a flank steak was stuff it. Most of the old recipes for stuffed flank steak called for simply putting the stuffing in the center of a flank
steak, then folding it or skewering it closed. The steak was baked long and slow in a Dutch oven with just enough broth or water in the bottom of the pot to tenderize the meat and make a good gravy.
At some point, we know not when, some butcher somewhere, probably because a customer needed a larger than usual stuffed flank, put twice the normal amount of stuffing on the center of one steak, covered it with a second and sewed up the edges. So prepared, the stuffed flank had a shape not unlike a tortoise shell. With hot dogs sewn into the thing for legs and a couple of steak trimmings sewn in for head and tail - voila! The mock turtle was born. All the beef charts that hung on the walls of the markets I worked in during my youth showed how to make "mock turtle."
The lamb charts in those days showed another mock meat, "mock duck," made
from a shoulder of lamb. The shoulder of lamb has always been a cut that calls for creative merchandising. It contains the shoulder blade bone which gets in the way when it comes to carving, making the shoulder less than desirable as a roast. Chops from the shoulder are not as tender as those from the rib or loin for frying or broiling. In short, the shoulder of lamb is just not the best
cut of the carcass. Even though it is one of the cheaper cuts, it's not the one most folks would choose for festive fare like Sunday supper when company's coming. To make the cut more appealing, creative butchers of yesteryear made mock duck.
By leaving the shank and foreshank attached to the shoulder when the shoulder was removed from the carcass, and then by boning out the shoulder except for the shank, a roast could be formed that looked very like a duck. The shoulder meat was stuffed with a dressing and tied into shape to form the body of the bird.
The shank, still attached to the shoulder meat, and with the bone still intact, was positioned to form the duck's neck. The joint where the shank is attached to the foreshank became the bird's head. The foreshank, carefully trimmed to the appropriate size and split with a meat saw, became the duck's bill. Pieces of the lamb's breast (ribs) were sometimes fashioned into wings. Fixed so, the shoulder of lamb, mock duck, could hold its head high on any table anytime. The leg of lamb, in those days, was also on occasion fashioned in a similar way to form "mock goose."
Mock chicken, also known in some markets as "city chicken," was probably the most popular of the mock meats.
Chicken, you see, was not as readily available or as inexpensive in those days as it is today, comparatively speaking. Oh, most folks in the country, or even at the edge of town, had a yard full of chickens. But, except for the spring and summer months when there were usually enough young roosters in the yard for fried chicken on Sunday, most chickens were kept for the eggs they provided. You didn't eat a hen until she stopped laying eggs and by then she was too old and tough to fry.
By along about mid-winter, when folks got to hankering for fried chicken and all there were in the yard were stewing hens, they would go to the butcher for "mock chicken legs." These were usually made from a mixture of ground veal and ground pork fashioned around a wooden skewer into the shape of a chicken leg, which was breaded with crumbs - my dad used crushed corn flakes - and then fried like chicken. Served up with mashed potatoes and gravy and some home-canned green beans from the cellar, it could almost make you believe it was summer again.