Spiedies, the Binghamton tradition
Our friend Art is a fabulous cook. He and my husband and a bunch of his buddies go camping and fishing together a couple times a year. Art does a lot of the cooking when they take these man-cations. After one of their camping trips I came home starving and found a bag of cooked meat chunks in the fridge. Not knowing what they were, I popped one in my mouth and was dazzled. It was tender, flavorful and succulent. This was my introduction to Art's famous Spiedies, a storied Binghamton tradition.
The rich history of Spiedies
Spiedies comes from the Italian word spiede, which means "skewer." The exact origin of Spiedies is controversial, but three people seemed to have had a hand in inventing and popularizing Spiedies: 1) Camillo Iacovelli, an Italian immigrant may have come up with the original Spiedie, 2) His brother, Agostino Iacovelli served them at his restaurant, Augies, beginning in 1939 in Endicott, NY, and 3) Peter Sharak began offering Spiedies in 1947 at his Sharky's Bar & Grill, in Binghamton, NY, where he served marinated skewered lamb on Italian bread. Like other genius ideas, there are a lot of people willing to take credit for these culinary delights.
However disputed the origin of Spiedies, Binghamton has grown to become the Spiedie capital of the world as evidenced by their annual Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally that attracts over 100,000 attendees. This year will be the 30th anniversary of the Spiedie Festival so mark your calendars for August 1-3, 2014.
This Spiedie recipe is Art's, but there are many variations. All include olive oil, red or white vinegar, possibly some lemon juice and an assortment of Italian seasonings. Chicken, pork, lamb or venison can be used. The meat is marinated for at least 24 hours and up to 5 days before they are threaded on metal skewers, called Spiedie rods. The rods are grilled on a barbecue and an Italian roll is used to pull the meat from the skewer, creating a sandwich. Additional fresh marinade can be spooned over the sandwich. Spiedies are always eaten with a beer or two, or maybe three. Rolling Rock or Pabst Blue Ribbon are favorite Binghamton Spiede brews.
Chicken or pork?
I did a comparison test of chicken and pork. My personal favorite? I can't say. I think you will have to decide for yourself.
I used pork tenderloin, which means you are looking at some very high quality pork. You could also use a pork loin, which is less lean, but also delicious and a little less expensive. I used boneless chicken breasts, and this is one of the few times I prefer using chicken breasts over chicken thighs.
I use Steven Raichlen's stainless steel flat skewers. These flat skewers are awesome because they don't burn like wooden skewers and the meat sits securely on the skewer. No more spinning meat when you try and flip the skewer.
You can eat your Spiedie with nothing but meat and bread, as is traditionally done. Or you can make up a little more marinade and use it as a dressing. Or you can grill up some onions and peppers to top off the sandwiches. Grilled lemons are nice way to finish a Spiede. I like to top my Spiedie sandwich off with slow-roasted tomatoes. This may be Spiedie blasphemy, but I like slow-roasted tomatoes on just about everything.
Make a little extra
I encourage you to make a few extra Spiedies. You can use them the next day for sandwiches or a salad. They will not go to waste!
How do you like your Spiedies?
Thank you to Rob Kent who photographed the grilling.
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemons
- 1 t dried basil
- 1 t dried oregano
- 1 t dried parsley
- 2 t garlic powder
- 1 t celery salt
- 1 t garlic salt
- 1 t red chili flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 t salt
- 1 t fresh ground pepper
- 4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, lamb or pork, cut into 1½" cubes
- 1 dozen Italian Hoagie rolls, split
- Olive oil
- Combine the first 13 ingredients together in a bowl. Put the meat in a non-reactive bowl or a plastic bag and pour the marinade over the meat. Combine with your hands so the meat is thoroughly coated in marinade. Put in the fridge and marinate for 24 hours to 5 days.
- Heat the barbecue to medium hot and lightly oil the grate. Remove the meat from the marinade and thread onto metal skewers. For chicken, grill 3-4 minutes on each side. Pork takes a couple minutes longer.
- Brush the rolls with olive oil and grill lightly. Serve a skewer of meat with a grilled roll and accompaniments of your choice.