Try this and you’ll be a spiedie fan forever. (It’s pronounced: “speedie”). The chunks of meat marinated for days and grilled for minutes are served on soft Italian bread or with rice.
Sam Sifton, the food guru at the New York Times, recently wrote about the upstate delicacy that’s become a regional institution. It began early in the last century with Italian immigrants in the area. Today the skewered meat remains popular enough to be celebrated by an annual Spiedie Fest and Balloon Race. The event draws 100,000 fans each August to Binghamton, NY, where the dish got its start. Two local restaurants, Lupos and Sharkey’s, are the go to places for spiedies in town. Each has its die-hard fans much like Gates’ and Bryant’s do in Kansas City.
The recipe is incredibly simple. You just marinade chicken, lamb, pork, beef, or venison in a mixture much like Italian dressing. Submerge the one-inch cubes in the liquid for a couple of days, covered, in the refrigerator. (Chicken only takes 10-12 hours, because it begins to break down after that.)
Thread the marinated meat onto skewers and grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Or pan fry till juicy and hot. Drizzle with fresh, reserved marinate. Sifton adds a squeeze of lemon juice and olive oil over top. But Spiedie connoisseurs say nay, nay to cheese, veggies or anything else that would mask the flavor of the marinade.
Tuck the cooked meat into Italian bread or submarine roll or serve alongside rice, in a salad or a stir fry. Below is Sifton’s recipe for the marinade. Preserve some to drizzle over the cooked meat later and use the rest for marinating the cubes.
Friends tell me that in a pinch, they’ve achieved good results using bottled Wishbone Italian dressing. But the fresh ingredients below are better.
Italian Spiedie Marinade
Ingredients: (Serves 4-6)
- 2 to 3 pounds beef, pork, venison, lamb or chicken, cut into cubes about 1-inch square
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¾ cup red wine vinegar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and roughly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon basil leaves, rolled and chopped into ribbons
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- Make the marinade by whisking together all the ingredients in a large bowl, except meat.
- Add the meat to the marinade and cover tightly, or place into large, re-sealable plastic bags and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours (or 10 to 12 hours for chicken).
- Build a fire in your grill, leaving about 1/3 of grill free of coals, or set a gas grill to high.
- Remove the meat from its marinade and thread onto metal skewers, or wooden ones that you have soaked in water for 30 minutes or so. The chunks can be placed quite close together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- When coals are covered with gray ash and fire is still quite high (you can hold your hand 5 inches above coals for only a couple of seconds), place the skewers of meat directly over the flames. Allow the meat to cook, undisturbed, for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, then use kitchen tongs to turn them over and repeat on the other side. Continue turning the skewers every couple of minutes until the meat is deeply crisp at its edges, and cooked entirely through, approximately another 5 to 7 minutes. (Remove them to the cool side of the grill if they begin to burn, and cover the grill to allow them to smoke-roast until finished; this is much less likely to happen on a gas grill.)
- Allow the spiedies to rest on a cutting board for a few minutes, then the meat from the skewers onto cut hero rolls or a plate. Serve with hot sauce on the side.