Friday, February 8, 2008

February 8: Spiedies

My cousin Don used to work for IBM in Endicott, New York, on the Western side of the state. (He still works for IBM, but he lives in North Carolina now. This is in no way germaine to this story, but just for the sake of know.) One summer, when I was maybe 8 or 9 -- Don is maybe 15 or so years older than I -- he came home for a visit and announced that we were all having Spiedies.

Spiedies (pronounced spee-dees) are chunks of skewered chicken, although I guess a variety of meats are commonly used. They're marinated, grilled over charcoal, drizzled with fresh marinade, and served on a slice of Italian bread--the grocery store kind, with sesame seeds on top.

I can't explain to you how glorious this was. They were amazing, crusty, with a deep complexity, beautifully textured, served with a big bowl of my grandmother's cabbage salad--a recipe I'd love to give you, except that nobody in family seems to be able to reproduce it and she died four years ago--and my mother's exceptionally boring potato salad. I call it exceptionally boring because it is, and she even says so.

I forgot all about spiedies until ten years later, when I went away to college and my friend Ryan turned out to be from Westfield, NY, not terribly far from Endicott. Not only was Ryan familiar with this regional delicacy, he is almost as big a food nerd as I am. I don't know many 18-year-olds that served Sunday brunch to their friends in their college dorm rooms, but he did. And when I say brunch, I mean brunch: quiche lorraine, broiled grapefruit with brown sugar, vanilla french toast, country ham. That kid could throw down in the kitchen.

I seem to have forgotten about spiedies again until I heard some mention of them on NPR recently. Spiedies! Of course! Mmmmm, spiedies.

The recipe that I found for them uses beef, although you could really probably use chicken, or pork, or whatever else floats your boat. Not having tried this recipe, I have to say that I have serious reservations about the length of time that is called for in marinating, and the amount of acid in the marinade. At the risk of sounding like Alton Brown, acid turns meat fibers into mush. A mushy surface on your meat tastes...mushy. Consider reducing the marinating time, or not, as you see fit. I am not sure how many this would serve, the recipes that I found were all frustratingly non-specific. This seemed to be the simplest, most pure incarnation of a spiedie.


3 pounds boneless beef; cubed
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup fresh sweet basil; chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic; chopped
3/4 cup italian parsley; chopped
3 tablespoons fresh mint; chopped
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Sliced loaf of Italian bread

Combine marinade ingredients. Reserve 1/2 cup of marinade.

Let meat marinate in refrigerator for three days in a non-reactive plastic, ceramic, or non-aluminum metal bowl.

Skewer; grill over hot coals. (A note: as it is currently winter, I would consider another medium. Like maybe your broiler, or a grill pan.) Using a slice of bread as an oven mitt, grasp the meat with one hand and remove the skewer with the other.

Drizzle the sandwiches with the reserved marinade. Serve immediately.

No comments: