Spiedo (no not the skimpy swimsuit) the Italian word meaning “spit” (like cooking over a fire) is the root of the name spiedies — a marinated and grilled meat dish created in the Binghamton NY area. This dish is so popular that thousands of visitors have flocked to Binghamton for the annual Spiedie Fest & Balloon Rally for more than 30 years.
Based on the Italian dish spiedini or spidducci (in Abruzzo) which is made with cubes or balls of goat or sheep meat flame grilled on skewers. Spiedies came to Central New York through Italian immigrants who created the local dish in the 1920’s. Growing increasingly popular between the 1950’s and 80’s this grilled meat on a stick has become a regional favorite. Originally made with marinated lamb or beef, today’s spiedies are predominantly chicken or pork — while some home chefs like to use venison. Whatever meat is used, the real secret to a great spiedie is the marinade — a closely guarded secret for some of the Binghamton area’s more prominent spiedie producers.
A combination of oil, vinegar, lemon, salt, spices, and herbs are used to marinate the meat from 1 to 3 days before skewering and grilling over charcoal. Although the formulation varies, a true spiedie marinade will feature basil, oregano and mint. Like many regional foods there are the originals, the close to authentic, and the poor knock-offs. When it comes to spiedies any recipe made with bottled Italian salad dressing is not the real deal… so stay away.
Marinating the spiedies is easy using a zip-top freezer bag — put the meat cubes and marinade in the bag; smoosh it around a little bit to make sure it’s all coated, press out the extra air and seal. Then refrigerate overnight and until ready to grill. You should wait until you’re ready to grill before putting the marinated meat on skewer. Of course if you want to take the spiedies to a picnic and grill them there, make up the skewers and wrap them in plastic wrap, keep them on ice until you arrive at your destination then get grilling.
My personal favorite recipe is below and I prefer pork spiedies (just because I do) but chicken, beef, lamb or venison all work equally as well. Traditionalists will serve the spiedies on a thick slice of soft Italian bread (using the bread to pull the meat off the skewer). A good Italian sub roll works great or even a hot dog bun in a pinch. Of course you can eat the spiedie right off the spit or serve it over some rice or noodles if you want.
However you make it give spiedies a try at your next cook-out… you’ll be glad you did!
Dan’s Pork Spiedies
Prep time: 15 minutes + 1-3 days marinating time
Cook time: 20 minutes grill time
Serves: about 6 skewers
2 lbs. Lean Pork Shoulder or Loin – trimmed of excess fat
1 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup White Vinegar (cider or red wine can be used)
1/4 cup Lemon Juice (bottled is fine)
2 cloves Fresh Garlic – pressed or finely minced
1 TBSP Dry Basil
1 TBSP Dry Mint
1 tsp Dry Oregano
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
6 Bamboo Skewers – soaked in water for 30 minutes
6 thick slices Italian Bread or Mini Sub Rolls (optional)
1. Trim and cut pork into 1 inch cubes and place in a gallon size zip-top bag.
2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, basil, mint, oregano, salt and pepper — set 1/2 cup marinade aside and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.
3. Pour remaining marinade over the pork in bag and seal. Massage the bag to ensure all the meat cubes are coated with marinade. Loosen one side of seal and squeeze out the excess air, reseal and refrigerate overnight or longer. Turn bag every so often if possible.
4. Preheat grill to med-high (charcoal should be ashed over — gas grill should be at 400 degrees).
5. When ready to cook, thread marinated pork cubes onto soaked bamboo skewers (about 6-8 pieces per skewer) until all pork cubes are used. Place spiedies on the hot grill and cook until all sides are slightly charred and meat is thoroughly cooked (reaches a temp of at least 165 degrees) about 20 minutes total.
6. To serve, place one grilled spiedie on a slice of bread and while gripping the meat, pull the skewer out leaving the meat cubes in the bread. Drizzle with some of the reserved marinade if desired.
There you have it my take on the Central New York favorite, Spiedies. Allowing the meat to marinate for at least 24 hours brings the true essence of the original spiedie to the dish. Grilling over charcoal is best but a propane grill is just fine — oven roasting can’t get the same flavor so don’t bother. Serve your spiedies on some good Italian bread as a sandwich or over rice. Drizzle some fresh marinade over the meat when serving, or add some grilled hot peppers or a dash of hot sauce if you want to spice it up. Give this regional favorite a try and I think you’ll make them again and again.
Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”