In my very tomato-oriented post about our vacation to mid-state New York last month, I failed to mention the meat. This is a very important oversight on my part, one that requires immediate rectification, because there are several specialties from that region that cannot go unmentioned.
First up: Snappy Grillers. I may be partial to Hebrew Nationals and Fenway Franks made by local Chelsea-based Kayem, but there’s plenty of room in my heart for additional hot dogs. Snappy Grillers are German franks in natural casings made by Hofmann in Syracuse. A mix of pork and veal gives them their pale color. They grill up crispy and addictive, and how many I ate during that week on the lake is not important so don’t ask.
Then, there’s beef on weck. Weck, for the uninitiated, is short for kummelweck, which is a type of German roll topped with big grains of salt and caraway seeds. The sandwich itself consists of a pile of thinly sliced rare roast beef on the aforementioned weck, cut side of the top bun dipped in beef juices (sorry: “au jus”), but not to the point of sogginess, and dabbed with as much horseradish as you deem appropriate. I like to make myself cry, apparently, but it’s unclear whether it was the effects of the horseradish or just my usual emotional reaction to an exceptional sandwich.
But perhaps our favorite of the area meats, and the one attributed to Binghamton in particular, are spiedies. Pronounced “speedies,” they are marinated chunks of lamb, beef, pork, or chicken, skewered and grilled, and served in a slice of Italian scali bread. My friend Red, whose family owns the lake house at which we were squatting, grills onions and green peppers for the sandwiches, too.
Spiedies originated with the Italian immigrants that settled in the Binghamton area. Spiedini means “grilled skewered meat” in Italian, and once the grilling is complete, slices of buttered Italian bread were traditionally used as a sort of mitt to pull the meat off the skewers so that there’s a seamless transition from grill to mouth. Or you can be more civilized about it and put the grilled meat and vegetables on a platter for more systematic sandwich construction. Your choice.
We got our spiedies pre-marinated from Lupo’s in Binghamton, as is the tradition in Red’s family. Lupo’s recipe is top secret, though I did steal a peek at the ingredients on a bottle of Lupo’s marinade on display at Wegmans. You can also buy the spiedie marinade online here. I suspect one of the secrets is an extra-long marination time for a really deep, penetrating flavor. Of course, it was only a matter of time before I tried to make it myself. Here’s a recipe I adapted from one that was cut out of a Binghamton-area newspaper and tucked into a cookbook at the lake house. It’s from spiedie prize-winner Patrick Kennedy of Endicott, NY and, along with a few additions of my own, yields a very close approximation of those delicious summer meals we enjoyed so much.
Use vegetable oil instead of olive oil for the marinade because it won’t solidify in the refrigerator and hamper the long 2- to 3-day marination process.
2½ lbs. sirloin steak, lamb, pork, or chicken breast
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 tsp. dried oregano (or marjoram, my preference)
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
Sliced onions and green peppers
Italian scali bread
Salted butter, softened
Trim meat and cut into 1½-inch chucks. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and spices. Add meat and mix until well coated. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 days, stirring every day to redistribute marinade.
If using wooden skewers, soak for half an hour before grilling. Thread meat onto skewers and let sit at room temperature while heating grill. You can give the onions and peppers a quick soak in the leftover marinade before grilling if you’d like. Grill meat and vegetables until nicely browned on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside. Butter bread on one side and grab meat off the skewers. Add onions and peppers, if so inclined, and then grab a beer.