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04/08/2019

~ Texican-Style Pork Steak and Bell Pepper Spiedies ~

IMG_0537My grandmother, my mother's mother, had a close friend who lived in Endicott New York (a village just West of Binghamton).  For a period of six-eight years, once every Summer, our family of four plus grandma, arranged ourselves in my dad's all-white, 1960 Dodge Dart Seneca and headed North.  It was a very long day (we left early in the morning and returned late in the evening), but just before arriving at our destination, we stopped to eat spiedies for lunch (our hostess made us dinner). Our family, including grandma, loved the classic Italian spiedies in Endicott -- Dad and I liked ours made with pork, while my brother, mom and grandma preferred theirs with chicken.

This was us (photo of Dodge Dart Seneca is carped from internet):

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49eb600200b

As Philadelphia, PA = the cheesesteak capital of the world, &, Chicago, IL = the Italian-beef capital of the world... 

IMG_0465The spiedie is a sandwich local to the Binghamton area, and, visiting this region and not eating a spiedie would be like traveling to the Philadelphia or Chicago and not eating a cheesesteak sandwich or an Italian-beef sandwich.  Simply put, the classic Italian spiedie consists of cubes of marinated chicken, pork, beef or lamb, skewered, grilled, and served in a long, soft roll (or on a slice of Italian bread), with a bit of sauce (simmered marinade) drizzled on top.  The marinade is the star of the show and similar to Italian dressing (containing oil, vinegar, lemon, paprika and a variety of Italian spices, including mint in most versions), which quickly caramelizes when it hits the grill, keeping the meat tender on the inside.  For a tasty store-bought version, which will provide a flavor profile, if you're inclined to make your own, I recommend Lupo's.

... Binghamton, NY = the spiedie capital of the world!

"Spiedie" comes from the Italian word "spiede", as-in skewered food cooked on a "spit".  As for their origin, three people seemed to have played a part in their creation and popularization.  An Italian immigrant, Camillo Lacovelli claims to have invented the original spiedie in Endwell, NY. Via his brother, Agostino "Augie" Lacovelli, who put spiedies on his Augie's Restaurant (located in Endicott) menu in 1939, they gained local popularity.  Augie's son Guido Lacovelli, continued the family business into the 1990's, owning as many as 26 restaurants at the peak of his career.

  And this Italian-heritaged sandwich has plenty of variations. 

It was only natural for the spiedie sandwich to make its way to the big city of Binghamton -- its initial appearance was in 1947 at Sharky's Bar & Grill, owned by Peter Sharak.  The rest is history and Binghamton, is now the spiedie capital of the world, with an annual three-day Spiedie Festival and Balloon Rally that attracts over 100,000 people.  While the original Italian-style spiedie is still the most popular, spiedies have crossed cultural borders.  Variations in the marinade make it possible to make and serve them Asian-, Greek-, Jamaican-, Tex-Mex-, etc., style, and, eaten straight off the skewer or in salads or stir-fries, they're not limited to sandwiches anymore.

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 9.34.22 AMArmed w/a cuisine-appropriate marinade, I make spiedies several ways throughout the grilling season.  Today = Tex-Mex-Style.

IMG_7102To make 1 1/4 cups marinade:

3/4 cup achiote vegetable oil, or any plain (clear) vegetable oil*

6  tablespoons white vinegar

6  tablespoons lime juice, fresh or high-quality organic lime juice

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1  tablespoon dried Mexican oregano and Mexican-style chili powder

2  teaspoons each: garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  cup minced cilantro leaves

*Note:  Achiote oil, which is readily available everywhere, has annatto added to it, which is what gives it its signature pretty orange color, and, ever-so-slight hint of earthy, musty, peppery flavor. Annatto is the seed of the achiote tree, which is indigenous to Central and South America.  The seeds are usually ground to a powder or steeped in oil prior to adding to all sorts of Spanish-style fare.  If you don't do a lot of this type of cooking, don't buy it, or, if you don't want the orange color added to the dish you are serving, simply substitute vegetable oil without compromise.

IMG_7103 IMG_7103 IMG_7108 IMG_7108~Step 1.  In a small capacity food processor or blender, measure and place all ingredients as listed:  vegetable oil, vinegar, lime juice and all of the dry spices.  Mince and add the cilantro. Process or blend, until smooth, about 15-20 seconds.  Marinate pork for 6-12-24 hours.

Note:  After marinating the pork, the leftover marinade may be transferred to a small 1-quart saucepan and gently simmered for 4-5 minutes to use as a very-flavorful sauce for dipping or drizzling over the finished sandwiches -- a little goes a long way.  There's more.  For a sweeter version of the marinade (or the simmered sauce), add 2 tablespoons honey to the mixture -- be aware that sweet marinades can and will burn or boil over quickly on the grill or stovetop, so be sure to watch carefully under either circumstance.  In the case of ALL things marinated: 

Marination does not affect cooking time, it is a flavorizer not a tenderizer.

IMG_0467To marinate the pork:

2 1/2-3  pounds pork blade steak*, trimmed of excessive outer fat and cut into 1" cubes, two 3/4"-1"-thick steaks cut by your butcher as directed below

all marinade, from above recipe

6a0120a8551282970b0223c8493631200c-1*Steaks cut from the pork shoulder are marbled with lots of fat and rich with collagen, which, like the roast, makes them extremely flavorful.  

Because overcooking renders them dry and tough, this quick-cooking cut is perfect for the grill, sauté pan or broiler.  Choose pinkish-gray steaks that are generally the same size and thickness (3/4"-1" thick is ideal), and, have been trimmed of excessive fat from the fat-cap-side. The four steaks pictured here, weighing a total of 6.48 pounds, cost $10.87.  That's a whole lot of economical porcine wonderfulness -- especially if you've got a big family.

IMG_0471 IMG_0471 IMG_0471~Step 1. Place pork cubes in a 1-gallon ziplock bag. Add the marinade and seal the bag.  Marinate the pork, in the refrigerator, for 6-12-24 hours, stopping to squish the bag occasionally (if convenient), throughout the process.

IMG_0480To assemble and grill 16, 8" pork steak skewers:

2  each:  green and red bell peppers, sliced into 1" squares 

1  large sweet onion, sliced into 1" squares

all of the marinated pork cubes, from above recipe

8  Italian-cheesesteak-type rolls, thick-sliced Italian bread, or, 16 brioche hot dog rolls, your choice

IMG_0483~ Step 1.  To assemble 16, 8" bamboo skewers, thread one marinated meat cube, followed by one slice each of green bell pepper, onion and red bell pepper.  Continue alternating pork cubes and vegetable, until each skewer contains 4 cubes of pork and 3 groups of peppers and onion.  To this point, spiedie skewers can be assembled several hours and up to a day in advance of grilling.

IMG_0491~Step 2.  To grill skewers on an outdoor gas grill (or indoors using a grill pan), arrange skewers, side-by-side, on grill grids over direct heat on medium-high heat of gas grill, or, on grill grids of a large grill pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. The heat on all grills and stovetops is not even close to being created equal, so be sure to monitor the process, which, is easy to do and goes relatively quickly.

IMG_0496 IMG_0496 IMG_0496 IMG_0496~Step 3.  Grill (all at once or in batches depending upon the size of grill or grill pan), turning four times, until pork is cooked through and light golden on all sides, and peppers are showing signs of light charring around the edges.  On grill or in grill pan, this will take about 14-15 total minutes.

Unthred onto buns & serve w/Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce...

IMG_0568... drizzled over the top of this mouthwatering sandwich: 

IMG_0583Tex-Mex-Style Pork Steak and Bell Pepper Spiedie:  Recipe yields 16 skewers, enough for 8 large hoagie-sized sandwiches or 16 smaller hot-dog-sized sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small capacity food processor; 1-cup measuring container; 1-gallon ziplock bag; 16, 8" bamboo skewers; gas barbecue grill or large grill pan

6a0120a8551282970b0224df3140c6200bCook's Note: The pork blade steak is my new-to-me muse -- in my own words, it's a bone-fide kick-butt man-sized pork chop.  Known as pork steak, pork butt steak or pork blade steak, and similar in taste and texture to close-kin country-style spareribs, they were invented in St. Louis, MO, and are a Midwest staple.  As a country-style spare-rib lover living in central Pennsylvania, I ask the Sam's Club butcher to custom-cut these inexpensive, lesser-to-unknown-to-my-community steaks for me.  Give 'em a try!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

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