Monday, July 23, 2012

Chicken Spiedies – Is Binghamton’s Best America’s Next Big Sandwich Trend?

If it isn’t, it should be! This incredibly delicious sandwich, invented in central New York by an Italian immigrant named Camillo Iacovelli, breaks all the accepted rules regarding marinating meats, and not only does it work, it’s amazing!

You’ve heard me say on many occasions to be careful when soaking chicken in an acid marinade.  Usually an hour or two is the maximum I recommend, otherwise the meat will actually “cook” in the liquid, much like fish in a ceviche. Here, that’s exactly the idea.

You could almost call this twiced-cooked chicken, except that the food nerds would come out of the woodwork to remind us the meat doesn’t “cook” in the marinade, it becomes “denatured.” Whatever, nerds. All I know is when you grill that "over-marinaded" chicken over a hot, charcoal fire, some serious magic happens.

The term "spiedie" (SPEE-dee) comes from “spiedo,” the Italian word for spit, and simply refers to meat grilled on a skewer. The original protein was lamb, which explains all the mint and garlic in the marinade, which Iacovelli called, “zuzu.”

As I hope you find out, “zuzu” is also wonderful with chicken, and there are hundreds of credible reports of it being fantastic on pork, beef, and venison also. Yes, one taste and I think you’ll understand why this is so incredibly popular in and around Binghamton, NY.

The only mystery is why hasn’t this spread across the country? Seems like a natural. It’s got a great back story, catchy name, lots of room for local adaptations, and a marinade called “zuzu.” Come on, what more do you need? Anyway, every new sandwich trend begins with a single bun, or something like that, so I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 6 skewers:
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (or any boneless meat!)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup wine wine vinegar
1 rounded tablespoon sugar
6-8 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup picked mint leaves

View the complete recipe


weeza said...

We stopped to get something to eat in Binghamton while we were traveling and got spiedies. Delicious! I look forward to trying your recipe soon. It has all ingredients that I usually have on hand.

countrygirlcouture said...

Oh man! These sound fabulous! Thanks for such an interesting sounding way to prepare chicken. :-)

Steve said...


If one wanted to go with the original lamb concoction, would the marination time be the same: 24 hours?

Any suggestions on the cut of lamb to use?

Sally said...

I thought you would use Italian Bread and not a Hot Dog Bun... just not happening for me!

Ivan said...

Did you simmer the excess marinade enough to change its flavor, or just to cook the raw chicken juices?

Maybe you could set some marinade aside for dressing before adding the chicken to it.

Chef John said...

you oould take out before, but cooking mellows the flavor a bit. No wrong way!

Unknown said...

Can I bake them in the oven?

Food Junkie said...

It is interesting that New York's other noteworthy grilled chicken recipe, Cornell chicken, also uses a long vinegar marinade. While the Cornell sauce originally started just as a basting sauce it evolved into a marinade with yummier results.

Anonymous said...

Now all we need is a recipe for City Chicken....which is served on the same type of bread as speidies...miss Roma bread so much.

Anonymous said...

Wine vinegars aren't available where I reside. If I use regular distilled vinegar, how much would I use?

Chef John said...

any vinegar works! use same

Anonymous said...

One widely popular Spiedie store in bing uses apple cider vinegar....and corn oil.

Peter said...

I happened to have almost every ingredient lying around, so I started marinating this last night and I just finished eating it. It totally rocked my world. I made shish kebabs instead to use up some pepper, but it was still delicious. Thanks!

Zach said...

You can find Spiedie marinade in some supermarkets, although the distribution is pretty random. We had it in central-state New York (obviously), but not in Boston. Recently relocated to Charleston, SC and we have it here too.

This stuff is delicious. Especially paired with salt potatoes

Anonymous said...

I just whipped up this marinade and used it on some cubed London Broil. Going on the bbq tomorrow. The marinade really is zesty/garlicky/minty. I've never had mint in my food before. It's nice.

Anonymous said...

Chef John,

Is this quite close to chicken shawarma?

That's a dish I really enjoy.

Pickwick said...

Spiedies! Yeah! I was introduced to these by my Binghamton cousins when I was a kid, and I've been trying to convert the world to spiedies ever since. Our family used the spiedie sauce on just about any kind of meat: chicken, beef, pork, lamb -- even venison. It's all good!

Anonymous said...

The weather in Germany is finally nice enough to grill outside, so I decided to make this as soon as you posted the video. Turned out really delicious and my family loved it. Thanks for all your great recipes.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend that worked there as a teenager. He buys the marinade from them online. It's a little pricey once shipped, but if you are using alot it's not that bad as it's sold by the gallon. That said, I make my own from an old recipe I found. It tastes better and doesn't have HFCS in it.

He introduced a large group of us to Speidies several years ago, and has been cooking them for us at festivals every since. We've had chicken of course, pork loin, pork tender loin, beef sirloin, beef tender loin (that was a crazy night...) and venison. Always a huge hit and a great way to cook for lots of people. I think my recipe from an old regional cookbook is different than yours though, not much, but a little.

Glad to see this recipe getting some love, it deserves it!

Anonymous said...

I found my old (1994, not that old)cookbook with the recipe and wanted to share it here. It's in a local rural cook book from Mannington NJ. Lots of Farms there, and lots of hunting. Once I was introduced to speidi's, I realized there was a recipe for the venison version in this book. It follow:
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2.5 lbs of meat
Marinate for 24 hours

I have seen many versions of the marinade for different meats. I have used this on sirloin and chicken and it was a huge hit. I had 5 separate requests days after the party... they were still thinking about how good it was.

I hope you all give it a try. It's my go-to Speidi marinade!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John,

Whats would be an alternative to the wine vinegar?

Anonymous said...

I used chicken breast and marinated overnight and all I could taste was vinegar. Just vinegar and nothing else. Did I do something wrong? Pretty sure I measured everything correctly.

Chef John said...

if you measured right then maybe you just don't like this recipe. that happens.

Anonymous said...

chef john,

you write that the recipe contains 1/2 cup picked mint leaves. however, as i never know how much or little to pack the cup, can you supply me with a weight to use?

thank you

Chef John said...

I can't! No idea. Don't worry about it. It's not an exact science. Just throw in a handful. It will be great.

dana said...

I don't like mint at all. Could I substitute cilantro or other aromatic in this?

Other than the mint it sounds great.

Chef John said...

What if I said no? ;) Of course!!! It's your food, use what you like!

Amory Hillengas said...

I don't own a grill - could you recommend how to do an oven preparation?

dana enani said...

what do you do if u dont have an outdoor grill? WHAT SHOULD U DO?

Brent Jackson said...

I had everything but the mit but made it anyway. It is marinating now. I hope it turns out good!!!

-- said...

Hey Chef,

Would it be a bad idea to use balsamic for this?

G-ma Karen said...

I was born in Binghamton and my Mom use to fix these every Easter. We always had lamb. It was so great. Now I am going to try on chicken. We always used hot dog buns. I might even go to the spiedie feat in August .

AT said...

Chef J,

You gotta tell me, can I pan sear those? If so, is there a rough cooking time I'm looking at per side?

Unknown said...

Oh, spiedie, where have you been all my life? I was thinking what to do woth the leftovers while I was grilling; there were no leftovers! Can't wait to try with beef.

Dan and Hilary said...

Hey Chef John, can you make this marinade in advance and add the chicken later like the next day?

We are doing a family vacation in a cottage, and I do t think there is a blender, but wanted to not have marinating chicken on the road.

Chef John said...

Yes,make ahead!

mdb139 said...

I had been meaning to try this marinade for some time, but have been enjoying your "rusty chicken" too much to do so. I was ready for a change of pace and decided to whip this one up.


This might be my new favorite! I'm only sorry I didn't try it sooner, but at least I should have enough mint growing in the back yard to last me a few more batches.

Thanks for introducing us to spiedie chicken and for yet another great recipe, Chef John!

cutekittypunk said...

When my brother was in town visiting he made us this recipe... he hesitated to make it because we professed to only liking pork, because chicken is so often prepared and very dry and boring tasting in our opinion, but he made it anyway, and we really enjoyed... so now I am buying chicken again to enjoy this recipe during the bbq summer months ahead :) we used red wine vinegar!