Summer Grilling: Spiducci

 

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We love grilling and barbecuing in the summer-and in other seasons too, for that matter- and the more we grill, or barbecue, the more we discover different methods of grilling and smoking, and the more we are motivated to seek out new recipes and explore and sample different culinary masterpieces that we can add to our repertoire. One such discovery-for those of us late to the party- is spiducci, the classic Italian meat skewers.

Originally developed in Abruzzo, Italy, a region renown for its sheep herding, these addictive skewers, also known as spiedini or arrosticini were traditionally made from the meat of neutered male sheep, although nowadays lamb is used as it is more readily available than sheep. The secret to spiducci is the charming little cubes that the meat is cut into, typically no larger than a cubic inch and no smaller than a cubic centimeter, about the size of dice. (hint: think of the verb to dice)

 

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Traditionally the cubes are neither seasoned nor marinated, but are skewered and grilled on a special rack called a fornacella, a specialized charcoal barbecue that keeps the skewers away from the coals without resting them on a grill and makes them easy to rotate while cooking. It also eliminates the possibility of having them stick to the grill. Here is a catchy video of a fornacella in action. If you can’t fathom grilling a skewer without marinating, a little olive oil with some garlic and rosemary will do the trick. For those that prepare a lot of spiducci, there is even a contraption called a spiedini maker that lets you prepare a hundred at a time, here’s a look at one in action.

 

Spiducci maker

Spiducci maker

 

But for those of us new to the spiducci game, perhaps just start out making a few dozen or so by hand-cutting well-marbled, boneless lamb leg or shoulder. Look for a ratio of about 80% meat and 20% fat, this will keep the meat nice and juicy while it cooks; lean cuts can get a little dry, and of course a little fat has a lot of delicious flavor. If you are using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in water for a good half hour or so so they don’t burn while cooking. We didn’t use a specialized grill, but rather just laid them on the hot, well-seasoned grill over lively coals. As is the case with most meats, just leave them alone for a minute or two before trying to turn them; when the grill releases them easily they are ready to be turned, once on each side and they’re done!

 

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Once they come of the grill, serve these little darlings with a squeeze of lemon, a little salt and pepper and some grilled veggies, tzatziki and bruschetta or grilled pita. It is about this time that you just may start considering purchasing one of those spiducci makers and eating these on a weekly basis. This is a perfectly normal reaction….

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