When I think of the course “par excellence” of the Brescia cooking tradition, I cannot but think of the “Spiedo” (“le Spié” in our dialect). Sure, autumn and winter are the most suitable seasons to enjoy it.
When I think of the Spiedo, I don’t think just of a course, but of the quiet and cosy atmosphere of autumnal cold and foggy days, of the pleasure of being together with relatives and friends sitting in front of the tamburo (“tambür”, the machine for the Spiedo preparation and cooking) with the meat being cooked, and a good glass of red wine; I think of Camilla running in the street playing with her ball, in and out home, of red cheeks and cold hands…
… well then, a beautiful and warm scene!
I am aware that, unfortunately, this scene is fading more and more.
Less and less young people are able to make the Spiedo. For that reason, two years ago, I asked my father to teach me; since then, I ventured on it all alone, deciding to fix the recipe and images of the preparation in my memory, aided by a photo-book.
To tell the truth, you can find many variants of the Spiedo recipe according to the zone of the Brescia district you happen to visit – maybe, I will tell about some of them here below.
INGREDIENTS & QUANTITIES
For 8 people, prepare about 45 pieces (prese), birds and potatoes excluded.
You should consider about 4 pieces per person, but we use to have it as unique dish (with “polenta”, a sort of maize pudding) then, we can increase the quantities just a bit.
– 1 rabbit
– 1 chicken
– 5 pork ribs
– 10 slices of pork “coppa”, a sort of sausage (as alternative, 10 slices of pork loins or pork ribs or a mixture of them for a total 10/12 pieces)
– 30 picked birds
– 2 Kg potatoes (if you prepare all one day in advance, put the potatoes in cold water to avoid their getting black)
– sage, as much as you want
– 500 gr. butter
As for meat, tell your butcher to cut it in small pieces for the Spiedo cooking (see photo).
The preparation of the Spiedo is a genuine rite. Usually, it is made the evening before, even if you can make it on the very morning without problems (you only have to get up much earlier !).
In fact, it consists in arranging, by good sense, the alternation of pieces on the skewers (“ranfie” in our dialect)
First of all, you salt the meat and the potatoes so that they are well kept during the night.
You always start to skewer with a slice of potato.
Always put a leaf of sage between one piece and the other; for those meat pieces that can be “packed”, put a leaf of sage inside, before “packing” (see photo).
Close to the birds, you have always to place some fat meat, like “coppa”, so to keep them soft.
Remember never to press the pieces, only place one over the other, otherwise you risk a not complete nor regular cooking.
The final result of the skewering is this.
The cooking is, most probably, the part more amusing and romantic.
A good cooking lasts 4 hours since the Spiedo must be cooked slowly.
For cooking you can use wood (olive and vine wood leave an extraordinary scent), charcoal (easier to be used than wood), or choose electric cooking (I strongly advise you against this cooking since you loose scents).
Warning! If you choose wood and/or charcoal, remember never to cook indoor, you would risk a very dangerous poisoning by carbon monoxide.
A mixture of wood and charcoal is a good and easy solution.
Hence, consider to light the charcoal/wood towards 8,00 a.m.; when the embers are bright red, say towards 8,30 a.m. you can place the skewers in the tamburo (“tambür”).
The modern “tambür” is endowed with a motor and with rotating skewers (ranfie) so that cooking is made in a very regular way; if this is your case, remember to switch the motor on.
Put about 250 g of butter in pieces on the dripping-pan of the machine (“la leccarda”, a hollow drilled part over the “tambür”), placing it all along the dripping-pan so that it can drip and grease all the Spiedo.
If you skewered the very morning, better waiting at least 15 minutes cooking before adding butter, letting the meat give some grease.
Another 250 g of butter will be added on the dripping-pan at mid cooking.
One hour elapsed, you proceed with salting; don’t be afraid of abounding with salt, the Spiedo doesn’t keep the exceeding salt, letting it drip (someone salts even 2 or 3 times during cooking; according to my experience one abundant salting is enough).
The melted butter (“el cons”), salted and rejected by the Spiedo, drips into the tray at the bottom of the “tambür” and is collected in a bowl.
Every 15 – 20 minutes, take the bowl with the “cons” and pour the “cons” all along the dripping-pan so to have the Spiedo well greased and soft.
Now, the cooking is well disposed, and it is enough you check it every now and then adjusting the quantity of embers to reach an overall cooking time of 4 hours.
Towards the end of the cooking, the Spiedo gains a nice red colour; the fragrance now invades all the houses in the neighbourhood and a coming and going of neighbours and friends starts; they come to see and often, to kill waiting, we chat and observe “el cons” frying on the Spiedo pieces, hoping some potato falls so to have an excuse for a “vardòm come el va de sal” (“oh well… it’s better to taste the salting”).
About half an hour before the end of cooking, stop greasing! This way, the Spiedo can “dry up” a bit before serving it.
When you are almost ready, advise those into the house to serve “polenta”, then put the Spiedo pieces on a tray, collect “el cons” which will be poured upon the “polenta” like this: with a spoon, make a small hollow (conchetta) in your “polenta” slice and pour the “cons” in it, and…
Dinner is served!
Being from the Lake of Garda, I like match the Spiedo with a good Groppello, a red wine, soft and round, typical of Valtenesi.
Of course, the following list is not complete, but here you have some variants of a couple of friends from Val Trompia:
– they don’t put the potatoes, and between one piece of meat and the other they always put a thin, square slice of bacon-fat which keeps the meat soft;
– 10 minutes before the end of cooking, they put a handful of juniper berries on the embers, giving the Spiedo a peculiar and strong fragrance.
There is a piece of music which is very nice and evocative, “La Méla” of Charlie Cinelli, in the album “Törölölö”. It describes better than any other report the atmosphere of the preparation of the Spiedo.
I suggest you to listen to it, if you have the chance.
… and now ENJOY YOUR MEAL !!!