Pittsburgh is all about tradition.
It was a booming city when the denizens of Seattle were using bows and arrows. We were building our food traditions before Lewis and Clark trekked to the primitive Northwest.
We celebrate hometown food, much of it originating in our dozens of ethnic neighborhoods. And almost every city in the United States, and abroad too, has at least one bar patronized primarily by Pittsburgh expats. There, and on Super Bowl halftime buffets all over Pittsburgh, we'll be chowing down on these iconic foods for good luck.
Primanti-style sandwiches. At Primanti Brothers in the Strip District, we open wide for unique Pittsburgh sandwiches that are as big as their reputation.
They're best eaten on site, but the homemade version goes like this: Start with a slab of thick Mancini's Italian twist bread and pile on salami (not Salumi), ham and provolone cheese. Add a tangle of vinegar-style coleslaw and top with hot, crisp French fries. Lid with a second bread slice. (Yes, the fries are inside the sandwich.) This Burgh classic originated when Pittsburgh was home to steel mills, foundries and factories. To save time, truckers would eat on the road using one hand, and the Primanti whole-meal-sandwich was born.
Italian sweet and hot sausage. Pittsburgh probably has more Italian restaurants per square mile than any city outside the Boot. Pittsburgh's Italian hot sausage is made Calabria-style, noted for its fennel seeds and crushed red peppers. Spanish paprika gives it the color and bite. The sweet sausage is made Abruzzi-style. No garlic, just salt and crushed black pepper. We'll shop for ours from third-generation Ernie Ricci's Italian Sausage in McKees Rocks.
Kielbasa. Pick your spelling: kielbasa, kielbasi, klobase, kolbassi. Everyone in Eastern Europe seems to have a variation on this sausage, as well as a spelling. Poland's version is probably the best known, but I'll send Slovenian kielbasa to Seattle. Mission Market on the South Side Slopes is where we'll buy. The store mails to 50 states, and, you can be certain, there will be Mission Market kielbasa in Detroit come next Sunday.
Chipped ham, two ways. Take a loaf of pink, processed Spam-ish luncheon meat, hoist it onto a meat slicer, and shave the meat razor thin. It's so fluffy, a half pound easily stacks four inches high. For the lunchbox version, pile chipped ham on squishy sliced white bread spread with mayonnaise. For the hot version, squirt Pittsburgh's Heinz ketchup into a hot skillet, add ham, frazzle a couple of minutes and serve on a soft bun with Heinz sweet pickle relish. With this, serve German potato salad.
Pierogies. Potato and cheese pierogies served with butter sauce are the most popular. We'll pick up ours at Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks, where the tiny store still looks a lot like the gas station it used to be. Five customers constitute a crowd, and you can expect to stand in line.
Roethlisbergers. New last year. All-beef burgers. On the grill, of course. Iron City Beer. Toss back a cold one, Pittsburgh's favorite. Penn Brewery's Penn Dark and Rolling Rock will be iced down, too. You can keep your coffee, Seattle. Klondikes. Originated here in 1922, Isaly's chocolate dipped squares of vanilla ice cream have been our favorite comfort food ever since. Eat them hand-held, right out of the wrapper. Is all this stuff good for you? Of course not. Not every day. But when push comes to shove comes to tackle comes to quarterback sack, this is our lucky food. OK, fans, wear your black and gold, wave your Terrible Towels and eat up.
HOW TO COOK POLISH KIELBASA
* Before cooking, prick the casing in 5 or 6 places with the point of a skewer or small knife.
* Coil the sausages in concentric circles in a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet and pour in enough water to cover them completely.
* Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then simmer uncovered for about 40 minutes.
* Kielbasa may then be sliced into rounds 1/2 inch thick, fried in a little oil and served with potatoes and sauerkraut. Large links may be browned on the grill. Pass the horseradish.
ERNIE RICCI'S ITALIAN HOT SAUSAGE SANDWICHES
* 1 large onion, sliced
* 1 green or red pepper, sliced
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 pounds hot sausage cut into 6-inch lengths
* 2 cups tomato sauce, preferably homemade.
* 1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes
* Salt and pepper to taste
* Brown sugar, optional
Saute the onion and pepper in the olive oil and butter until soft in a heavy pot or casserole. Remove and set aside. Add sausage to the pot and saute until browned on all sides. Return the onions and peppers to the pot. Add tomato sauce. Place whole tomatoes in the blender and whirl with a handful of parsley and a few basil leaves. Add to the sausage mixture. Simmer the mixture for an hour. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce seems to acidic, add a tablespoon of brown sugar. Serve on sausage rolls. Serves 4.
Sunday, January 29, 2006 Pittsburgh Post Gazette:Marlene Parrish