Showing posts with label Pittsburgh sandwich. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pittsburgh sandwich. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pittsburgh Dads, Kennywood Park, and School Picnic Memories from Cleo Coyle

It came! The first “coatless” day of spring. (Thank goodness.) My husband, Marc, who refers to our winter parkas as “space suits,” is not only cheered by the return of warmth, he’s downright nostalgic. 

I first met (and fell for) Marc here in New York City, but we didn’t grow up here. Our childhoods were spent (much like our amateur sleuth Clare Cosi) in small towns outside of Pittsburgh, PA, which gave us a common denominator of memories, including the culinary kind. 

Some of you may recall my past posts about recreating the Ohio Valley's Eat'n Park Fresh-Glazed Strawberry Pie or “Pittsburgh-style” Chipped Ham Sandwich... (Check out the comments on the Chipped Ham post and you’ll see a discussion that includes a bit of Pittsburghese.) 

My copycat Eat'n Park Strawberry Pie
For the recipe click here.
Well, when you grow up in Steelers’ country, the first warm day of spring usually means two things: excitement over the end of the school year and the annual picnic at Kennywood, a beautiful little amusement park that's been owned and run by the same family for over 100 years. (Along with New York's Rye Playland, Kennywood is one of only two amusement parks listed in the National Register of Historic Places.)

If you’d like to see what our annual
“school picnic” ritual looked like in this
adorable, landmark amusement park, watch
the “Pittsburgh Dad” comedy video below,
which was filmed on location at Kennywood… 

To play the video, click the little white arrow
in the center of the image below...

For those of you who grew up in the Ohio Valley, the comedian in the above video will have you falling off your chairs. I fell off mine and so did Marc. Although we didn’t grow up together, we both grew up with “Pittsburgh Dads,” and the video above looked very much like our school picnic with one exception—the food...

When we were young, we couldn’t wait to stuff ourselves with cotton candy, chocolate dipped ice cream cones, and bright red candy apples. Our parents, however, weren’t about to watch us turn green from riding roller coasters all day with a system full of nothing but sugar.

Their answer was the “picnic” part of the school picnic. They brought big coolers full of homemade food, and Kennywood provided beautiful shaded groves with old-fashioned wooden picnic tables for families to enjoy their own noshes. 


Cleo and her partner in crime writing,
her husband Marc. Together they write
The Coffeehouse Mysteries.
Speaking of nostalgia: Remember when you could plunk a big old basket down on a picnic table, spend a few hours on the park’s rides, and come back to find your food untouched, even the soft drinks still there? Okay, so the "good old days" weren’t always good—but the part where you didn’t have to lock every little thing down to keep it from being lifted? Well, I do miss that! 

As for my recipe today, it’s one of the items Marc’s grandmother always made for their family’s "school picnic" basket. With Easter dinner leftovers still sitting in fridges across the country, I hope this ham salad recipe comes in handy. If you make it, I sincerely hope you will... 

Eat with joy,

~ Cleo 

Cleo Coyle's
"School Picnic" Ham Salad

On school picnic day, the heavy steel cooler in Marc's family was packed with cold fried chicken, deviled eggs, potato salad, and (for dessert) homemade fudge. There was always another tasty treat in that cooler, ham salad and crackers for snacking. Here's our favorite recipe, based on Marc's grandmother's.

Too retro for you? No problem. Just call it "American Pâté" serve it with a glass of wine, and garnish those ham-salad topped crackers with slices of jalapeño and cured, pitted olives seasoned with Herbes de Provence. (Ooh là là!)

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

3 cups ham, fully cooked
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
2 heaping teaspoons dill relish (you can swap in sweet)
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 green onion, chopped (or 1 T. chopped shallots)
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard (or yellow if you like)
1/2 cup mayonnaise


Grind your ham slices with a blender, food processor, meat grinder, or (use the method of Marc's grandmother), a pastry blender! (See our photo.) Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Chill and serve on your favorite crackers or slices of crusty baguette. 

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on twitter here.
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

To learn more, click here. 


The Ghost and
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mysteries of Pittsburgh: How to Make a BBQ Chipped Ham Sandwich by Cleo Coyle

Pssst... Want to play confuse the deli guy? Okay, here's what you do. Walk up to your grocery store’s cold-cuts counter and ask for a pound of Chipped Ham. Unless a member of the deli’s staff is from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, chances are he won’t have a clue what you’re talking about. 

Chipped Chopped Ham is unique to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as my husband and I discovered after moving to New York City decades ago--and watching deli guys blink in total confusion whenever we tried to order a sandwich with it.

The whole thing began with a chain of regional stores called Isaly's, a name you might recognize as the original producer of the famous Klondike ice cream bar. 

Little known fact:
The Islay's website actually brags...

"Boston has its Baked Beans. Philly has its Cheesesteaks. Pittsburgh, Ohio, West Virginia and surrounds? We have Isaly’s Original Chipped Chopped Ham."

With retro food as popular as ever, I thought it might be time to take a chance and decode the mystery of chipped ham for a wider foodie public. And so...

For this post, I am going to show you how to create that special sandwich from "someplace special" (what we Pittsburghers call our Three Rivers city). 

The BBQ Chipped Ham Sandwich was one of the most popular lunches served in Pittsburgh's school cafeterias when my husband and I were growing up. It was the retro sandwich of our youth. It was also delicious, easy, and cheap. In fact, cheap is the point!

The "chipping" of deli ham is a great way to make a less expensive brand of ham more tasty. There’s a good reason why it does, too, just keep reading... 

Cleo Coyle, cheap eats 
enthusiast, is author of 
Cleo Coyle's
BBQ Chipped Ham

Makes 4 Sandwiches


1 pound of "Chipped Ham"
(Below, you'll learn how to order this at any deli.)

½ cup (8 tablespoons) ketchup

¼ cup (4 tablespoons) BBQ sauce

4 soft hamburger buns

(optional garnish) Relish, sweet or dill


Step 1: Order the Ham - Although the original "chip chopped" ham was made with pressed ham, you can order up any ham at your deli for this sandwich. Note: Even if you usually order the more expensive black forest or baked Virginia ham, don't be afraid to try the less expensive or "on sale" hams for this sandwich. Here's how to do it...

Simply tell your deli person to shave the ham razor thin. Tell him (or her) not to be afraid to allow the ham to break up into pieces. The deli person is actually "chipping" the meat against the commercial meat slicer blade. Here’s what it should look like...

By shaving (chipping) the meat very thin, the ham is more tender and has more flavor than if it were sliced more thickly. In Western PA, Northern West Virginia, and Eastern Ohio (aka the Ohio Valley), this slicing process is known as "Pittsburgh Style."

Step 2: Make the Frizzle Fry - When you get the chipped ham home, you’re ready to create your “frizzle fry” sandwich. (Okay, from here on, it's stupidly easy. But if you never made a hot dog before, I suppose you'd need directions, right? So here goes...)

A. Heat the Chipped Ham: Place a large skillet over medium heat. Break the ham up into the pan and stir until heated through.

B. Make your Quickie Sauce: Mix the ketchup and (your favorite) BBQ sauce in a small bowl and add to the skillet. (Some people add a little mustard at this stage. We don't, but it's an option, depending on your taste.)

Quick tip: The new "Simply Heinz" ketchup is quite good. I just discovered it, and I'm hooked. No corn syrup. Huzzah! You can really taste the difference. I also like Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, but you can use any BBQ sauce for this recipe.

C. Combine Ham and Sauce: Stir and cook for a few more minutes. The chipped ham should be evenly coated with the ketchup-BBQ sauce. The ham should be steaming and sticky.

D. Pile it high: Divide the ham up onto the four hamburger buns.

Garnish: My husband eats this simple sandwich with no other garnish. Many people in Pittsburgh, however, enjoy adding sweet relish. I really enjoy it with relish—but I prefer dill relish. So add what you like and…

Eat with  joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

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See more
of my recipes at...

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The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each
of the 16 titles includes the added
bonus of recipes. 



To download mini summaries
of each of these 15 mysteries, click here.

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Find out by watching our fun, 
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or view it on Facebook 

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Top 10 Best Mysteries
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This culinary mystery includes
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Join amateur sleuth Clare Cosi
as she sets out to caffeinate
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See Billionaire Blend's
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 clicking here.

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The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
15 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


See mini plot summaries 
for every title and news on
 Cleo's next release!

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Book #1 of
which Cleo write under the name 
Alice Kimberly

Haunted Bookshop 

Get a free title checklist, with 
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