Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Grinder: Iowa State Fair Food

While I’m from the midwest (Iowa), a large majority of my family is from, and still lives in Iowa. Every year they go to the Iowa State Fair, and last year we finally had the chance to join them. This year I'm going to the state fair to experience the foods of my childhood. One stop will be a sandwich from one of those fair carts called a “Guinea Grinder”.
Some Italians aren’t happy with the name as its origins date back to when Italian immigrants were called “guineas”. It’s considered a racial slur and some restaurants in Iowa have even changed the name of this sandwich to plain old “grinder”. I read somewhere that the word grinder refers to the act of grinding your teeth back and fourth to bite through the tough bread in the sandwich, which would also indicate they didn’t toast them early on. No matter what you call it, it’s really delicious and freezes well too!
Finding a recipe for Guinea Grinders on the internet wasn’t as easy as searching for something more widely known. Because this sandwich is really only found in Iowa, there aren’t a lot of search results for the recipe. There were a few different versions, but the one I chose was closest to the one my husband enjoyed at the fair. They offer it with or without Mozzarella cheese and sometimes with banana peppers. I opted for the cheese but left off the peppers to keep it family friendly for the kids. The recipe I found called for a French loaf, which is what I used here, but at the fair they used more of an bomber type bun.
These were really good, easy to make, and as I mentioned, can be easily frozen. I did find that the reheated meat mixture seemed saltier after being frozen, so I would suggest adding a bit of water when warming it up the second time around. I also used shredded Mozzarella instead of sliced, which the original recipe calls for.
Guinea Grinders
This recipe makes 12 sandwiches. I made 6 and froze the other half for another meal. You could just cut this in half as well.
1 lb Italian sausage
1 lb ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
30 oz homemade pizza sauce (or jar pizza sauce)
4 loaves French bread, sliced in half horizontally
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
If sausage has casings remove them and crumble into pan with the ground beef. Brown both meats together until no longer pink. Drain fat.
Mix the salt, pepper, garlic powder and pepper flakes into the pizza sauce.
Put the browned meat and the seasoned sauce into the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or on high for 1-2 hours, stir once or twice during cooking.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the split French loaf into 3 separate sandwiches. Repeat with second loaf. If making all 12 servings, repeat with 3rd and 4th loaf.
Pull a small amount of bread out of the bottom of the loaf to make a bowl for the meat.
Fill the bowl with meat mixture.
Cover the meat mixture with shredded Mozzarella cheese.
Place the top of loaf onto the sandwich and wrap the entire thing in foil. Bake for 15 minutes in the oven and serve.