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by Heather Harris Brady

I’ve lived in Michigan all my life, the wrong parts apparently, because I’d never heard of cudighi until last week when I came across it in its natural habitat – the wilds of Ishpeming in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Ishpeming is in the heart of U.P. mining country, with its long winters and colossal chunks of rock. We have the Italian immigrants to this area to thank for cudighi, a spicy patty of seasoned meat on a hard roll. At Ralph’s Italian Deli you can order it in pork or turkey versions with cheese, ketchup, mustard and onion or with pizza sauce and cheese.  On two different visits I tried both the pork and turkey, then when I got home I set to developing my own. It’s got tailgate and Super Bowl party written all over it!

Cudighi, Makes four large sandwiches

  • One one-lb. package of ground turkey (93% lean)
  • 2 t. fennel seed, freshly ground
  • 1 t. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 t. Tony Chacere’s Cajun seasoning (other hot seasoning mix)
  • One green pepper, diced
  • One 8 oz. package of sliced white mushrooms
  • ½ lb. provolone cheese
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese
  • One 8 oz. can pizza sauce
  • Four oblong hard rolls

Mix the seasonings into the meat well and set aside.

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I used one electric griddle for everything, but you could use frying pans if you prefer. Saute the mushrooms and pepper in 1 T. olive oil, until the peppers are soft and the mushrooms are brown.

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Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Form the meat into thin (1/2” thick) oblong patties shaped to fit the rolls you’re using. Brown the patties on each side, and then cover until they are cooked through.

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Top each patty with some cheese and put a lid on them again until the cheese melts. (At Ralph’s they assemble the sandwiches and put them under the broiler to melt the cheese, but it was too hot to turn the oven on.)

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While the cheese is melting, split the rolls and spread pizza sauce on each side (add a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese if you like).

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Divide the mushrooms and peppers into four servings and pile them on the bottom side of each roll.

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Top the veggies with the cudighi hot from the pan and squish the whole thing together.

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Cut into halves. Serve hot with chips and lots of napkins. (PS: The proper pronounciation is COO-dih-gee, if you’re wondering.)

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