The Paul Giamatti of the Culinary World
A recent article on NPR had me wondering what Spam really is.
Spam is the Paul Giamatti or John C. Reilly of the culinary world, an everyman food that lacks the charisma or looks of a leading ingredient, but consistently makes all other ingredients taste better. (from NPR)
Spam luncheon meat is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The labeled ingredients in the Classic variety of Spam are: chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added, salt, water, sugar, and sodium nitrite.
Varieties include: Spam Black Pepper, Spam Less Sodium, Spam Garlic, Spam and Cheese, Spam with Bacon (Hormel bacon), Spam Spread, Spam Fritters, Spam Lite (containing pork and chicken), Spam Golden Honey Grail (named after “Spamalot” and Monty Python’s Holy Grain, Spam Hot and Spicy (with Tabasco sauce), Spam Hickory Smoked, and Spam Oven Roasted Turkey – the latter is a halal food, meaning that it is permissible under Islamic law, and is especially popular in Muslim markets.
Introduced on July 5, 1937, the name “Spam” was chosen in the 1930s when the product, whose original name was far less memorable (Hormel Spiced Ham), began to lose market share. The name was chosen from multiple entries in a naming contest. A Hormel official once stated that the original meaning of the name Spam was “Shoulder of Pork and hAM“. According to writer Marguerite Patten in Spam – The Cookbook, the name was suggested by Kenneth Daigneau, an actor and the brother of a Hormel vice president. At one time, the official explanation may have been that the name was a syllabic abbreviation of “SPiced hAM”, but on their official website, Hormel denies this and states that “Spam is just that. Spam.” The fact that the originator was given a $100 prize for coming up with the name, however, still appears on the site’s Spam FAQs.
According to Hormel’s trademark guidelines, Spam should be spelled with all capital letters and treated as an adjective, as in the phrase “SPAM luncheon meat”. As with many other trademarks, such as Xerox or Kleenex, people often refer to similar meat products as “spam”. Regardless, in practice, “Spam” is generally spelled and used as a proper noun. (from Wikipedia)
But what can you make with SPAM that actually tastes edible, perhaps, even good? Here are a couple that sound good, both from NPR.
Photo from Flickr.
More Spam is consumed in Hawaii than any other state in the U.S. By far, Hawaiians’ favorite dish is Musubi, a ready-to-eat Spam snack that resembles a large piece of nigiri sushi. In Hawaii, you can buy Musubi in nearly any convenience store or grocery store for between $1 and $2. This is adapted from a recipe on the Hormel Foods Web site. (Makes 8 servings)
- 1 12-ounce can Spam Classic
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 cups cooked white sushi rice (found in the Asian section of supermarket)
- 1 package hoshi nori (Japanese dried seaweed, available at Asian markets)
- Slice Spam lengthwise into 8 equal pieces.
- In a shallow dish, combine garlic, ginger, brown sugar and soy sauce. Place Spam slices in the mixture and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove and pat dry.
- In a medium-sized skillet, fry the marinated Spam slices over medium heat, 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
- Moisten hands and mold rice into 8 thick blocks with the same outside dimensions as Spam slices. (You can get a perfect block shape by using a special plastic Musubi mold found online or in specialty stores in Hawaii.)
- Cut nori into 8-1/2 inch strips. Place Spam slices on rice blocks and wrap individual nori strips around each middle.
- Moisten one end of nori slightly to fasten together. The remaining marinade may be used as a dip.
Or for the really gourmet SPAM enthusiast…
Lobster Thermidor Aux Crevettes with Mornay Sauce, Truffle Pate, Brandy, Fried Egg and Spam
Don’t expect to earn your third Michelin star with this dish. But any diners who are also die-hard Monty Python fans will be delighted. (Makes 4 servings)
- 4 lobster tails
- 16 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, scalded
- 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- 1 12-ounce can Spam Classic
- 4 eggs
- 1 can truffle pate (found in gourmet food stores)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil
- Preheat oven to broil.
- Place lobster tails into large pot of boiling water. After 3 to 4 minutes, add shrimp. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes until lobster and shrimp are done.
- Remove from pot. Drain and rinse under cold water. Using kitchen shears or carefully with a knife, remove but save lobster shells. Cut lobster meat and shrimp coarsely into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute about 4 minutes, until translucent. Add flour and stir, cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Whisk in brandy, then hot cream.
- Remove from heat and add Gruyere and half the Parmesan cheese, stirring frequently. Add lobster, shrimp, paprika, salt and pepper.
- Arrange lobster shells in a casserole dish. Pour lobster shrimp mixture over shells and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Broil on high until golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
- While waiting for the dish to broil, slice Spam into 8 pieces. Fry eggs over medium heat, then remove. Fry Spam slices until light brown.
- To serve, place each lobster shell on a plate. Top with one or two slices of Spam and then a fried egg. Serve truffle pate on the side.