Friday, August 1, 2008

Mystery Meat & Papa Bear

You know about Mystery Meat, of course. That stuff nobody ever admits to eating but it somehow sells and sells and sells? Yeah. SPAM. Hormel's canned luncheon meat, which they like you to refer to in caps to differentiate it from the scourge of the e-mail world, lower case spam. (On a side note, the latter use of the word apparently stems from an old Monty Python skit wherein they chanted Spam! Spam! in mind-numbing repetition.)

SPAM has been around since 1937, making it (barely) older than I am. In the beginning, Hormel referred to it as "miracle meat" but I think that might be considered hopeful elevation. On the other hand, maybe not. How else can one explain its popularity in this health-conscious era when you consider its fat and sodium content? This is not a health food, folks. One 2-ounce portion contains 174 calories, 137 of which are fat!

In spite of that, I'm told it is one of Hawaii's favorite foods and the favorite way to eat it is as the SPAM musubi. That's a sort of sandwich made with layers of rice and SPAM wrapped in nori (seaweed). You can view the recipe here or watch it being made by the Single Guy Chef here.

That was far from the only SPAM recipe I found while merrily Googling away. It lends itself to an astonishing number of variations, limited only by the imagination -- and pantry contents -- of the chef. What I ended up making yesterday was an adaption of something billed as Spambalaya, drawing on Cajun-style cuisine. It's quick and easy to fix and the flavor of the finished dish is good enough to almost make you forget what you're doing to your arteries.

Because you will be cooking your rice in the same pan with everything else, you need either a large skillet or a 3-quart saucepan. Now, I never remember the measurements of my saucepans. In my mind they are simply sized as Baby Bear, Mama Bear and Papa Bear. The really big kettle that goes with the set, I just call Clyde. Anyway, I used the Papa Bear saucepan for this gig.

Splash a little olive oil in the saucepan and sautee 1 (12 ounce) can of SPAM that you've cubed all nice and neat, 1 cup of chopped onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. You can also toss in chopped green pepper and celery if you have it. I didn't. (sigh) When the veggies are tender, add the contents of 1 (14-1/2 ounce) can of diced or stewed tomatoes and shake in, to taste, your favorite hot pepper sauce. (I used the Tabasco Chipotle.) I also had a small can of minced black olives that I tossed in. It's not necessary but seemed like a fun idea. This is that kind of recipe, you know.

The recipe I worked from also called for a 10-ounce can of chicken broth but I used Knorr's tomato-chipotle bouillon in the same amount. Bring the mixture to a boil and add 1 cup of long grain rice, turn the heat down, put a lid on it, and simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff it up with a fork, put the lid back on and let it sit for a good 10 minutes or so. You'll find the rice won't stick to the pot if you do that.

What can I say? This is really, really Good Stuff, Maynard. And you know what? The next time I make it, I'm going to add 1 small can of crushed pineapple, by golly. I'll bet that would work out quite nicely. I should point out that one need not use the high-fat SPAM when making this dish. It would work just as well with any other meat, like my beloved chicken, for instance. Don't you just love dishes that are that flexible? And when they fill the Papa Bear pan, there's plenty for everyone.


~ Sil in Corea said...

Sounds great! SPAM is a favorite of Koreans, and Koreans have been in Hawaii for over 100 years. Here, it's especially made in long loaves the right size and shape for cutting to put in "kim bap" ( Korean for "musubi" ) with julienned carrots, pickled radishes, and sliced spinach added. Looks real purty when you cross-cut the log.

~ Sil in Corea said...

oops! Watched the video, and Kim bap is made differently, like a jelly roll, with the rice and goodies rolled inside a big piece of nori, roughly 8x10 inches. When you buy a spatula set, here in Korea, a "placemat" comes with it for rolling up the "log."

Dee said...

That would be sushi in Japanese, Sil. One of my favorite things. My late sis-in-law, Betty, was an expert at making it. But she had to keep slapping my hands because I couldn't resist nibbling on the nori while I watched her. (smile)

John Bailey said...

Any recipe that promotes good old Spam is welcome, Dee! Have to say, though, that my all time favourite is Spam fritters... yum!

The Old Guy said...

It occurs to me that spammers ought to be made to eat their words.

Ava South said...

We have been Spammers (Capital S, please.) here for a long time. I have fond memories of sitting in our boat and when the sun showed high noon, we'd break out the Spam fold over sandwiches. A freshly opened can tastes so good. I like it thick sliced on the grill too, then brushed with sauce right at the end of cooking.

Yeah, it's not good for us, but then lots of things we really enjoy are not. I eat mostly low fat, no sugar food now that I am older, but we have to have an indulgence once in a while, right?

I dunno about trying your recipe because hubby wouldn't eat it and there I would be, faced with a Papa Bear pan that was all mine. I might overindulge.

Keep those recipes coming, Dee. I love to read them even if I don't always make them.


Bonnie said...

We buy the turkey spam, less fat. :-)

Kate said...

I'm still chuckling about naming your cookware. Clyde, indeed!