Monday, September 6, 2010

"The SPAM Cookbook" - Sam Choy's SPAM Loco Moco

Date I made this recipe: September 5, 2010

The SPAM® Cookbook – Recipes from Main Street by Hormel Foods, compiled by Linda Eggers
Published by: Gopher Prairie Press
ISBN: 978-0-9841674-0-1, © 1998
Recipe: Sam Choy’s SPAM® Loco Moto – p. 79

Well, kids, school is now in session and today’s recipe showcases how a word can have more than one meaning. Okay get your pencils ready for the word of the day: Spam.

Those of the more modern generation associate the word “spam” with junk emails sent out to numerous individuals in an attempt to wreck havoc with the world…and specifically my computer.

This past Friday, someone hacked into one of my email accounts and sent a spam email to my entire address book saying that I was in London (ha! I wish!), that I was mugged and I needed money. (And while it is true that a buck or two would be helpful, I would likely have not contacted my friends via email to hit them up for $1500 bucks!).

This spam caused me to be locked out of my email account for two days running. Can we talk about how frustrating that is? It also caused no less than 7 people to call me to see if I was okay. And the thing that cracked me up most of all is the requirement that I sign in to my email account to email the support team to tell them that I’m locked out and need my password reset. Not to be snarky but how, pray tell, am I supposed to sign in to say I need help signing in when I cannot sign in?

So I wish I would have been the recipient of the other spam…as in SPAM®, the precooked canned “ham” product made by one of Minnesota’s own, Hormel Foods Corporation, located in Austin, MN. (By the way, years ago, I did some work with the Hormel Credit Union. The woman who answered the phone always pronounced it “Hor-mull” but we (we rubes, perhaps?) always called it Hormel…like caramel. I’m not sure which is correct but it made me chuckle).

Okay, show of hands: how many of you had SPAM® as a kid? Because I have to tell you folks, you were either in the rank and file of families whose moms stretched a food budget by including an occasional Spam® dinner in the mix or you weren’t. And to my amazement, several of my friends, all whom grew up like me in the 60’s, seemed to have missed out on this life-changing experience. I am happy to say that we were a SPAM® household! (Although not often and when it was, it was always doctored up (as my mom would say) by cloves and a ham glaze.)

So, okay…SPAM®…the history…SPAM® was first produced in 1937 and was widely used by US troops during WWII. Perhaps this is why my father, a WWII vet, didn’t mind my mom making SPAM® for dinner every once in a while.

In 1970, the comedy troop, Monty Python, wrote the SPAM® song (which I always thought went “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spamity Spam…” but a quick check of the lyrics indicates that it did not. How disappointing. But who cares? I’m going to sing it the way I sing it and there it is.). And years later, SPAMALOT, a spoof of Camelot, and likely the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, hit the Great White Way and that, as they say, was that. I’d venture a guess to say that SPAM® likely experienced resurgence after that and rightly so.

So by now you must be wondering how it was that I even came to go down memory lane and make this SPAM dish and for that you can blame it on the Minnesota State Fair.

Although I’m usually on an “every five years” attendance plan, I went to the fair this year with my friend, Mary (for reasons too long and involved to go into here). And not more than two seconds into the place, we spied the SPAM® sign on one of the buildings. And it turned out to be a SPAM® gift shop. And people—oh, the joy of seeing that beloved SPAM® name (not to mention the blue and gold colors which, by the by, are the same as the University of Michigan’s – Go Blue!) on everything from golf clubs to flip flops. (The flip flops were especially cool because the word SPAM® was carved out on the bottom so it would leave an imprint in the sand).

And so of course there were two SPAM® cookbooks for sale, one of which I had seen before but have not yet purchased, and the other was new to me and so that’s the one I went with. It’s a little book and while lacking in photos, it more than made up for it because there were recipes from around the U.S. just in case you wanted to tailor-make your recipe to your region.

And so that led to me making the infamous (I am not kidding here) Hawaiian dish, Loco Moco. And not just any Loco Moco but Sam Choy’s Loco Moco, Sam Choy being a famous Hawaiian chef and all. And actually, not just Sam Choy’s Loco Moco but Sam Choy’s SPAM® Loco Moco. Does it get any better? I think not.

Now before I get into the Loco Moco recipe, I have to pause here for station identification and to tell you that prior to me buying this cookbook, I had decided to try to make something that was “fair-worthy” for this blog but was having a heck of a time doing so. I don’t have that many Minnesota cookbooks and the ones I looked through did not have a recipe that really sent me flying.

And then there’s the problem of “the stick”—as in the running joke for years and years and years is that all the State Fair food is on “a stick.” Because, people, most of it is!

This year, for instance, you can get deep-fried bologna (wow—I spelled bologna wrong and had to run through the Oscar Mayer song until I got the letters right!) …on a stick, and deep-fried bacon cheddar mashed potatoes…on a stick…and so on and so forth. In previous years, it was pork chop…on a stick and alligator…on a stick and “hot dish” (casserole)…on a stick. We don’t have time to discuss the “deep-fried” portion of our program but let me just say four words that should make you shudder: “deep-fried cheese curds.” (Okay, technically “deep-fried” is a compound word and only counts as one word…so sue me).

So…if I had purchased the other cookbook, I could have made a SPAM shish kabob on a stick (because there was a recipe for that) and called it a day but that was way too easy. And so I locked and loaded on that island favorite, Loco Moco.

For those not familiar, Loco Moco is a favorite Hawaiian dish that includes meat and gravy, a fried egg and rice. Although I didn’t have a loco moco while in Hawaii (why, I do not know) at least I tried the Hawaiian lunch plate that consists of meat (usually fish) plus rice plus macaroni salad. Ours is not to question why.

And given how Hawaiians love their SPAM® (for reasons that are still had to fathom), it should come as no surprise that it was included in a Loco Moco recipe.

Now I will give you this: I am not a big fan of salt and although I could have gone with low-sodium SPAM, that would be cheating, and I’m not too fond of brown gravy, especially the mix kind that is loaded with sodium. But when in Rome…or when in Hawaii…or when at the Minnesota State Fair, one makes compromises. So eat it and enjoy it! Mahalo (or should I saw “Moo?”)

Sam Choy’s SPAM® Loco Moco (*not currently on a stick but give us time) – Serves 2
1 can SPAM® Luncheon Meat, chopped (the recipe says 7 ounce but all I found was 12)
½ cup chopped onions
1 package brown gravy mix
4 cups cooked white rice
4 eggs, fried any style

In a large skillet, sauté SPAM® and onion until lightly browned, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, empty brown gravy mix and stir in 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and let simmer 1 minute. Place warm rice in bowls. Fill with SPAM® mixture, then eggs and top with gravy.

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