Wood Working: I’m not alone: Even great chefs savor delectable qualities of SpamLast month my favorite local food writer Kathie Jenkins of the Pioneer Press asked a slew of prominent Twin Cities chefs if they ever ate anything out of a can, and, if so, what was their favorite?
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
Last month my favorite local food writer Kathie Jenkins of the Pioneer Press asked a slew of prominent Twin Cities chefs if they ever ate anything out of a can, and, if so, what was their favorite?
Some responses truly puzzled me. One fellow said kidney beans, another said sardines in tomato sauce. Any devotee of King Oscar knows it has to be oil or nothing.
Some chefs’ responses made me want to dine at their restaurants.
John Sievers of Dixie’s on Grand in St. Paul said, “I’m a sucker for a good can of salmon, but it has got to be red salmon.”
Amen, John. And if it’s red it should be Deming’s.
Drew Wilson, Bar Abilene in Minneapolis said “canned chili…great when you’re slumming it.”
I beg your pardon, Drew. “Slumming it?”
For my money, Hormel’s Chili without beans is as good as chili gets. It’s tasty and has just the right amount of bite. But remember: No beans.
Ray Wyatt of the Rivertown Inn at Stillwater, Minn., said, “I’m from England and grew up on canned ham. What I like about it is the coating of jelly. You spread that on bread. Ham jelly: Can’t beat it.”
Right on, Ray. Eat the jelly, throw the canned ham away.
Speaking of ham jelly, what I really miss is Spam jelly. In the bad old days, Spam came covered in a gelatin that was delicious.
Nowadays when you pry a hunk of Spam out of a can (sounds like a cow pulling a hind foot out of the muck) the meat is bare — pink like a baby’s bottom, but bare. I long for Spam Jell-O.
Nevertheless I have to agree with chef Tony Panelli of Caribe in St. Paul: “Hands down Spam is my favorite food out of a can. I like to fry it up and make sandwiches. My wife used to hate it, but now she’s hooked on it, too. Even my kids eat it.”
Ah, Tony, you’re too young to remember Spam’s golden age, when each chunk was covered with jelly. I might also add that you’re doing Spam a disservice by frying it. I know because that’s how my Grandma cooked it. She called “dolling it up.” She’d dip it in egg wash, then cracker crumbs and fry it. Or she’d score it, insert cloves at the interstices, swath it in plum jelly and bake it.
All this served to do was make Spam smell — and maybe even taste — like a pig pen, with sour corncobs and all. You’re a chef and thus should know that true aficionados of Spam prefer to eat it ice cold.
Here’s the recipe.
When your wife is out of town, go directly to the supermarket and purchase a can of Spam, the original one, not the low-fat kind, which is an abomination.
Put in refrigerator for at least one hour.
Get two slices of white bread, preferably Master English Muffin Bread.
When Spam is cold, remove it from can and slice two slabs about 1/2 inch thick.
Slather both bread slices with generous amounts of Hellman’s Mayonnaise. Kraft’s will not do, and using Miracle Whip should be punishable by stoning.
Place Spam on bread.
Cut bread in two.
Do not use mustard of any sort as it will obliterate the delicate bouquet of the meat and fat globules.
Wash down with a Diet Coke.
Repeat process until all the Spam is gone.
Take empty Spam can and put it in neighbor’s garbage, in case your wife ever returns.
The Wizards of Austin, Minn., have recently come up with a new wrinkle to help husbands elude the watchful eyes of their wives.
Nowadays, you can go to the supermarket and buy an individual serving of Spam, wrapped in plastic. Simply remove Spam from its package, burn the package in your fireplace and make sandwich as per above.
My grandmother wasn’t totally out to lunch when it came to Spam. She thought it was very expensive at 25 cents per can.
So she’d grind it up in her cast-iron grinder, along with an onion, and two hard-boiled eggs, add homemade cooked salad dressing to moisten, maybe even add a chopped pickle to stretch it even further, then spread it on bread, and say, “Vaer sa god” (help yourself).
And, like a mother robin, shove it into my gaping maw.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.