What to cook with spam: Make it “country”

I suppose you could eat spam from the can, but why? Why eat it so literally and suffer from the color, the bland look, the imposed rectangular shape, not to mention the scorn from neighbors who rifle through your pantry during dinner parties? If you’ve asked yourself, “What to cook with spam?” let me offer an idea of how to cook it and what to put on top.

It’s a unique take on a “classic” that most of us would like to be kept on store shelves.

“What to cook with spam?”

A more helpful question to ask might be, “How do I cook spam?” or even “Why should I even eat spam?” There are so many meat choices that are better. (Is spam a meat or a “meat product”? A Kraft “cheese” slice is actually a “pasteurized cheese product.” Do you want to eat meat, or a meat product?

And if you must eat a meat product — if someone were to hold a spatula to your head and say, “Eat that spam or I’m going to turn you sunny-side up!” — you’d wonder how to transform spam into something that might keep the neighbors coming back.

Enter “Chicken-Fried Spam”!

Chicken-fried steak is a staple in Texas restaurants. Typically slathered in white gravy with sides like like mashed potatoes and green beans (and cornbread or hush puppies), chicken-fried steak has a cousin: “chicken-fried chicken,” which is essentially “fried chicken” without the bones. So we could say “boneless fried chicken,” but that sounds inferior. “Chicken-fried chicken” sounds much more justified on a menu, especially when even Cracker Barrel charges like $9.99 for it. (Plus three sides and a choice of breads, of course.)

So, I figured that if being “chicken-fried” made ordinary fried chicken into even better fried chicken, why not try it with spam?

What you’ll need

You’ll need these ingredients for chicken-fried anything.

  • buttermilk (I use almond milk)
  • flour
  • salt and pepper
  • paprika or cayenne pepper
  • eggs
  • Saltines
  • Panko bread crumbs

Steps

Do the following:

  1. Slice the spam to about 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Place the spam in a dish and cover the slices with buttermilk. I use almond milk, because I am trying to stay away from too much dairy, but buttermilk is good because its density holds the breading better.
  3. Chill for about 15-20 minutes (longer is better; 30 minutes is ideal)
  4. Meanwhile, set up the following:
    • Make three dipping stations, in this order
      • flour with salt, pepper and paprika/cayenne
      • eggs
      • crushed saltines to which you add Panko breadcrumbs
  5. Take the chilled and drenched spam slices and in this order dip and cover them well on both sides: flour mixture, eggs, and breadcrumb mixture.
  6. Place breaded spam on a plate and let sit for about 15 minutes.
  7. Take a cast iron skillet, pour 3/8ths of an inch of oil into it (or enough to cover the breaded slices) and bring to medium-high heat.
  8. When the oil starts to shimmer, carefully place the slices into the oil. Be careful not to splash the oil, and make room for each piece so they are not touching (or they will stick together).
  9. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, only until the underside of each piece is a light brown, and then flip, again taking care not to splash.
  10. Once browned on both sides, take out slices and place on a rack or on a plate with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

The good part

Here’s where we get to the fun part about what to cook with spam.

I was trying this out more out of curiosity than a desire to cook something so delicious that I’d do handstands. So I decided to make a caprese salad — Italian meets Texan — and put it on top of the slice of chicken-fried spam to make a sandwich out of it.

I used pumpernickel bread — as a dark bread, it gave me a feeling of “healthy” that was lacking by using spam — and first placed a piece of romaine on the bottom slice. This was to keep any remaining oil from soggying the bread. Then I placed a piece of chicken-fried spam on that.

And then, in a fit of what some would call brilliance and others would call “madness,” I placed tomato, a slice of mozzarella and fresh basil. A caprese salad. And then on top of that, I added a bespoke dressing of mayo mixed with sriracha.

A worthy experiment

On the side I made a small salad with baby spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and topped with a home-made raspberry balsamic vinaigrette.

I thought this might be a one-off. But my son, also a budding foodie, liked it. So perhaps I’ll try it again sometime. I still have three slices in the fridge.

For now, chicken-fried spam won’t become a staple in Texas restaurants or homes — I do make a mean chicken-fried steak, after all — but it’s always nice to know, in a pinch, what to cook with spam and how to do it.

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