Spam--Not Just for Hawaiians Anymore

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Ladies and Gentlemen, here's your regular spam (right) and your "hickory smoked" (left)

This Sunday's New York Times business section featured a story about the resurgence of Spam. Although Hormel wouldn't cooperate with the article, workers at the Spam factory in Austin, Minnesota told the reporter that they've been working crazy overtime since July. Spam is being cranked out non-stop, seven days a week, apparently because the economy is causing people to reconsider the canned, pink, ham-ish product.

Spam sales are presumably up because it's cheap, but at Fairway, chicken thighs are $1.99 per pound, while Spam is $2.89 for 12 ounces. Still, Spam is very affordable, ready-to-eat and you don't have to add flavorings. Plus, you can't eat too much of it.

Spam is very popular in Hawaii and the Philippines, where it was introduced by American servicemen during World War II. If all those people who like delicious adobo also like Spam, it can't be so bad, right?

I'm no stranger to molded meat, both industrial (hot dogs) and fancy (rillettes, head cheese) but I have somehow gone my whole life without eating Spam. There's no reason that I should be squeamish about it, having happily eaten pretty much every part of the pig already. Even so, there's something creepy about the way Spam glistens. But it turns out to taste just like the inside of a hot dog.

If we're all going to lose our jobs and hunker down in a bunker eating canned meat, you want at least one nice recipe for the bunker holiday party, right? So into DTK (DiGregorio Test Kitchens) I went, armed with two cans of Spam (one regular, one hickory smoked) and lots of oil.

Here's what happened. And they taste pretty good. Actually, they're amazing.

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The future of entertaining


Crispy Spiced Spam Skewers
Yield: 6 skewers

1 (12-ounce) can Spam (hickory smoked or original)
canola oil, for deep-frying
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chili powder (preferably Gebhardt brand)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
To serve:
bottled barbecue sauce
booze of your choice

Slice the Spam length-wise into 6 playing-card-shaped pieces. Set aside. Into a large, heavy pot, pour the oil to a depth of about 4 inches. Place the oil over medium-high heat, and allow the oil to reach 350 degrees. (You can approximate this by dropping a pinch of flour into the oil. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough.)

In a medium bowl, combine the panko, rice flour, salt, chili powder and baking soda. Mix well. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Take a piece of Spam, immerse it in the eggs, and then dredge it in the panko mixture, pressing the panko onto the surface of the Spam until well coated. Repeat with remaining slices.

Working in two batches (to avoid crowding the pan), fry the slices of Spam in the oil until golden and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove, and place the Spam on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Stick a skewer in each piece, and serve with bottled barbecue sauce and lots of booze.

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