Spam ’N’ Mac

“To die for” was how a young lady described a dish of “Lobster Mac” she had eaten the night before our conversation. It’s macaroni and cheese with lobster meat baked into the casserole. I really like lobster and enjoy good macaroni and cheese, so I am sure I would agree with her assessment of the dish, but I have never tried it.

For me the problem is the cost. A pound of lobster meat can easily cost $50 and a small side dish of Lobster Mac will set you back $15 to $20. I have found a delicious alternative for less than $5 a pound that I am sure will soon be appearing at “haute cuisine” restaurants from coast to coast. You may pay $15 for a little side dish of Spam ’N’ Mac at some of those restaurants, but you can create this gourmet dinner at home for what it costs to make hamburger hotdish.

On our way back from visiting relatives in Kansas, Jerri and I decided to revisit the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, which was moved from its original quarters to a new location downtown. It was late on a Tuesday afternoon when we walked past the bronze sculpture of a farmer with two pigs that we had had our picture taken with many years ago.

Ours was a fun reunion with the history of a meat product that I remember fondly. I knew that Spam was a lunch meat combination of pork shoulder and ham invented by the Hormel Company in 1937. However, I had forgotten that one hundred and fifty million pounds of Spam were shipped to soldiers and civilians during World War II. I did know that thousands of cans of Hot and Spicy Spam were shipped to Guam every year, but I was not aware that Hormel now made Spam for other food cultures.

There is Jalapeño Spam for Texas, for instance, Portuguese Sausage Spam for Hawaii, Teriyaki Spam for Korea and Chorizo Spam for Mexico, as well as Garlic, Bacon, Black Pepper, Turkey and Hickory Smoke Spam for adventurous Americans along with the Classic Spam I grew up with. You can buy all these varieties at the museum in Austin or on the museum web site.

Mom kept a can of Spam on a shelf for emergencies and we do the same today. Every few weeks, Mom would fix Spam and Eggs, slices of meat fried until slightly crisp on the outside and served with fried eggs and toast for breakfast. We still enjoy a breakfast of Spam and Eggs at least a couple times a year.

Until I created Spam ’N’ Mac with Portuguese Spam, Spam and Eggs was my favorite way to enjoy this meat. But then I saw the cans of Portuguese Sausage Spam. I had no idea what it tasted like, but the man who greeted us informed me that it was a little spicy and the most popular variety of Spam in Hawaii.

I could not resist, and we enjoyed a delicious Spam ’N’ Mac supper a few days after we got home from our visit to the museum. I was told that Portuguese Sausage Spam is available only at Austin, Minnesota or Hawaii, but I am betting that a few drops of hot sauce will make Spam ’N’ Mac with classic Spam taste just as good. If not, I promise to let you know soon.

INGREDIENTS:

About 3 quarts water
Salt to taste
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
3 T butter
3 T all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. ground dry mustard
1/8 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese
8 oz. Portuguese Sausage Spam
2-3 T breadcrumbs

PROCEDURE:

Heat about three quarts of water to boiling in a saucepan or Dutch oven. Add salt if you wish. I add about a half teaspoon of salt to the water for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375º while the water is heating, grease a three-quart casserole and start making the sauce.

Add the macaroni when the water comes to a boil and set a timer for eight minutes.

Heat the milk to steaming and shred the cheese.

Melt the butter over moderate heat and stir in the flour, salt, pepper, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook the roux for about three minutes. Chop the Spam into a quarter-inch dice.

Stir the hot milk into the roux until you have a smooth sauce. Cook the sauce for about two minutes until it thickens, then add the shredded cheese gradually while stirring until you have a smooth sauce. Blend in the Spam.

Drain the cooked macaroni and return it to the pan. Mix the sauce with the macaroni.

Put the macaroni into the casserole, sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top and put the casserole into the oven. Bake for about twenty-five minutes until the casserole is bubbling and the bread crumbs have begun to brown.

This recipe makes four generous servings. Serve with a salad and a glass of wine.