Spam, for the discerning eater, is a four-letter word. Nothing but gobs of cholesterol, artery-cogging fat and diet-busting calories. Spam makes better jokes than dinner.
Then there are the defenders, like Darlene Buerger of Peoria, Ariz., who relish the mystery meat introduced to budget-conscious America in 1937 for its distinctive flavor.
“It’s so sad that people make fun of Spam. It’s really wonderful stuff,” said Buerger, who recently parlayed Spam love into an award-winning recipe. Her Spamilicious Corn Chowder Pot Pies won the $3,000 grand prize in the Great American Spam Championship.
Spam championship contestants enter their concoctions at 40 state and country fairs around the country, and winners are notified by the spring. Buerger’s victory over nearly 700 entries came after entering the contest off and on for years.
Buerger, who also won first place in the Arizona State Fair last fall, credits her win to the pot pie’s comforting flavors – the creamy corn, smoked paprika, phyllo dough crust and, of course, the salty bite of Spam or Spam bacon.
“I just started putting things I like together, creating a dish that brings out the best of Spam, ” she said. “This year it worked.”
CHOWDER POT PIES
1 can Spam, 12-ounces, with bacon or Spam classic, finely diced
1 medium onion, diced
one-half cup melted butter, divided
one-fourth cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
one-fourth teaspoon smoked paprika
one-fourth teaspoon chicken bouillon
1 cup corn, slightly thawed
one-half package, or 8 ounces, phyllo dough, thawed
In large skillet, over medium heat, saute Spam and onion in one-fourth cup butter until the onion is softened and the Spam is lightly browned. Reduce heat to low and add the flour; cook and stir for 1 minute.
Stir in the chicken broth and increase the heat to medium. Continue stirring as broth thickens. Add the half-and-half, paprika, bouillon and corn. Cook and stir for an additional 1-2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Remove phyllo dough from the refrigerator. Working quickly, separate two sheets of dough and crisscross the sheets over 4 individual (4-inch) glass custard cups or springform pans. Gently press dough into pans (allowing the excess dough to hang over the edge).
Brush the bottom of the dough with melted butter. Repeat this process two more times with phyllo dough and butter. Pour prepared filling into the pans. Press excess dough over filling, brushing pastry with butter after each fold. Brush the top of each pastry with butter. Place custard cups or springform pans onto a baking sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until the tops of each pie are golden brown. Remove pot pies from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Carefully remove pies from pans. Makes 4 servings.