A great idea?
Joking with friends about the relative virtues of canned meat (cheap? versatile? meatless?), the idea of recreating a canned meat dish from our youth is brought up. Unanimous, alcohol fueled agreement ensued and canned meat night is born.
The contents of corned beef and canned ham are pretty obvious, but what the heck is spam made from? My guess was ham but the official definition is: a canned meat made largely from pork. Unfortunately it doesn’t mention what the rest of it is made from so we’ll just have to assume more pork… Right? Yikes. This meat off was going to be more interesting then we thought. I’ve never had pig snout before.
My plan? To make a simple corned beef and cabbage dish I used to make in my cooking heyday. I was prepared to do so too, right up until the day of our dinner buffet when it happened.
Ok, what was ‘it’?
Rumour had it (via Facebook) that one of my now competitors was stepping up her game and creating a new canned meat dish. Although it wasn’t really a competition (we’re good friends after all!), it was totally a competition, and I don’t like to lose.
Brainstorming corned beef recipes, I debate between making a corned beef chili, a corned beef tourtière (inspired from the award winning one from last week) or even cheese topped corned beef stuffed peppers. Tossing those ideas aside, I decide to bring together my love of perogies, with my fond memories of corned beef.
Dish #1 – corned beef stew served over rice. Dish #2 – Corned beef perogies (c).
Great beginnings in the kitchen
As I open the can of corned beef, a glob of something (gelatinous meat fat? meat juice?) slops onto my fingers and I nearly gag at the sight and smell of it. With only 2 hours to go until the meat off, I still have to make fresh perogy shells, boil, mash and roast potatoes, boil rice, then chop and perfectly stir-fry various vegetables to culinary perfection. I’ll also need to figure out a way to do it all without having to actually smell or touch the meat. Gag.
90 minutes in, I realize why my mother was laughing on the phone when I told her I was going to make perogy shells for the first time. Those little bastards are tough to master in one try. The dough I made was too thick and sticky and then I added flour and then they were too dry and falling apart so I added more water but then they got sticky again and then argh!! Plus, I couldn’t roll them as thin as they were supposed to be and they looked very yellow (aren’t perogy shells white?). A glance at the clock tells me I don’t have time to fill all the things I’m now going to call dumplings at the pace I was going at. As I begin to shove mounds of filling into large balls of malformed dough, I decide what I’m really making are meat patties. I was originally planning to boil some water and cook them as I would a perogy but I realize that they would need alot more help than that. Turning to every questionable chef’s fall back, I decide to add the only thing that could save these sorry excuses for what I’m now going to call empanadas would be fat, and lots of it. Combining melted butter, olive oil and coconut oil to a deep dish pan, I plan to pan fry my way to the top.
For the remaining 30 minutes, I chop, saute and season everything as best I can, hoping it will all taste better at judging (my friends’ place). Throwing it all together and tossing it into Tupperware containers, I pack up and head to the judges table.
Judges, for your consideration please
Contestant #1: Canned ham
Tag line: Do the green eggs come in a can too?
The dish: Asian style ham & eggs
Wok style green onion and garlic fried rice, served with pan-fried ham, seaweed and sunny side eggs
Eating instructions: crack the egg yolk and mix into the rice, eat with seaweed, ham and soy sauce.
Reasons to win:
- Creative eating style
- Great presentation
- Mmmm yum!
Contestant #2: Corned Beef
Tag line: There’s nothing corny about this delicious dish
- Corned beef and vegetable medley (red pepper, cabbage, green pepper, onion, garlic, carrot, green onion)served over flavoured organic brown rice
- Corned beef, potato and rosemary empanadas
Reasons to win:
- Yummy empanadas
- Fresh tasting stir fry
- Mmmm yum!
Contestant #3: Spam
Tag line: you’d definitely accept this in your inbox
Reasons to win:
- Creative dishes
- We kept repeating, “This is spam?”
- Mmmm yum!
And the winner is…
When it comes to canned beef, there are no winners. High in sodium and fat content, canned meat should not be included in anyone’s diet should they want to live past middle age. Taste wise, everything tasted delicious. As it should since canned meat may as well be called pork bacon or beef bacon in a can. Once you fry it up (as all of us did), the flavour of the meat product comes out and makes each dish wonderfully tasty.
Best presentation: Asian style ham & eggs
Best tasting: Musubi (spam sushi)
Overall winner: ?????
With no impartial judges in the bunch, it was next to impossible to pick a best dish as we would each pick our own if given the chance. After seeing the raw contents of the canned meat (gag) and then indulging in 5 dishes of canned meat madness, there’s only one thing I know for sure: I will not be ready to eat any kind of meat or canned meat for a long time. Also, I should have gone with the chili.