Laurie Robertson wasn’t thinking about winning a trip to Hawaii when she came up with this crazy concoction.
It pairs Hot and Spicy Spam with macadamia nuts, coconut and toffee on a base of ... saltine crackers.
She was just looking for a good entry for the annual Spam contest at the N.C. State Fair in Raleigh last fall. She was planning to enter her family favorite, Spam Stroganoff, but it didn’t fit the theme, “sweet and savory.” She started playing with a Christmas cookie she makes, swapping saltine crackers for the graham crackers and turning shredded Spam into a crisp topping.
Then she added macadamia nuts and coconut because of Spam’s legendary popularity in Hawaii. The national contest – and the prize – hadn’t occurred to her.
“I never thought I’d win a trip to Hawaii,” she says. “But when I tasted that, it was, ‘Wow, that’s really cool.’ Sweet and spicy and salty – it hit all levels.”
First, she won at the fair, which put her dish in the running at the annual Great American Spam Championship at Hormel’s headquarters in Minnesota in February. It went up against equally creative ideas, like Spam ice cream, Spam parfaits, Spam turnovers and Spam salad. (Go ahead, we’re all humming it: “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam . . .”)
“Now I see how people create things,” says Robertson, who had never entered a cooking contest before. “That’s never really happened to me.”
Hawaiian Spam Crackle beat them all, winning Robertson the grand prize: A five-day trip to Hawaii, where her dish will be sold at the Waikiki Spam Jam Festival on April 29.
Robertson has solid Spam-cooking credentials. She grew up in a family with five kids, then raised her own big family that includes her four children and a stepdaughter. Spam Stroganoff was in regular rotation for two generations.
After raising her family as a stay-at-home parent, Robertson, 55, wants to go to culinary school and become a caterer. Not only has she cooked for a lot of kids, she and her husband own a fire-detection service and throw big gatherings for their employees, where she has had to handle the food for 30 to 70 people.
“I really didn’t think it was a gift, until I’d hear people say, ‘How do you do this many people?’ Even 10 people, they get stressed. It’s something I really enjoy.”
She and her daughter Kady, 22, who’s going with her, haven’t had time to decide what they want to do in Hawaii. But she’s already planned one activity: Spam spotting. Stores there stock more flavors than people get on the mainland.
“Did you know that Spam has 15 varieties? They have a chorizo one, and a Portuguese sausage one. There’s a teriyaki one. I’m looking forward to going into their grocery stores and seeing them all.”
Hawaiian Spam Crackle
From Laurie Robertson of Charlotte, grand prize winner in the adult division for the Great American Spam Championship.
45 saltine crackers (see note)
1 (12-ounce) can Spam Hot and Spicy (see note)
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, plus 1 tablespoon butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup dry-roasted macadamia nuts, chopped
1 cup coconut flakes or shredded coconut
Line an 17-by-11-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Place crackers (salt side down) in a single layer on the pan.
Remove the Spam from the can and shred it (Robertson grates it). Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the shredded Spam. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to drain.
Place the brown sugar and remaining 1 cup butter in a medium saucepan. Stirring frequently, cook over medium-low heat until the sugar is melted. Increase temperature to medium-high and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the brown sugar mixture over the crackers.
Sprinkle the shredded Spam over the sugar mixture, then top with macadamia nuts and coconut. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Break apart into individual crackers. Store in the refrigerator.
Note: You also can use regular Spam. If you use a half-sheet pan (18 by 13 inches), you’ll need 48 crackers.
Yield: 45 to 48 crackers.