Spam! For many years I lived in Minnesota, where Spam was first produced by Hormel Foods in 1937. Although I hear that Hawaiians are the biggest consumers of Spam, and even have it on the menus in McDonald’s and Burger Kings, I’m a Spam fan, I don’t care what’s in it; like hot dogs it’s comfort food because I ate it as a kid.
The other day my P.S. (Provider of Spam/hubby) was on his way out shopping and mentioned Spam was on sale. He asked if I was interested. It had been years since I’d had any, and I cheerfully said “Yes, I’ll do a blog on it!” He did his PHR (Patented Husband Eyeroll) and said “I knew you’d say that”. Thus Spam was stocked in my pantry.
My first thought was to use Spam in a breakfast strata. I had a half loaf of rustic sourdough bread to be used and some fresh spinach. The rest were basic ingredients and all I needed to do was some chopping and layering to make a dish that would carry us through a few breakfasts. We were both still dealing with head colds and it would be a fairly easy fix for the mornings.
I found a recipe, as I’d been debating how many eggs to use for this dish. I adapted the recipe quite a bit so I’m not going to link to the recipe. The results were purely based on my own previous experiences with breakfast stratas. Although it turned out delicious, it probably should have been baked differently for better results. But I’ll get to that part.
I preheated the oven to 450°F, following the recipe I’d found. I diced the bread into cubes and put them on a sheet pan, then toasted them in the oven. After maybe 10 – 15 minutes, they were perfectly browned. I think the timing may vary depending on the bread type. Eyeball it, as they often say.
While the bread toasted, I diced a small onion and sautéed it with a tablespoon of butter, again following the recipe. Normally I’d have used oil, but I thought I’d stick with the suggested butter. After about 4 minutes, the onion was browning and turning translucent.
I’d roughly chopped half a bag ( about 4 ounces) of fresh spinach. I added it to the skillet with the onions and stirred, cooking it for about a minute or so. It wilted fast. I removed the pan from the heat and set it aside.
Here’s where I varied from the recipe. I didn’t think 4 eggs and 1 ½ cups of milk would not be enough for the amount of bread cubes I had. I increased the eggs to 6 but only used a cup of half and half. I’ve made breakfast bakes that were too liquid even though they were cooked longer than specified, and always blamed the quantity of extra liquid. So I cut the liquid down and used half and half, which is in my usual go-to breakfast bake, but increased the eggs. It should have been an even switch on liquid.
I also added ground mustard, a traditional Quiche Lorraine ingredient, because we like the flavor it gives an egg dish. I added a minimal amount of salt, knowing the Spam would be salty. Then I added pepper. I whisked the egg mixture until it was smooth and set it aside.
I used a whole can of Spam, and diced it fairly small.
Finally I was ready to start layering: I sprayed an 8”x11” baking dish and layered in half of the toasted bread cubes. On top of that I layered half of the onion and spinach mixture.
Next I layered half of the cubes of Spam, then one cup of the shredded cheddar cheese. Done with the first round! Repeat with the second layers.
For stratas I always take my fingers and bring up some bread cubes from below, plucking and making it all pretty. I like to have browned cubes on top when it’s all baked and finished.
My stylizing done, I whisked the egg mixture to blend it again and poured it over the top of the strata. I made sure I covered every exposed cube. Then I pressed the contents down with my hand to make sure it was evenly dispersed. I let the dish set for about 10 minutes to soak into the bread then put it into the 450°F oven covered with foil, as directed by the recipe I was loosely following.
I set the timer for 10 minutes, then removed the foil and let it bake another 10 minutes as directed. I tested the center with a knife and it was still totally liquid. Well darn, the recipe said 10 and 10. Now what? I decided the top was getting browned enough, and put the foil back on. I set the timer for another 20 minutes, and crossed my fingers.
When I took the foil off, the center of the strata was puffed up, which meant it had firmed up. I inserted a knife to be sure, and it left a clean, dry cut. Excellent!
I’ll admit I’ve never baked a breakfast egg dish at 450°F before. I don’t think I’d do that again. The outside of the dish got a little dark; not burned, just browned and it still tasted very good. Still, it was a bit tough to cut into pieces as it was eaten. Adapting a recipe is always tricky when it comes to the oven and timing part. I modified the temperature and times in the recipe below.
Next time I’ll return to using a 350°F for an hour, and the foil would not be needed. That’s my usual method that works fine. I will take the blame for overcooking it slightly because I was busy with another chore. If I’d watched it closer it would have only cooked for 10 minutes instead of 20, the last time when I put the foil back on. I need to learn to do one thing at a time.
The flavors were great! I love spinach in egg dishes and the Spam is so similar to bacon or sausage it fits into the dish very well. It is a bit salty, so I caution about adding other salt to the egg mixture. It really isn’t necessary. The cheesy goodness throughout the strata is the best part.
Spam in the A.M.
4 cups cubed bread; I used a crusty old sourdough
1 small onion
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces fresh spinach; roughly chopped
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups sharp cheddar; shredded
1 tin Spam
Toast the bread cubes on a sheet pan in a 450°F oven for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Set aside.
Saute the diced onion in a skillet with the butter until browning and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir until it is wilted, another minute or so.
In a bowl or measuring pitcher, add eggs, half and half, mustard, salt and pepper. Beat until smooth with a whisk.
Slice and dice spam into 1/2″ cubes.
Spray a baking dish (mine was 6×8) with cooking spray. Layer half of the bread cubes over the bottom.
Spread half of the onion and spinach mixture over the bread cubes.
Spread half of the diced spam over the top, followed by half of the cheddar cheese.
Repeat layers. Use your fingers to lift some of the bread cubes to the top, making it more rustic looking.
Pour the egg mixture over the top,making sure all of the top cubes are dampened. Press down to make the contents even.
Place dish into a 350°F oven for 60 minutes.
Test with a knife inserted into the center to make sure it is firm, and not wet.