I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men this week, and I found a recipe that could have made the short list for Betty Draper’s “Trip Around the World” menu. After all, what trip around the world is complete without a stop in the mid-Pacific for some Hawaiian Party Casserole?
The recipe comes from the Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking from the Homemakers Research Institute (1959), which has always proven itself to be an excellent source of WTF. What makes this dish “Hawaiian” (or at least a 1950’s stereotype of Hawaiian)? It has pineapple and Spam in it! Isn’t that culturally authentic enough for you? Honestly, you’re so hard to please.
As thrilling as I find the danger and excitement of an experimental casserole, I don’t like to waste food. (Please note: I ate that Carrot Carousel ALL WEEK until it was gone!) This was supposed to be a “party” sized casserole (which is code for “lots of leftovers”). I only made half of the recipe, because I didn’t want to bring leftover Spam to work for lunch every day.
Hawaiian Party Casserole calls for grated luncheon meat, and please, take my word for it: Spam is a slippery bastard. You’re trying to grate it, and it’s slipping out of your hand, squishing between your fingers… just generally unpleasant. I pray to Batman that you remembered to remove any rings from your fingers before you started, or they’re going to smell like cat food for days. Or so I’ve heard.
The luncheon meat gets layered with pineapple slices. Over this you pour a sauce of thickened pineapple juice, chopped celery, and chopped green peppers. You arrange some more pineapple slices and little mounds of mashed potatoes on top, then pop it in the oven.
It tastes (unsurprisingly) like processed meat and pineapple. Both my husband and I had some mild indigestion, but nothing we couldn’t tough out. I would warn that it is pretty salty, and I was drinking tons of water for the rest of the evening. The Spam is concealed under the viscous layer of goo and other toppings, but you can never forget that the amorphous pink blob is there, lying in wait until it can glom onto your unsuspecting digestive tract.
Aloha, and enjoy!
Hawaiian Party Casserole
2 cans (12 oz. each) luncheon meat, coarsely grated
1 No. 2 can pineapple slices, drained
5 teaspoons cornstarch
Juice drained from pineapple
½ cup sliced celery
½ cup finely chopped green pepper
2 pounds potatoes, pared and cooked
Reserve 3 slices pineapple and arrange layers of meat and remaining pineapple in 3-quart casserole. Blend cornstarch with a little pineapple juice; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add celery and green pepper to pineapple mixture and cook until crisply tender. Pour over contents of casserole. Season and mash potatoes; place in mounds around edge of casserole. Make a depression in each. Arrange reserved pineapple slices in center of casserole. Bake in hot oven (400°F) 35 to 40 minutes. Before serving, dot potatoes with cutter. Serves 6 to 8.