April 13, 2023

You Should Absolutely Make This Spam and Tater Tot Casserole

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Spam is a block of salty, umami-heavy satisfaction in an average meal scenario, but casserole it with eggs and tater tots, and it rises into an entirely different level. This casserole somehow tastes like a cross between fast food and fancy, but maybe that’s just a state of mind. Regardless, you should absolutely treat yourself to a Spam and tater tot casserole.

This crowd pleaser of a dish is a prime example of the excellent results you can get from using packaged foods to make a creative meal. Spam and tater tot casserole uses these eponymous ingredients in their store-bought form, no need to prepare and cook up protein or potatoes, and aside from onion powder and paprika to dress up the eggs, the components are already seasoned. I especially appreciated the specific use of smoked paprika. It’s not as obvious of a flavor booster as garlic powder, but it worked wonders to amplify the smoky flavors of the Spam.

I expected this dish to taste great, but I was in no way prepared for how the tater tots would transform the overall texture. They’re added into the mixture straight from the freezer, no thawing necessary, so I assumed the spuds would end up as individual, discernible potato bites. Instead the tots softened and blended seamlessly into the fluffy egg base, infusing the entire casserole with tater flavor. Any potato bites that were poking out of the mixture on top crisped up nicely, giving me the overall impression that I was eating a refined french fry bread pudding.

I stumbled upon this genius recipe on the Spam website, and while I think the ingredients and instructions are accurate for the most part, there are a few things to consider to ensure your casserole is a success. The recipe calls for “one bag” of tater tots, but doesn’t indicate what size bag. A 28-ounce bag versus a 5-pound bag is quite the difference. I used a 28 ounce bag (Ore-Ida tater tots) and felt like it might even be better with a handful fewer tots.

The recipe also doesn’t mention how to prepare the baking dish. Butter the darn thing. Not the biggest loss if you forget to do this, but I prefer when my casserole slices don’t put up a fight. Give the dish a quick lather of butter along the bottom and the sides to prevent any egg from sticking. To give your casserole a finished look, reserve a cup of cheese and a cup of seared Spam cubes to top the casserole before baking. The picture on the Spam website shows the top of the casserole with extra crispy meaty bits, but if you don’t set some aside, you won’t have such a picturesque top.

This last tip is critical: Do not broil it for 15-20 minutes like the recipe instructs. I don’t know what kind of broiler they have at the Spam test kitchen but that is far too long for my broil function. I actually did not need to broil mine at all, because it was perfectly golden and crispy after 45 minutes of regular baking, plus the Spam gets pan seared in the second step so it’s already crisp. If you do think broiling is a good idea, do it for 3 minutes and watch it like a hawk for every extra minute.

You can even explore beyond Spam and tater tots. Try adding other spices, chopped bacon, minced herbs, or mix in a tablespoon of barbecue sauce. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way to making a fine casserole that floats for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Modified Spam Tater Tot Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 can Spam, ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 eggs, whisked
  • 18 or 19 ounces of tater tots (about ⅔ of a 28-ounce bag)
  • 3 cups of loosely packed shredded cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a casserole dish, an 8-inch by 10-inch, or thereabouts.

In a frying pan over medium heat, sauté the onion in the butter until translucent. Set aside in a large bowl. In the same pan, fry the cubed Spam until crisped and browned on at least one side of each cube. Add all but a scant cup of the Spam cubes to the large bowl.

Reserve that cup of Spam cubes and a scant cup of the shredded cheese for the topping,

Add the dry seasonings to the bowl and toss. Add the eggs, tots, and remaining cheese and stir to evenly combine everything. Dump the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Scatter the reserved Spam and cheese on top. Bake in the 350°F oven for 45 minutes. Optionally broil at the end for 3-5 minutes for an extra toasted top. Cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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