Richland Hills woman works magic with Spam

03/13/2014 4:24 PM

03/13/2014 10:12 PM

Sheila Doucet is not a foodie.

She freely admits that cooking is not something she does regularly — or particularly well.

But give the Richland Hills woman a can of Spam and all bets are off.

“The big joke is that I was switched at the hospital, because the women in my family are so domestic and I don’t even cook,” Doucet said. “Apparently, I’m the best Spam cook in the nation.”

The pork-based product, which has developed a cult following, was the featured ingredient in her Philly Dilly Spam Sandwich, which on Wednesday was named the winner of the 2013 Great American Spam Championship.

Her victory came after judges at last year’s Texas State Fair chose it as the best Spam recipe there. The sandwich then advanced to the national competition, where it was selected by the Blue Ribbon Group — an organization that coordinates food competitions with state and county fairs — as the best Spam recipe in the U.S.

Her recipe will be featured in early May at the 12th annual Waikiki Spam Jam Festival in Oahu, Hawaii.

Doucet will be there, touting her Spam-a-licious concoction.

“We collect winners from 26 fairs across the country, then pick one to go to the Waikiki Spam Jam,” said Cyndi Harles, contest coordinator for the Blue Ribbon Group. “The Hawaiians love Spam. And Spam Jam is an annual food festival that draws more than 20,000 people.”

Recipe ‘thrown together’

Doucet, 33, decided to enter the State Fair contest at the last minute, just to do something with her mother and grandmother. Her final recipe was “thrown together” the morning of the contest.

“My family was going anyway, so the night before the fair, I threw something together,” Doucet said. “I tried it three times, the last of which was the morning of the fair, and I took it with me. It just worked.”

Doucet’s mother, Sheri Long, and grandmother, Paula Skelton, won’t go with her to Hawaii. But Skelton said they’re proud of what she’s accomplished. Long and Skelton have competed in State Fair contests for years with impressive results: Both had recipes in the last State Fair of Texas Cookbook, Skelton said.

Watching her granddaughter turn into her biggest Spam competition didn’t upset Skelton. Her own entry was built on big and round focaccia bread.

“I made a big sandwich out of it with Spam three different ways: fried, grilled and raw,” said Skelton, 67. “I used a whole-grain mustard and four different kinds of cheese.”

A ‘delightful flavor’

Doucet’s win wasn’t due to familiarity with the medium, Skelton said.

“My husband, Clifford, loves Spam fried or just with mustard and cheese on bread,” Skelton said. “But we never were a big Spam family.”

Doucet’s roommate, Troy Hopson, also testified that Spam isn’t a regular part of their meals, but he certainly became acquainted with it as Doucet perfected her recipe.

“I was the guinea pig,” Hopson said. “Other than practicing for this [contest], I don’t think there’s ever been any [Spam] in the house. … Once she got it perfected, it turned out pretty good.”

Besides Spam, the sandwich was loaded with such tasty additions as grilled bell peppers and onions, Worcestershire sauce and two kinds of cheese.

Even after the State Fair win, Doucet doubted her culinary accomplishment. She thought it was her presentation — with handmade flags sporting the Spam can label — that carried the day.

Harles said that wasn’t so.

“There were no flags at the judging table at Hormel Test Kitchens,” Harles said. “I was part of the judging panel. It stood out because it was a fun twist on a classic sandwich. The ingredients combined perfectly for a great, savory, delightful flavor.”

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