It's been a big week in food news, what with the James Beard Foundation announcing that three Milwaukee chefs (and six total from Wisconsin) made the 2016 semifinals.
But, for a Sheboygan woman with Milwaukee ties, the week just got even better.
The final judging for the 25th annual Great American Spam Championship wrapped up this week, and for the first time in the contest’s history, the grand prize winner was from Wisconsin.
Lisa Dziadulewicz, a 49-year-old former attorney and mother of four, swept the competition with her Gemutlichkeit Spamwich, a schnitzel inspired recipe featuring sauteed panko-crusted slices of Spam with Bacon stacked atop pretzel buns with a classic warm red cabbage slaw teeming with plenty of bacon.
The sandwich beat out 26 regionally-inspired recipes from across the country including Spam street tacos, wild rice salad, "The Figgy Pig" flatbread, southern-style shrimp & grits and pierogi Spam chowder.
"I grew up in the Milwaukee area," says Dziadulewicz. "My mother is German, so I grew up eating a lot of German food. And what goes better with pork than red cabbage? Ultimately, I decided to treat the Spam like a schnitzel. And I added additional local flair with pretzel rolls from Mueller Bakery and Wisconsin-made mustard from Mustard Girl."
The sandwich, says Dziadulewicz, was her first submission ever to a national contest, although she has submitted a variety of jam recipes over the years to both her local county fair and the Wisconsin State Fair.
"My kids love to cook, and they’re obsessed with ‘MasterChef,’" she says. "So, I cook a lot with them. And with the Spam contest, we really started to play around more with Spam."
Interestingly enough, award winning Spam recipes seem to run in the family. In 2013, Dziadulewicz’s son William Tipton won first place in the children’s division at the Wisconsin State Fair for his Spam creation, the Huli-Huli Fresh and Fruity Sandwich.
As grand prize winner, Dziadulewicz has received a $3,000 all expense paid trip for two to Hawaii to attend the the SPAM JAM Waikiki Festival on April 30, a popular event which drew 26,000 people in 2015.
Dziadulewicz says she couldn’t be more excited.
"I am going to be the Spam Queen of Wakiki," she notes. "And I can’t wait to go to Hawaii. I love it there and haven’t been there for probably 20 years...I’ve actually told my kids they can start to call me ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘Your Spamness.’"
2015 Grand Prize Winner, Wisconsin State Fair Great American SPAM® Championship, adult category
8 ounces HORMEL BLACK LABEL Bacon
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups thinly sliced green and red cabbage
12 hamburger sized pretzel rolls
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 (12-ounce) cans SPAM with Bacon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup sweet spicy mustard
Dice bacon into 1/2-inch pieces. Cook over low heat until crispy; drain on paper towels and set aside. Sauté onion in skillet with 2-3 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Cook over medium low heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle onion with 1 tablespoon of the flour. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar; stirring until the sugar dissolves. Season as desired with salt and pepper. Add cabbage and stir until it slightly wilts, about 1 minute. Add reserved bacon. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Cut pretzel rolls in half. Lightly brush rolls with a small amount of oil and place face-side down on a baking sheet. Lightly toast rolls in the oven for about 5-10 minutes; set aside. Place remaining oil in large nonstick skillet (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) and heat over medium heat.
Slice each can of SPAM with Bacon into 6lengthwise slices (for a total of 12 slices). Place flour, eggs and panko crumbs into three separate pans. Dip each slice of SPAM with Bacon into flour, following by egg and then into the panko crumbs. Sauté the SPAM with Bacon slices until golden brown on both sides. Place SPAM with Bacon in warm oven and hold until all slices have been browned.
For assembly, spread the bottom half of each toasted pretzel bun with mustard. Top with SPAM with Bacon and the cabbage slaw. Top with roll tops and serve immediately.
Makes 12 sandwiches.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.