That’s what I had to work with for a meal I made this week. You see So Good readers, as I’ve discussed before, one of the few perks of being a food blogger is companies like to send you food products so you and/or friends can sample them. About a month ago, POM Wonderful sent me a couple cases of pomegranates, and I took the bait, going to town and making a 6-course pomegranate themed meal for me and friends that was damn tasty.  Well this past month brought a new offer. FoodBuzz, the delightful folks who place those fun banner ads on the right-hand side of my site, e-mailed me to ask if I would like to take part in a “Tastemaker” giveaway for Hormel. I was like, “hmmmm…Hormel? You mean those dudes who offer extremely salty pieces of meat in dozens of different forms, be it in a can, a bag or a box?” Alright Hormel, I’ll play your game. You supply me with some salty meats, and I’ll have a little meal/party with friends.

A little over a week ago a package arrived. It’s contents: 1 bag of pre-cooked bacon pieces, one bag of mini-pepperoni and some coupons for Hormel “Cure 41″ ham. Wow, talk about a processed meat invasion. I gagged a little just opening the package. Now I’ve never been a big fan of ham. I eat it about once a year at Christmas – a good, smoked Christmas ham. Then, I pretty much forget about it for another 11 1/2 months. Don’t even like it on my sandwiches.

Now clearly with Christmas on the horizon, Hormel wants ham to be top of mind – specifically Hormel ham. But if you’re anything like me, you long for a big, juicy Christmas turkey instead of ham – hey, it’s your Christmas, don’t be afraid to go against tradition and make what you enjoy eating. So my task – make a meal for myself and some friends involving ham, bacon pieces and mini-pepperonis. Yikes. With those ingredients I wanted to stay true to how I view Hormel (cheap, meaty, salty) so I wasn’t gonna try and get fancy. This called for something simple, but also hearty and traditional. I immediately knew what I wanted to make: soup & a sandwich. You don’t get any combination more classic than that one.

This bad boy you see pictured above is a sandwich version one of my favorite pizzas. I love the combo of salty, sweet and spicy, and often order a pizza with pinneapple, jalapeno peppers, and either bacon or ham.  This sandwich above replicates my love of that pizza – ham, melted cheese, pinneapple and jalapeno mayo. Throw  it in a pan, on a pannini press or a Foreman grill and you’ve got yourself one damn tasty sandwich. I served it on multi-grain bread – pretty much any bread will do, but I like a good rye or multi-grain for this sandwich.

When I was in college one of my favorite soup and sandwich places used to have a fantastic New England clam chowder with bacon in it. Delicious. But now I live in the mid-Atlantic, where you can’t say the word “seafood” without someone showering you in Old Bay. So what you see above is a New England clam chowder with Old Bay and bacon pieces. Normally I’d cook them both mixed in with the soup, but for the purposes of this photo I dropped some on top.

Oh yeah, and I also had mini-pepperoni. Ugh. My complaints about the excess popularity of pepperoni pizza have been well noted on this blog, and these mini-ronis were basically just little grease balls, lacking the somewhat appealing thin, salty texture of regular pepperoni. Sticking with the soup and sandwich theme though, my mind immediately went to crackers. I kept it straight-forward, simple and stoner-tastic, going absolutely bare-bones by dropping a little shredded cheese and some mini-pepperonis on a few Wheat Thins and putting them in the toaster oven. A luxurious snack when I was a college student but a mouthful of saltiness for my now 30 year-old palate. You can just see the pepperoni grease glistening for the camera lens, its greasy good/badness shining so bright as to prevent the rest of the photo from ever fully coming into focus.

The sandwich was truly a delicious work of art. The clam chowder, not too bad, and the mini-pepperonis on crackers? Well, lets just say next time I’m gonna have to figure out a way to better mask/obscure their greasiness, cause this snack was just a bit too stoner-tastic for my liking. That my friends, is my attempt at a meal with ham, pre-cooked bacon and mini pepperoni. Do I have the culinary chops to have taken those ingredients and made something fancy? Of course I do. But sometimes you just gotta keep it simple. When you’re dealing with ultra salty meat like Hormel makes, your target consumer isn’t generally people with a super-foodie like palate. For the average eater, sometimes you don’t need to get any fancier than a tasty sandwich with a side of soup.

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