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Hula Sliders with Grilled Pineapple Salsa and "Hawaiian Steak"

The first time I went to Hawaii, I was surprised to see SPAM luncheon meat advertised on menus as the "Hawaiian Steak." Living in Southern California, I found the same thing at a beachside Hawaiian restaurant. They served it grilled, sautéed, with rice and eggs, and even rolled into sushi! Ever since then, I've wanted to come up with a recipe that incorporates this regionally popular lunch meat while paying tribute to other local ingredients. The macadamia nut sprinkle is salty and sweet, with the toasted aroma of coconut and sesame seeds. It is a wonderful topping to keep around for both sweet and savory items; use it as a topping for coconut or mango ice cream or even as a breading for fish. This is a wonderful local American burger because it reminds me of childhood vacations and time with family. It reminds us to slow down and enjoy the "island lifestyle," even while we are on the mainland. I've never had a burger take me on a vacation in my very own backyard the way this one does.

Ingredients 

Macadamia Coconut Sesame Sprinkle
1 cup macadamia nuts
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Vegetable oil, for brushing grill rack

Grilled Pineapple Salsa
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into spears
Juice of 1 lime
2 jalapenos, diced
½ red onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
¼ cup minced cilantro
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 12-oz can SPAM lunch meat

Slider Patties
2 lbs. ground chuck
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup bottled teriyaki sauce
¼ cup green onions, sliced on a bias

1 ½ packages of King's Hawaiian Rolls, 12 per pack, or 18 total rolls
¾ cup mayonnaise

Instructions 

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

In a sauté pan, lightly toast macadamia nuts until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, toast coconut and sesame seeds until fragrant and lightly browned. In a food processor, combine macadamia nuts, coconut, sesame seeds, salt and sugar, pulsing until coarsely ground and combined. Set aside.

Brush grill rack with vegetable oil and continue to do so before placing a new item on the grill. To make grilled pineapple salsa, place pineapple spears on grill and cook, turning once, until pineapple is caramelized and has nice grill marks, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from grill and set aside. Once cool, dice pineapple into small chunks and combine with lime juice, jalapenos, red onion, red bell pepper, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Slice SPAM crosswise into 9 thin slices. Grill SPAM briefly, about 1 minute per side, in order to crisp outsides and attain grill marks. Stack slices and cut in half, to form 18 slider-size pieces.

To make patties, combine chuck, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and green onions. Gently combine ingredients and divide into 18 small patties, using a portion scoop or scale for ease, if desired. Place patties on grill and cook, turning once, for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until desired doneness.

Working with 6 rolls at a time, carefully split the Hawaiian rolls in half, keeping the 6 tops connected and the 6 bottoms connected, as packaged. Keeping the buns connected will make toasting and assembling easier. Toast tops and bottoms for 1-2 minutes.

To assemble, spread bottoms of buns with mayonnaise and top with macadamia-coconut-sesame sprinkle. Top with burger patties, SPAM slices, and pineapple salsa. Place bun tops over the sliders and gently pull each slider apart. Repeat with remaining buns. E ‘ai ka-kou (Bon appétit!)

Comments 

This recipe yields 18 mini-burgers, providing 6 servings at 3 sliders each.