I grew up eating sloppy joes but as far as I can remember they weren’t homemade but from a can. Having fond memories of them growing up I decided to recreate the experience one time in college but the resulting canned meat mixture was too awful to bear. Come to think of it, perhaps my family did make them from scratch. The ones I remember were not just edible, they were tasty and my sister and I looked forward to them.
Now I never ate from the school cafeteria. My Mom stayed home with us and was very concerned with nutrition so she always took care to pack our lunches. Even so I can’t even think of the words “sloppy joe” without conjuring up Lunch Lady Land, the epic song performed primarily by Adam Sandler and Chris Farley.
I remember my parents toasting the fluffy white hamburger buns until they were crisp-crunchy on the outside and then ladled on sweet and sharp ground beef in a thick sauce. You had to eat them quickly before the filling soaked through the bun. They were cheap, filling, and good. Guatemalan food aside, Anthony grew up eating the same sort of American food my family made, and sloppy joes were in heavy rotation at his house, too. I came across a recipe for an updated sloppy joe in the late lamented Everyday Food magazine and thought I’d try it. It was straightforward, had some added vegetables, and still pretty inexpensive. I adapted it only slightly here and there. I also decided to add fresh, buttery thick slices of avocado and Anthony grew up adding slices of cheddar cheese to his. Both are good and I had one of each. I really can’t decide which is better.
A classic pairing would be to serve potato chips on the side, but I stuck a delicious and healthier note by substituting carrot chips. Crisp and cold, they were a refreshing break from the intensity of the sandwich and the carrots’ sweetness matched well with the overall flavors.
- 2 tbs plus 2 tsp olive oil, not extra virgin
- 2 cups onion, chopped small (or in my case, roughly chopped–my onion goggles broke and I could barely see for the tears)
- 1/2 cup celery, diced small
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced small (or green, I just happened to have red on hand)
- 1 tbs minced garlic
- 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
- 3 tbs dark brown sugar
- 3 tbs Worcestershire sauce, or as I call it on my shopping list, W sauce
- 2 cups canned tomato sauce
- 1 cup chicken broth
- salt and pepper
- hot sauce, optional
- salt and pepper
– In a skillet large enough to hold the finished meat sauce, heat 2 tbs of olive oil to medium-high heat and add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook about 3 minutes until vegetables soften. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
– Add the beef, being sure to break up large chunks with a fork or wooden spoon, and cook for another 3 minutes.
– Add the brown sugar, W sauce, tomato sauce, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Add hot sauce if using and remove from heat.
– Toast buns in the oven under the broiler, or in a toaster or toaster oven (as I did). Spoon mixture onto toasted buns, add cheese or avocado if you wish.
I included a link in this post to a an item in my affiliate shop. I receive a small percentage of each sale. My goal is to keep Isobel in preschool without resorting to writing posts promoting male-enhancing pills.