Okay, so this is not something I grew up eating. In fact, as a child I didn’t like messy foods. Ice-cream cones? Forget it – I couldn’t eat them fast enough to keep them from melting and dripping down my arm. Ice-cream in a bowl, please. So the thought of a sandwich whose whole name revolved around its sloppiness was a bit of a turn-off. Give me a hamburger any day – it’s a nice neat little package that stays together on the bun and doesn’t go dripping down your arm or into your lap or onto the floor.
When my husband and I first started dating, he was living at home with his parents. I would often join them for dinner, and on more than one occasion, sloppy joes were on the menu – served on white sandwich bread. I actually learned to enjoy them, believe it or not (although I believe I usually ate mine with a fork….).
Needless to say, when we got married I had to occasionally make them for him. In fact, one year for his birthday I told him I’d cook him anything he wanted. Just name it, and I’ll make it. Steak? No problem! Roast Beef? Sure thing! Duck Confit? Why not?!
He thought about it for a total of about 5 seconds before stating adamantly that he wanted sloppy joes. So, that’s what we had. Sloppy joes and champagne, if I remember correctly.
Over the years, I’ve looked for recipes that might allow me to avoid buying the can of sloppy joe mix – you know the one: “you don’t have to be a man to love” it? I’ve tried the one from the Joy of Cooking, and it’s alright, but I didn’t love it. So, I’ve sort of devised one of my own.
1 lb. lean ground beef (could sub turkey or chicken)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 red jalapeno peppers, seeded, ribs removed and finely diced
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of Stevia
hot sauce to taste (optional)
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and pepper and saute until soft and translucent – about five minutes. Add meat and cook until brown. Add tomato sauce, water and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium heat until most of the excess liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick. Taste for seasoning – add salt, pepper and sweetener as needed.
Serve on toasted whole wheat bread or sandwich rolls.
This has a much more complex flavor than the stuff from the can. I chose to add the Stevia because the tomato sauce I was using was salted. If I used tomato puree, I might eliminate it. The slight sweet undertone it added was a nice foil to the mild heat from the jalapeno peppers, though.
My husband loved it – said it tasted better than the stuff he grew up eating (please don’t tell his mother he said that!). The boy liked it, too. I was afraid it might be a little too spicy, but it didn’t seem to bother him (it really was a very mild heat). I definitely think this will be our new go-to recipe for sloppy joes. And now, maybe, I won’t balk the next time I’m asked to make them for a birthday dinner or other special occasion.