January 19, 2023
Sometimes, while researching recipes, I am overcome by unexpected cravings. This week, I was reminded of the flavorful and messy childhood lunchroom classic, the sloppy joe sandwich. Always up for a challenge, I set out looking for an alternative to the overly sweet version that comes out of a can. Here, ground beef is simmered in a tangy homemade sauce that comes to life with a zesty combination of spices.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef (80/20)
½ yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup tomato puree
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon molasses
4 buns or rolls, buttered and toasted
Red cabbage, finely shaved
In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Cook the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until evenly browned but not cooked all the way through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving drippings in the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onion, jalapeno, and garlic, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned, another 6 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Next, stir in the chili powder, paprika, oregano, onion powder, and pepper flakes, cooking until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, stirring for a few minutes until it incorporates with onion mixture and lightly darkens in color. Then add the cider vinegar, stock, tomato puree, ketchup, Worcestershire, Dijon, and the molasses, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of pan.
Return the beef to the pan, along with any accumulated juices, and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook at steady simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom, until mixture is thick and saucy, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed.
To serve, spoon beef mixture onto buttered rolls and top with shaved cabbage. Serve with chips or French fries, and a pickle spear on the side.
This easy and fun weeknight dinner can be made lighter by using ground turkey or chicken. You could also try making it vegetarian by using ground seitan or crumbled firm tofu. If using tofu, be sure to thoroughly drain and press out extra moisture before cooking.
For a slightly less spicy version, you could use ½ a green bell pepper in place of the jalapeño.
Have lots of napkins on hand if you attempt to eat this sandwich with your hands. Or, for the more refined, eat open faced with a fork and knife. Either way, this makes a satisfying meal. I served it this week with homemade sweet potato oven-fries, and crisp dill pickle spears. Enjoy!