As ironic as this might sound, and I am certain most parents have a child like this, but, I have one picky eater in my house. You all know the type. Chicken tenders and french fries could make this guy a happy camper for the rest of his life. He never gets tired of it. I attempt to cook a meal every night of the week, and granted one of those nights is probably a chicken tender and french fry night, but I make every attempt to serve an array of things to try. Whether it be a different style of pasta dish, a different take on a standard salad, or some marinated protein, I make every attempt to have my kids explore other food.
I do not always win at this challenge, but I do have two fairly solid eaters at my table. My middle child and my youngest. I have to give my middle child some credit, as he is the explorer, and once he gets beyond the barrier of trying something new, he actually really enjoys what is placed on the table. But there is one thing that he is exploring outside of my dinner table, and that is the hot lunch program at school.
Yes, the word hot lunch creeps me out quiet a bit because I am certain most, if not everything is processed, much like that frozen chicken tender that is served up once a week. But he is exploring. For example, today he is having a bbq rib patty on a bun, peas, savory potato wedges, and a fruit cup. Yes, a bbq rib patty on a bun freaks me out when I think about it, but this is my way of championing him on to explore new things.
So after thinking about cafeteria food, it brought back some memories, and one of them was Sloppy Joes.
As I often do on a Friday night, I ask my wife what she would like to eat for the weekend, and as she normally does, she says “Meatloaf“. As much as I wanted to make her a meatloaf (after all I am currently a finalist in a meatloaf competition at Food52.com for the meatloaf with blackberry bbq sauce (VOTE FOR ME)), but I decided instead to make her something just as comforting. A sloppy joe sandwich.
While preparing the sloppy joes, I do not think my wife, nor my eager explorer, had any idea what they were about to encounter. A sandwich so delicious, and so comforting, that my wife had one for lunch, and dinner, as I did as well.
Enough already, lets get started on this classic and ever so sloppy sandwich.
- 1 carrots, peeled, cleaned, and minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 cups of San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup of ketchup
- 1 green bell pepper, seeds and veins removed, minced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeds and veins removed, minced
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 3/4 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/4 lb of lean ground beef
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- hard rolls
- potato chips
Begin by browning your meat in a large cast iron skillet. I use a cast iron skillet, as well as a medium to large pot for the cooking process. Once you have thoroughly browned your meat, remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add the canola oil to the cast iron skillet, and toss in your carrots, onion, garlic, celery, bell peppers, and chili flakes, and cook on medium heat for about 7 minutes.
To the larger pot, add the ketchup, tomatoes, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, and mix well. Add in the cooked veggies, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Cover, and cook on medium to low heat for about 15 minutes. Toss the sauce into a food processor, or blender, and puree it into a nice smooth sauce. Add the sauce back to the pot, reduce heat to low, and add in the cooked ground beef. Give a nice stir, and cover.
Cook for about another 10 minutes. You are now good to go on making the sloppy joes.
To prepare your sandwich, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice your hard roll in half. I like to keep the bottom half thicker so it can handle the meat and sauce. Add the sliced rolls to an oven sheet, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are lightly toasted. Rub a bit of garlic clove onto each side of the roll, and spoon on the sloppy joe mixture. Serve with chips.
Now, sit back and enjoy. Forget the canned sloppy joe. Forget the elementary cafeteria sloppy joe. This is the real deal.
I often laugh while writing these posts, as I reflect back on the smiles, not only from my face, but from my wife, and from my little explorer, as taking a bite into these sandwiches, yield huge results in flavor and comfort. At the end of the night my wife asked if we could have them again for dinner the next day.
What are some of your childhood/cafeteria food memories?