Sloppy Joes and its brethren, legitimate or not, are like other dishes of our collective youth that foster self-definition. That is to say that although you may eat many meatloaf in your life, Meatloaf - the capital M meatloaf is more often than not that of your youth. For many of us this is a good thing. Lasagna, Baked chicken and Goulash all fall into the same boat. In spite of the often sorry attempts to commercialize and homogenize Sloppy Joes this remains a dish where the strongest associations are those of our youth.
The history of the Sloppy Joe is controversial (not in any actively aggressive contentious way that I’m aware of). In the wikipedia entry on Sloppy Joes it is theorized to have originated in Sioux City Iowa as a (and I’m not making this up) “loose meat sandwich”. Andrea Strong in the New York Times chases the thread that the Sloppy Joe originated in Cuba - possibly even as a multi-layered club sandwich.
We all know that is not the Sloppy Joe that Adam Sandler sings of
I grew up in the Midwest (although I really have no idea how relevant where I grew up is with respect to the sloppy joes I cut my teeth on) and there are three things I remember distinctly about sloppy joes:
- White Hamburger buns oozing with red-orange sauce
Celery (and more particularly the crunch thereof)
- The perfection of the double open faced sloppy joe - more meat goodness
Thankfully we are not limited exclusively to dishes of days gone by.
The ‘classic’ recipe here is the closest recreation of the Sloppy Joe of my youth.
The Bulgogi Sloppy Joe brings together distinct Korean flavors while retaining the drippy, slightly sweet, slightly tang profile of the classic. We substitute a Korean quick cucumber and scallion pickle in for the celery and onion.
The Asian Sloppy Joe uses Hoisin sauce married to ground chicken to evoke the orient while staying true to the form.
Finally, we put up an Indian Kheema Pav - Indian Sloppy Joe - made here with lamb (although ground beef is a reasonable substitute) that presents a classic Indian flavor profile while retaining the textural contrasts.
And now you know how I spent the tail end of the holidays - making sloppy joes.
More delicious recipes
This one of the many fanastic recipes available on this blog