Have you ever craved something without really being able to pinpoint what the flavour was?
Like, for example, Charleston Chews. They hold some magical appeal from my childhood – I have no idea what they taste like, and I haven’t had one since I was little, but I really want one.
I have been craving sloppy joes for about two years, and finally got around to scratching the itch. The thing is, I didn’t really know what a sloppy joe was – I just had a flimsy memory flitting around in my brain from some time when I ate one and it made me really happy.
I knew they were… sloppy. And I remembered a sticky tomato sauce.
So if you’re looking for a classic joe, stop right here.
(Or keep reading, maybe I hit the nail on the head).
I didn’t consult cookbooks or other blogs before I tugged my apron strings around my waist – I just went by personal taste. So I don’t actually know (or care) how close I got to the original. But it doesn’t matter, because these are really yummy in their own right.
Ground beef is browned with onions, garlic and ginger before being simmered in a thick tomato sauce with cider vinegar, brown sugar, a hint of cumin and a kick of cayenne.
The result is tangy, spicy, sweet, and abundantly sloppy.
Grated carrot and finely chopped celery round out the sauce with a bit of undetectable veggie. I would have added zucchini if I had it on hand, too – about 1/2 a medium zucchini, grated, would have been perfect.
I bought the softest, pillowy rolls I was able to find to stuff with the saucy ground beef. Note that over-filling is a mandatory part of this experience.
Pass the extra napkins, please!
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- 2" piece ginger, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 lbs lean ground beef
- 1½ cups ketchup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup tomato paste
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1-2 tsp cayenne (start with less and add more to taste)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- soft rolls, for serving
- Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Saute onion, celery, and carrot until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the beef and cook until fully browned, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, tomato paste, vinegar, soy sauce and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Serve with split rolls, spooning a generous amount of filling between halves.