I fell in love with Sloppy Joes, that messy and sweet meat concoction, as soon as I bit into one. It was at the school cafeteria in fifth grade, soon after I moved to the States. I think I initially loved it because of how decidedly un-French it was. Then I loved it because of how good it is. You have to really embrace and commit to eating a sloppy joe. You can’t do it daintily or half-heartedly. You have to know that it’s going to run all over your hands and most likely down your chin as well. There will most definitely be finger linking involved. And when you’re all cleaned up, you’ll wish there was still some left to lick off.
One of the most unpleasant discoveries I’ve made since moving to New Jersey has to do with the fact that Sloppy Joe’s are a completely different sandwich here. They’re more of a deli sandwich with cole slaw on it. No ground meat, no tomato, no sweetness. A different sandwich altogether. It’s probably a good sandwich – but I’ve never forgiven it for usurping the name of my Sloppy Joe.
I recently found a delicious recipe for a Turkey Sloppy Joe in Gourmet. They suggest serving it with Cheddar Buttermilk biscuits. I got lazy last week and had it with brioche rolls, but I’ve made the biscuits before and they really add to the recipe.
Turkey Sloppy Joes (adapted from Gourmet 2004)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 32 oz can whole tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons Tabasco
1) Heat oil in a wide and deep saucepan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute onion, celery, and garlic until golden about 10 minutes. Add turkey and saute, stirring occasionally and breaking up large clumps with a wooden spoon, until meat is no longer pink. Stir in salt and pepper.
2) Puree tomatoes with juice, ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco in a blender until smooth. Add to turkey and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
3) Serve turkey sloppy joes on split biscuits. They’re even tastier the second day.
Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits (directly from Gourmet without changes)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1) Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter one large baking sheet.
2) Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter wtih your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in cheese and scallions with a wooden spoon, then add buttermilk and stir until just combined.
3) Drop dough in 8 equal mounds about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool to warm, about ten minutes, then cut in half horizontally.