Cooking for 60, even when a time tested family recipe for Sloppy Joes, is never easy.
Fresh from spring break on Monday, with suitcases still full of dirty clothes, I spent the day cooking dinner for 60. I was nervous. I wasn’t throwing an elaborate party, but I knew the crowd would be full of tough critics. Our family was serving dinner to homeless men and women at a nearby church, and from experience I know that dinner at the shelter can fall flat. The shelter guests are not afraid to let you know just what they think of the food, both when they love it and when they hate it.
Upscaling my recipe from 6 servings to 60 was surprisingly time consuming. Not sure why I didn’t realize that it would take a lot longer to brown 15 pounds of meat than 1 1/2! Like an old witch, I was sweating at my cauldrons, reaching deep to stir giant pots. By the time 6PM rolled around, I was pretty close to frantic.
Luckily this sloppy joe recipe comes together quickly, once all the meat is browned. The shelter line was long and sadly, a few people were turned away. While the kids were busy making up the beds, the adults got ready for the dinner rush, plating fruit and veggie salads. Once we started spooning the stew on the buns, we were in a rhythm. We were moving fast, with kids and adults running food out to the tables. As we worked, we could hear the comments in the room: the Sloppy Joes were a big hit. When the requests for seconds came in, we were ready and all the stress of the day melted away. The night was rewarding for everyone involved: kids and adults, shelter guests and volunteers. Next time I serve 60, I’ll be ready, big pots and all.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2½ lbs ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 32 oz can whole tomatoes in juice
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 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 ground beef and saute, stirring occasionally and breaking up large clumps with a wooden spoon, until meat is no longer pink. Stir in salt and pepper.
- Puree tomatoes with juice, ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco in a blender until smooth. Add to beef and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Serve sloppy joes on split biscuits. They’re even tastier the second day.