Would you believe that in 28 years of cooking and loving food, last week was the first time I ever made Sloppy Joes? If I am going to make a sandwich out of ground beef, my husband would much prefer a hamburger, hence no Joes of any kind, sloppy or otherwise. Growing up in the Midwest, loose meat sandwiches were common, inexpensive, and filling, but not especially memorable (the school cafeteria variety we hope to forget).
This type of food always reminds me of our favorite restaurant in Hannibal, The Frost Top, now known as Mark Twain Dinette, where they served Made-Rites and root beer in a frosted mug. Truth is it was the root beer we loved, the sandwiches were just the ticket to the prize. On a nostalgic whim, I called the restaurant to see if it was still as I remembered, the gal who answered the phone was Missouri-style personable, asking where I lived now, telling me about the menu, wondering if we planned a trip back anytime soon (sometimes I miss that). They celebrated their 70th anniversary this last year and their menu is pretty much the same.
Loose meat sandwiches have been around since before World War II, adding any number of vegetables or sauces to help stretch the meat with hungry mouths to feed. The no-sauce version was dubbed the Made-Rite, adding a ketchup based sauce turned it into Sloppy Joes. If there were ever a sandwich that needed a name, it is this one—no one wants a “loose meat sandwich”.
Nostalgia aside, neither had been created in my kitchen until last week when I noticed the recipe in The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier. I liked the way she served it on buttered, toasted buns, which is brilliant. I realize they are called sloppy for a reason, but who wants a sauce soaked bun to fall apart in their hand? With Caramelized Onion Sprouted Buns already in my freezer, I was ready to go.
Ree’s Sloppy Joes recipe has a number of ingredients specified to taste, which is exactly what I would expect, as most folks would have an expectation that it taste a certain way. Sweet, spicy, tangy, tomato-y, there is plenty of room for putting an accent on the flavor you like best (I used yellow bell pepper over green). For me, the sweet-savory flavor of Caramelized Onion Buns is a perfect paring with a classic like Sloppy Joes, of course, sprouted wheat being the healthy way to go.
What about you—are you a fan of old fashioned Sloppy Joes or Made-Rites?