There’s something wonderfully retro about a sloppy joe in a 1950’s Americana kind of way. You can imagine not Betty Draper (God Forbid she cook anything as plebeian as a sloppy joe) but her PTA peers
serving sloppy joes to their fresh scrubbed kids and withdrawn husbands. The entire time I was growing up (in the post-Julia Child, Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck era of California Cuisine), I only encountered a sloppy joe between the covers of books. The books were invariably slightly out of date, with lunch ladies (also a foreign concept) serving up steamy sloppy joes in the context of a school cafeteria to girls in bobby socks and boys with pompadours. I had some idea of what a sloppy joe was, thanks to my mother’s 1955 edition of the Better Homes and Garden Junior Cookbook, which blithely incorporated cans of condensed soup, “summer drink powder” and canned fruit cocktail into its recipes, but it didn’t frankly, sound like anything I would eat. The somewhat disturbing cans of “manwich” I glimpsed at the grocery store (we certainly never bought them) only confirmed my impression that sloppy joes were a thing of the past and should stay there.
Listen closely, dear reader, for I am about to say something you will only rarely hear:
I was wrong.
Sloppy joes are wonderful. They’re unabashedly messy, the kind of sandwich that needs to be cleaned up after the fact with a fork and damp towels. But messy equals juicy and sweet and savory, and in this version, a little bit spicy too. These come together easily, with a minimum of chopping, and the leftovers also reheat beautifully for lunch the next day. They’re kid friendly, husband friendly, neophobe friendly (after all! They’re sloppy joes! It’s classica Americana!) And if your foodie friends turn up their noses, you can point out the presence of such foodie-friendly ingredients as ale, olive oil, and worcestershire sauce (OK, I made it up about that last one being a foodie ingredient, but it should be! It’s concentrated umami!)
So next time you’re in the mood for something a little old school, with a modern twist, get out the napkins, because sloppy joes are just the ticket.
- 3 T olive oil
- 1½ pounds ground turkey
- 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 3 T chili powder
- 1¼ cups ale (you can use a lager light beer in a pinch, but a darker, full-bodied brew will be better)
- ¾ cup ketchup
- 1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
- 2 T Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup finely chopped scallions
- Whole Wheat Buns
- Shredded Green Cabbage
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add turkey, green pepper and garlic and cook until turkey is cooked through, breaking up the meat. Add chili powder, ale, ketchup, chiles and worcestershire sauce, stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture thickens slightly. Add scallions and season to taste.
- Serve on toasted whole wheat buns, topped with cabbage.