Sloppy Joes and Cole Slaw get an Adult Makeover

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by Jordan Danz & Clare Jacky

Sometimes we get a little nostalgic for those foods we loved to eat as kids. Macaroni and cheese out of a box, hot dogs, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Simple food combinations that could bring a smile to my face also gave my mother a couple minutes of silence while I scarfed a plate full of hot dogs.

As an adult with an adult palate, these foods just don’t seem to cut it. They lack flavor and complexity. I would be lying if I said I did not enjoy a bowl full of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese now and then, but it cannot hold a candle to a bowl full of macaroni and cheese that contains a variety of different cheeses, bacon and a bread crumb topping that has been baked in the oven until golden brown.

Another issue with the foods we loved as kids is the nutritional value. The large amount of processing that goes into those foods detracts from any semblance of nutrition that could be in them. Everyone has seen the pictures of the pink slime that goes into hot dogs, which has been cleaned with ammonia. White food, like the bread used for PBJ sandwiches, does not occur naturally... it has to be bleached. Cheese is not normally a neon orange yellow that comes in powdered form. All of this processing takes it beyond real food and into another whole category.
What nutrition could be found in anything that has been bleached, powdered or doused in ammonia?

So I challenged myself to take a food I loved as a child and update it for adults using the three criteria I mentioned.

  1. Flavor - update, deepen and diversify the flavor

  2. Complexity - incorporate items beyond the original recipe

  3. Nutritional Value - find a way to eliminate processed foods and incorporate healthy, natural foods

The dish I chose was Sloppy Joes. We all remember the messy, saucy pile of ground meat on top of a bun. There wasn’t much more to it than that but we all loved to eat them. They made a mess and tasted pretty much like ketchup. I decided that they needed a major update, but I still wanted to keep the integrity of the original recipe... which I’m pretty sure came from a can for most of us.

Adult Sloppy Joes (still as deliciously messy as you remember)

1 lb ground turkey

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 medium yellow onion finely chopped

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1/3 cup of your favorite beer

1 can tomato sauce or puree

3 Tbsp yellow mustard

1/4 cup real maple syrup

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp ancho chili powder

Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan heat 1 Tbsp of the vegetable oil over med-high heat.

Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the remaining vegetable oil and the turkey.

Season with salt and pepper and stir together with onions.

Cook until turkey is browned, breaking it up as you go− about 8-10 minutes.

Add tomato paste, red pepper flakes and chili powder; stir together.

Cook for another 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the beer.

Scrape bottom and sides of pan as you reduce the beer to remove any brown bits from the pan.

Cook until reduced for about 5 minutes. Add vinegar and reduce another 5 minutes.

Add half the can of tomato sauce, maple syrup and mustard.

Stir together and cook for 10 minutes. If consistency is too dry add more tomato sauce,

otherwise it iss ready to serve.

I made a fennel jalapeno slaw for the top of the Sloppy Joes.

Fennel Jalapeno “Slaw”

1 fennel bulb, sliced very thin

1 jalapeno, sliced very thin

1 red bell pepper, sliced very thin

I Tbsp chives, chopped

1 lime, juiced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp agave nectar or honey

salt and pepper

In a bowl add the fennel, jalapeno, bell pepper and chives. Squeeze lime over vegetables.

Add olive oil, agave or honey, and salt and pepper. Toss together and let sit until Sloppy Joes are ready.

Serve this sandwich with a nice hoppy beer such as an IPA. The bitterness will help cut the heat in the meat as well as the slaw, and will pair nicely with the sweetness from the fennel.

Enjoy!

Jordan Danz and Clare Jacky are the co-editors of the food blog OurQueerDinner.wordpress.com, a collection of recipes and stories centered on their chosen family of friends in Minneapolis. They share a common love for food, family dinners and Saturday morning PBS cooking shows.