Monday, October 4, 2010

Cooking the Book - Staff Meals - Sloppy Joes

It’s been a few months since Amazon delivered my copy, but I’ve become a slightly infatuated with David Waltuck’s “Staff Meals”. As the chef/owner of Chanterelle, you wouldn’t really expect a recipe of home style recipes, but “Staff Meals” is a collection of Chanterelle’s family dinners and I love it. Just last weekend, I reveled in the recipes for Roast Beef Dinner and Summertime Creamed Corn, but I began my relationship with this book in a much simpler vein.

When I first got the book, I started flipping through the index. I was curious to see what things could be done with a few pounds of ground beef. I stopped when I saw what was nestled between “Short Ribs Braised in Beer” and “Stew with Red Wine and Vegetables”, a recipe for Sloppy Joes. Growing up, sloppy Joes were always the product of a pound of ground beef and a can of Manwich; not the most sophisticated recipe but damn good, especially when treated like a dip and eaten with wavy lays. It’s been on the backburner for years, but I’ve been meaning to find a homemade alternative to the canned standard. With a recipe in front of me, I set out to see if Waltuck could improve on the sodium laden goodness of my childhood.

These Sloppy Joes don’t have many ingredients, but the list reads like a better version of the ingredients list on a Manwich can.

Minus hamburger buns and red wine vinegar, this is all you’ll need.

Waltuck writes that “sloppy Joes are pretty much a defining moment for ketchup—how many other recipes can you think of that call for 2 cups of it?” Yes, this recipe calls for a solid 2 cups of ketchup or the better half of a large squeeze bottle.

Outside of the Heinz products, this is the majority of the seasoning: ½ tsp of chili powder, ½ tsp garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp of chili flakes

With a large skillet over medium heat, 1 tbs of canola oil is heated and the onions are added to the pan.

That’s one small onion cut into a ½ inch dice and it’s sautéed for 3 or so minutes or softened and translucent.

The two pounds of ground beef is added next.

You think that cooking the beef for 10 minutes would be overkill, but it really does take that long for all the meat to lose its raw color.

After pouring out the fat and excess liquid from the pan, it’s time to add the star of the show.

The ketchup, chili powder, garlic powder and pepper flakes are added as well as salt and pepper to taste

Stir it together and let it cook.

With constant stirring and 20 minutes or so cooking gone, my Sloppy Joes looked something like this.

I was looking for a loose mixture and I was pretty happy with the results. The last few steps including adding a slash of red wine vinegar and adjusting the seasonings to taste.

Take a bow Heinz, Hunts, and any other ketchup manufacturers I can’t remember. This really is a shining moment for ketchup. I did find the need to add a fair amount of salt, pepper, and chili flakes, but this was an excellent version of Sloppy Joes. I was a little hesitant about the red wine vinegar, but I was happy to find it really rounded out the dish. It might be a bit premature, but if these Sloppy Joes are any indication, “Staff Meals” may quickly become one of my go-to cookbooks. At the very least, I think I can cross the cans of Manwich off my shopping list.


The Diplomat said...

Sunday I made the beef stew with red wine and vegetables from Staff Meals. It was wonderful (no doubt helped by the homemade veal stock in my freezer). Really well layered with the 1/2 c of brandy and the late hit of wine before serving, also the textural contribution of the crunchy beans and cauliflower really put the dish over the top.

My wife is making the cottage pie from there later this week to use up some of the ground beef still in our freezer from our Livingston Springs allotment.

I'm also especially tempted by the chinese red broth.

Everything in the book looks great.

Cynical Cook said...


-Glad to hear you're getting as much use and enjoyment from Staff Meals as I am.