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Variations to sloppy Joes are endless
Around the Table
Sloppy Joes recipes are limited only by your imagination.

The kid in me still loves sloppy Joes.

There’s just something about biting into a meaty sandwich dripping with a zesty sauce that oozes down my chin and onto my shirt.

Even before there were canned commercial brands, my grandmother was cooking up ground beef with onions, green peppers, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. My wife sometimes will buy the Manwich brand for those days she doesn’t feel like cooking.

I prefer her homemade recipe, though. It includes a pound of ground beef, a chopped yellow onion, chopped green pepper, a beef bouillon cube, salt, pepper, yellow mustard, ketchup and sugar. My daughter-in-law has a similar recipe, but I suspect that if my son is anywhere around the kitchen when she makes it, something spicy will get added.

I don’t know how he developed a taste for spicy food.

Usually, we have kettle-cooked tater chips with sloppy Joes, but sometimes my wife makes a delicious Parmesan tater. The thin-sliced taters are laid length-wise in a greased pan with a light sprinkling of kosher or sea salt and generous coating of Parmesan cheese (both sides). She bakes them at about 350 degrees until they’re just shy of becoming crispy.

Side veggies, though, depend on your sloppy Joe recipe. You don’t have to stick to the standard ingredients, although I do think you have to start with meat. There’s a rule somewhere that says you can’t make sloppy Joes with tofu. If not, there should be.

Variations on sloppy Joes are limited only by your imagination. In addition to wild-game sloppy Joe recipes I’ve only thought about, I’ve developed an Italian recipe, which I call sloppy Giuseppe. It starts with a tablespoon of olive oil. Then, I add a half-pound each of mild, ground Italian sausage and sweet, ground Italian sausage, plus a sliced yellow onion and sliced green peppers (if you like, also add red and yellow).

As you let the meat brown — and it should brown thoroughly because it’s made with pork — season with salt, pepper, oregano or just Italian seasoning with extra basil. Serve on a toasted hoagie roll or over pasta. If you go with a roll, the Parmesan taters work well with this. If you go with pasta, try some roasted asparagus or garden salad.

Another alternative to your standard sloppy Joe is a Mexican variety I call sloppy José. Start with some oil, preferably canola, and add a half-pound each of ground beef and chorizo sausage. Add one each of a chopped red onion, green pepper and jalapeno pepper. If you like it hot, add two or three — or maybe something hotter, like a serrano or habanero. Don’t blame me, though, if your mouth melts.

You can season this mixture with salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, cilantro and maybe just a pinch of cumin. Serve on a flour tortilla with a generous sprinkling of Mexican-cheese blend: cheddar, Monterey Jack, asadero and queso.

Side dishes that would go with this include Mexican rice and refried beans or just chips and salsa. 

I’m considering a German version of sloppy Joes I’d call sloppy Josef that would feature ground beef and chopped bratwurst. I haven’t decided what to season it with, but I’d probably serve it on a kaiser roll or brotchen.

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