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~Snowy-Day Sloppy-Joe Grilled-Cheese Sandwiches~

IMG_4687While I adore my sloppy Joes served in the traditional manner, spooned generously onto a soft, white all-American hamburger roll, it's more than ok to get creative with ways to use the filling other than the iconic sandwich.  To  name a few:  sloppy-Joe cheese dogs, sloppy-Joe mac 'n cheese, sloppy-Joe nachos, sloppy-Joe pizza, and, my personal favorite, sloppy-Joe grilled-cheese sandwiches.  Because the sweet-and-savory sloppy-Joe ground-beef mixture is a natural when paired with melted cheese, the end justifies the means in the case of all of them.

IMG_4632The All-American sloppy Joe sandwich -- it was one of the most popular comfort foods of the 1950s. Moms across America were making them for their families, they quickly made their way into school lunchrooms, and, sloppy Joes showed up at parties, picnics and potlucks for all occasions.  Whether you love 'em or you don't, one bite of this now-retro sloppy-mess of a ground-beef and savory tomato-sauced sandwich is certain to conjure up a childhood memory or three.   As for me, I loved them, and my mom made them just the way I liked them -- using celery instead of the more commonly used green bell pepper, plus an extra spoonful of brown sugar because I liked them extra sweet and savory.  Sloppy Joes made many snow days, Summer days, and yes, even sick days better.

Manwichad1980sThe original term "sloppy Joe" had nothing to do with a sandwich.  It was slangy code for any cheap restaurant or lunch counter-type establishment with a very relaxed dress code.  As for how the sandwich came to be named "sloppy Joe" (as if its being sloppy to eat isn't reason enough), the most believable story is that, in 1926, a creative restaurant cook named Joe, working at Floyd Angell's Cafe in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce and green pepper to what midwesterners refer to as "loose meat" sandwiches (which are a mixture of seasoned sautéed ground beef and onions served on a hamburger bun and sometimes topped with mustard and ketchup). That said, by the mid 1940s, the sloppy Joe sandwich was firmly established in America, and, in 1950 Libby introduced its canned Barbecue Sauce and Beef Sloppy Joe, which was the first of several canned sloppy Joe concoctions that could be kept in ones pantry -- all anyone needed to do was open the can, heat the contents and spoon it onto hamburger buns.  The Manwich was introduced in 1969 and lives on today -- it's a tomato-based sauce that one adds to their own browned ground beef. 

When your ooey-gooey grilled cheese sandwich has a sweet 'n savory sloppy Joe center -- the world is a better place.

IMG_4600For the sloppy Joe's:

2-2 1/2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

1  generous cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion (6 ounces)

1  generous cup finely-diced celery, or, finely-diced green pepper (6 ounces)

1/2  teaspoon celery seed (omit if using green pepper)

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1  cup ketchup

2  tablespoon yellow "ballpark" mustard

4  tablespoons dark brown sugar

2  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

IMG_4645For each sandwich:

2  tablespoons salted butter

2  slices soft, white bread

2-4  slices yellow American cheese, the pre-packaged slices are the right thickness

3-4  tablespoons sloppy Joe mixture, from above recipe

serve with suggestions:  cream of tomato soup, crunchy potato chips, potato salad or coleslaw, &/or, dill pickle spears

IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602~Step 1.  To make the sloppy Joe's, place the ground beef in a 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides. Prep the onion and celery (or green pepper), placing them in the pan as you work.  Add the celery seed, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Using a large spoon or spatula, give the mixture a thorough stir, making sure all of the vegetables and the spices are evenly incorporated into the meat.  Sauté, over medium-high heat, using a spatula to stir frequently and break up the meat into small bits and pieces, until meat has lost its red color and almost no liquid remains in the bottom of the pan, about 20-30 minutes.

IMG_4620 IMG_4620 IMG_4620 IMG_4620~Step 2.  Add and use a large spoon to stir in the ketchup ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is steaming, 1-2 more minutes.  Remove from heat, cover the pan and allow to steep, about 15-30 minutes, to allow some time for the sweet and savory tomato-sauce-flavors to soak into the ground meat.  

IMG_4651 IMG_4651 IMG_4651 IMG_4651 IMG_4658 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661~Step 3.  To assemble and cook the sloppy-Joe grilled-cheese sandwiches, melt two tablespoons butter in a 10" nonstick skillet over low heat.  Place 2 slices of bread in the skillet.  Top each slice with 1-2 slices yellow American cheese.  Gently and carefully, spoon and spread 3-4 tablespoons sloppy Joe mixture atop one slice of cheese-topped bread. Increase heat to medium- medium-low (error on the side of the heat being too low), place a lid on the skillet, and cook, watching carefully, 2-3 minutes (a glass lid allows you to keep an eye on things), until the cheese has melted and bread is lightly-and-nicely toasted.  Remove lid from the skillet.  Place the bread slice with the melted cheese on it, cheese-side-down, atop the bread slice with the sloppy Joe mixture on it.  Use a spatula to transfer the sandwich from skillet to plate. Using a serrated bread knife, slice and serve ASAP.  Repeat process with remaining sandwiches.

Bring on the tomato soup + a pickle -- & take that first bite:

IMG_4708Snowy-Day Sloppy-Joe Grilled-Cheese Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 6 cups sloppy Joe mixture/each 1 cup Sloppy Joe mixture is enough for 4 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; 10" nonstick skillet/ lid; large spatula; large spoon; 10" nonstick skillet; spatula; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d26b186e970cCook's Note: On a 1917 episode of The Walking Dead, while scouting around in search of food and guns, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), fall through a rooftop into a room filled with just that, guns and miscellaneous canned foods and military RTE (ready-to-eat) meals. Rick goes full-blown romantic on Michonne.  After the obligatory sex, they eat a candlelit feeding-frenzy dinner and Rick presents her with a surprise, and it's not jewelry -- it's one last type of RTE meal. "I've been waiting to show you this one," Rick says, "It's chili. And mac 'n cheese.  Together."  Try my ~ Walking Dead:  It's Chili & Mac 'n Cheese.  Together. ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)


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