Sloppy Sophisto Joes

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We have had a wet Spring here. Good for the grass, but not good for the grill or my craving for beef between a bun.  The first time I made these they were good, but they just needed something.  I made a big batch, so I put the rest in the freezer for a quick weeknight meal.  When it was time pull out that frozen batch, I warmed it on the stove and kept tasting it trying to figure out what was missing.  

It turns out that the meat mixture wasn't missing anything, but the sandwich was.  I like texture, not just flavor in my food so the meat sauce in a bun just wasn't doing it for me.  My husband and son suggested onions and mustard.  That helped it a bunch, but it still needed something.  My son suggested one more thing--bread and butter pickles.  I gave him a funny look.  Unfortunately, I lost my taste for bread and butter pickles after eating too many at "Happy Hour" as a kid, but I do keep them in the house for the rest of the family.  Seeing as how he was right about the onions and mustard (a little mayonnaise doesn't hurt either) I went with it.  End result-- "winner winner weeknight dinner" and I can now enjoy bread and butter pickles again!

This freezes beautifully, so make a double batch.  Also, make sure you use a sturdy bun to sandwich the "sloppy" meat sauce.  I use my White Bread recipe and shape it into 6 big buns.  I highly recommend you do the same.  

Sloppy Sophisto Joes
makes 6 servings

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

6 buns, sliced
mayonnaise (not the salad dressing stuff)
yellow mustard
sweet onion, like Vidalia or Georgia, sliced into rings
bread and butter pickles

In a large skillet ( bigger if you are doubling the recipe) over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion and sauté until it begins to brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add the carrot, celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the beef and cook until brown, breaking up any large clumps, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, remaining salt and black pepper and cook, stirring every few moments, for 2 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring for another minute.  Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar and boil, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with additional salt and black pepper if needed.

To serve
Slather a bit of mayonnaise on each bun half.  Spoon some of the meat sauce on the bottom of each of the buns, top with a few onion slices, some bread and butter pickles, and a drizzle of yellow mustard.  Add the top half of the bun.  Smoosh together and take a big bite.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Gourmet, October 2007


  1. I just made sloppy joes as well! I like the name for yours!

  2. These look wonderful. I think they are positively GOURMET with those homemade rolls.

  3. Rivki-
    Thank you. I do have to say these are a few steps up from the original.

  4. This looks so good, as does your recipe for white bread.

    Here in New Zealand our seasonal situations are very different - Winter is chilly, damp and humid, while Summer gives warmth without huge heat and varying humidity (depending on where we live up and down our isles). It all makes for very different conditions for bread making even within the same island here - and bread making is still always a fun and a happy learning process.

    Thank you for sharing a recipe for such super yumminess (and yumminess is global),

    Michelle downunder in Wellington, New Zealand


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