Friday, April 19, 2013

Sloppy Joes from Paleo Perfectly

Back in November, I reviewed Robb Wolf's Sloppy Joes and they just didn't fufill my sloppy joe craving flavor wise.  I had a reader comment on that post and ask if I'd found a better recipe and I had not.  I decided it was high time to try again.  I looked through my cookbooks and though Paleo Slow Cooking had one, it was very similar to Robb Wolf's recipe.  They are family, so that makes sense.  I searched the internet and found several recipes but none looked as appetizing as this one from Paleo Perfectly.  Most recipes I found included some amount of honey and this recipe did as well.  As I do with most recipes that include added sweetener, I decided I'd just leave it out.  I'm noticing a lot of "added sweetener" creep in "paleo" recipes lately.  Irritating.  This recipe also calls for baking an acorn squash to serve the sloppy joes over.  I decided against doing this as well.  

The honey has intentionally been omitted.

After collecting the ingredients, I decided to get the chopping out of the way.  First, were the carrots.  The recipe says to use 1/2 a bag of baby carrots.  It doesn't specify what size bag to start with and I know my grocery store carries many sizes.  I commented on the recipe and try to track the blog author down through social media, but got no answer.  I decided that I would use 2 cups of diced carrots.  It took 8 carrots to get 2 cups.  

Next, I diced the onions.  The recipe says to mince them, but given the volume, that would have taken forever to get a true mince.  I decided I wouldn't mind onion in diced size in a sloppy joe, so dice it was.  Thats quite a bit of onion and my onions were more on the medium sized rather than large that the recipe calls for.  
I'm amazed I did not cry during the dicing of these onions. 
I put my 12" ceramic skillet over medium heat.  The recipe doesn't specify how much fat to add, so I decided upon 1 tablespoon of ghee.  I added 2 pounds of the 3 pounds called for and decided to start a second pan with the third as it would have been too crowded in the pan it the meat would never brown.  I read the recipe again, and not only was I to add the meat to the pan but also the carrots.  I added the carrots to the first two pounds of meat.  

Realizing this was going to be possibly need a larger pan, I grapped my 5.5 quart Le Creuset dutch oven.  I added the last pound of ground beef to it and then looked over at my huge pile of diced onions.  The recipe never mentions adding the onions specifically.  The next instruction after the meat is nearly browned is to add all of the remaining ingredients.  Usually, if carrots and onions are used in a recipe, I've noted they are usually added at the same time.  I decided to add the onions to the one pound of meat in the dutch oven so they could soften as well.  

I realized almost seconds after dumping the onions that really I should have gotten my large 12 quart stock pot out as once I recombined the contents of my two pans in either, they'd be pretty full. I decided to add the 1 pound of meat and onions back to my 12" ceramic saute pan and use it to finish the dish.  

The next instruction is to add the tomato sauce and paste. 

Next, I needed to add all of the spices and vinegar.  I felt like I needed to get this done in a hurry in order for the meat not to burn.  I know sitting here now staring at the picture of the tomatoes that the sense of urgency could have been resolved with a simple stir of the pan to incorporate the tomato sauce/paste before adding the spices.  In fact, the recipe says to do so, oops.  It was late on a Friday night after discovering my washing machine had flooded my laundry room while I was at work, so I was a bit flustered and exhausted while cooking this.  All of this is really to explain that I took no pictures of the spices being added to the dish.  But here is a picture my counter once I was done.  What a hurried mess!  But mission accomplished.  

I gave everything a good stir, turned down the heat to low, and set a timer for 20 minutes.  

Here's my plate.  Recipes like this never really look pretty in pictures.

Perhaps it will look better with a prop fork?  No, alas its still not terribly pretty, but how did it taste? 

Accessibility & Cost of Ingredients:  You can find all of the ingredients you need for this recipe pretty inexpensively at your "big box" grocery store with the exception of the coconut aminos.  Luckily, I actually had all of the spices needed in my pantry, yay!

Preparation & Cooking Time: I didn't stop to take a look at my stop watch when I finished with the chopping, so I only have a total preparation and cooking time for this recipe.  It took me 50 minutes to prepare and cook this recipe.  

Clean up:  Due to the volume of food produced by this recipe, I had to get a second pan out to not have to start browning the meat and softening the vegetables in two batches that would have extended the cooking time to more than I wanted to commit to this recipe.  I'm not sure that I can over come this issue with any pan I currently own.  

I tried something new when peeling the carrots for this recipe.  I know I can peel quicker when I'm not concerned about where the peelings are going.  I usually do it over my sink and scoop the peelings out with my hands into the garbage.  This is a little messy.  This time, I put a flexible cutting board in the bottom of my sink before I started peeling.  That way, when I was done, I just needed to pick up the flexible mat, dump the peelings, and put the mat into the dish washer.  This worked pretty well for me, maybe it will work for you.  I tired this with a paper towel since and it worked just as well.  

The Paleo Review:  Thumbs Up!  Despite the pot size issues that I will need to workout before making this recipe again, the flavor is great.  The flavor is dominated by the tomato sauce.  I dare say the sauce created by all of those spices tastes like ketchup much like the Heinz I grew up with and have been searching for in a paleo recipe.  I am going to be tinkering to see if I can just make ketchup with this recipe.  If it works out as a ketchup, I will update it here and call off my quest for ketchup.  The carrots and onions create a nice textural change.  I also think I was right to add the onions when I did.  I don't think that the honey would have added anything to this recipe.

This recipe makes quite a bit of food, but that's fine because it freezes well cole slaw mix the next day and it was quite tasty.  

The next time I make this recipe, I think I'm going to try using the food processor to chop the carrots and the onions to speed up the preparation time.  I don't think there is any way to get out of either using 2 pans or 2 batches to get the meat browned and vegetables softened unless you have a pan with a very very wide flat bottom.  I don't have one that would accommodate that amount of meat and vegetables.  

I will also measure out all of my spices before getting started with cooking so I don't feel so hurried while cooking.  

I also wonder how this would work as a crock pot dish.  I'd try it but I wonder if more liquid would be needed.  I might tinker with that a bit as well and update this post with my results.  

I believe I have found a paleo sloppy joe recipe worthy of my recipe binder.

Blog Note:  I try to keep this blog about the food but this has been quite a week for our country between the tragedies in Boston and West.  What a strange time we live in when going to spectate at a foot race is potentially deadly.  I'm not a runner and would never run a marathon, but I have volunteered at water stations at the Austin marathon and not once has security crossed my mind.  As I write this a manhunt for suspects is ongoing and it looks like nothing short of a Hollywood production.

West, Texas is just under a 2 hours drive from Austin and I've passed through there many times on my way to Dallas.  Originally, it was a Czech settlement and still has a very large Czech-American population.  In my pre-paleo days, I'd get excited to stop in West at the Czech Stop that sells the best kolaches I've ever had.  My father's side of the family is Czech, so I've been trained to identify a good kolache. They have some great bumper stickers that say "Jak se Mas?" which means "how are you?" in Czech.   My father was very proud of his heritage and would often greet his friends with the saying, so I'm a bit sentimental whenever I see it or hear it.  There's always a line at the Czech Stop, but the people who work there are super nice.  The video of the explosion there is just beyond belief.

I have nothing profound to say about these incidents, but what's reassuring about these two incidents to me is that whether your city is very large or very small, Americans pull together and help one another.  Everyone involved in these incidents are in my thoughts.  I can think of no better time to pull those you care about near and share a healthy meal.