Wednesday, June 5, 2013

sloppy joes

A quick update just because I've been so remiss.

Two things made me think of sloppy joes yesterday: Eataku's post about a sloppy joe mac and cheese sandwich, and buying a Crenshaw melon.

It's earlier than I'm used to seeing Crenshaw melons, but the one I got, though a little underripe, is delicious, especially for four bucks. And it made me realize, I don't give Indiana enough credit when I talk about the arc of my learning to cook.

I started cooking as a little kid, throwing random ingredients into boxed cake mixes, and cooked actual meals as a teenager, before spending some of my college years taking care of and cooking for three young children, and then moving to New Orleans where I learned to really cook - because everyone pretty much does, and people generally know more about food, and I lived in places conducive to figuring out what I was doing. (I was adjacent to Little Vietnam for a couple years, which meant access to a lot of new ingredients and foods, and then lived in an odd corner of Gentilly, in a predominantly black formerly German neighborhood with Hispanic markets.)

But before moving back to New England I lived in Indiana.

And it's in Indiana that I first had ramps, for instance, and sour cherries, and Mitchum peppermint, and duck eggs, and fresh currants and elderberries, and fresh fava beans, all at the Bloomington Farmers Market. In Indiana I first cooked pork belly, goat, venison, tongue, and cuts of buffalo other than ground or steaks. This is even aside from the pig head I bought at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati, or the rattlesnake I didn't buy because it was $25 a pound (I've seen it for three times as much since then). I had Middle Eastern markets where I could buy labneh and pomegranate molasses, a Filipino market where I bought balut and calamansi and pig's blood, a butcher that sold me three quarters of a goat because they knew I'd be into that, a Chinese restaurant where I ordered fried intestine, a Korean joint where I had raw crab still in the shell.

Indiana grew the best apples I'd had before moving back to New England (where either orchards have made more interesting apples available or I've become a better apple customer), unbelievably great cherries, pawpaws and American persimmons. And Indiana grew melons.

Man, the melons at the farmer's market were so good. The appeal at first was the watermelons, big bright watermelons with seeds, which might be a pain in the ass but mean much better flavor than the seedless melons. But I tried everything. Santa Claus melons, Crenshaw melons, all the various muskmelon varieties. Crenshaw is one of the best - like a cantaloupe with more character.

Anyway, that's Indiana. And one of the things I made a lot in Indiana was sloppy joes, partly because of that goat - I had a lot of ground goat to use up - and partly because I was into Cuban food, which may be the origin of sloppy joes (I'm skeptical of most food origin stories, so I have no idea if that's really where sloppy joes come from or not).

These sloppy joes capitalized on my having just bought some Tony Chachere's seasoning, and are stuffed into red bell pepper halves.

Sloppy joes:
1 pound ground beef, browned, most of the fat drained
a couple spoonfuls diced onion
5 diced ramp bulbs
1 14 oz can tomatoes, pureed
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
Tony Chachere's to taste

Cook onion and ramps in a spoonful or two of fat from the ground beef. Combine remaining ingredients and cook until thickened; refrigerate overnight.

Pimento cheese:
combine pimiento peppers, Duke's mayonnaise, sharp cheddar, a dash of mustard, a pat of butter, and a dash of hot sauce in Cuisinart.

Cook a little diced onion, diced ramp, and diced radish in chicken fat leftover from Sunday's roast chicken. Add Tony Chachere's until noticeably salty. Chill.

Fill pepper halves with sloppy joes, top with pimento cheese, and bake at 350 for an hour. Serve with schmaltz on bread.

Pepper stuffed with sloppy joes; bread with radish-and-ramp schmaltz

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