For reasons unclear to me other than a permanent underlying keen nostalgia for my childhood, I got a hankering for sloppy joes. I haven’t eaten a sloppy joe in… well, gosh, I don’t even remember the last time. But I probably still had Barbies and Lite-Brite pegs strewn all over my room.
I did have a Maid-Rite back in my Iowa days, but that’s not quite the same. No — a sloppy joe is saucy and, well, sloppy. A sloppy joe promises to keep all of its filling inside the bun when you first look at it. Then you pick it up, take a bite and half of it tumbles through your fingers back onto the plate and that’s when you realize sloppy joes can’t be trusted. But at least you can spoon up whatever casualties you’ve left behind.
Forgive and forget, that’s what I say. Especially if that means I can have more of these Asian sloppy joe sliders.
But seriously, what is a childhood if it’s not filled with memories of tasty sloppy joe dinners? We didn’t have them often, but when we did it was A. Good. Day. That, or the days we got to eat TV dinners or those frozen pucks of salisbury steak with mashed potatoes on the side… but that’s not important.
What is important is that sloppy joes can and do transcend the transition from childhood to adulthood. You can be a fully (read: mostly) capable adult and still have a sloppy joe and not feel like it’s wrong. In fact, it’s so, so right. Especially when it’s in slider form and mixed with Asian flavors like sriracha, hoisin sauce and ginger. Then we top it all off with bread and butter pickles and crunchy shredded slaw and serve it with a glass of cold beer on the side (totally necessary to make these more grown-up). Finally, we pick them up, take a bite and sure enough, the fillings fall. The measure of a completely untrustworthy — and truly perfect — sloppy joe.
Forgive and forget, that’s what I say. Then have another sandwich.
And now I want a Lite-Brite.
Asian Sloppy Joe Sliders
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields: About 20 sliders
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs grass-fed ground beef
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
1/4 cup lime juice
20 dinner rolls, split and lightly toasted (I used storebought, but these, these and these would all work well, too)
Shredded cabbage slaw and bread & butter pickles, for serving (optional)
Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, Sriracha, garlic, ginger and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add ground beef and break into small pieces; cook until browned, about 5-10 minutes.
Add hoisin sauce, diced tomatoes and lime juice; stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon 1/4-cupfuls of the meat mixture onto prepared dinner rolls. Top with a small handful of cabbage slaw and a couple bread & butter pickles, if desired. Serve immediately.
P.S. Why yes, I did get a little bit of a makeover! Thanks for noticing — I hope you like it.