I recall an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations when he was schooling his viewers on some things every home cook should know. Among them:
- How to slice and onion. Key take away: don’t leave your fingers sprawled all over the onion. You are asking for it. Tuck your finger tips under like you’re tossing a knuckleball. Life-saver.
- Beef bourguignon. It’s just a pot of unattractive, purple-hued beef cubes simmering in an even less attractive liquid base UNTIL the magic time is up. For the first two, two and a half hours, that’s all it is. But when the time is right, it all comes together to become the legendary French stew. That’s a lesson I’ve carried with me for all my stews and curries. The key factor is time. Time for the meat to flavor the broth and for the broth to cook/tenderize the meat. You have to learn what that time is for each dish to have truly delicious stews and curries.
- There were a few other lessons. Since I’ve forgotten them, they clearly weren’t as life changing.
I’ve made sloppy joes the traditional American way before, loaded with ketchup, brown sugar, sometimes Worcestshire sauce and/or vinegar. It’s just too sweet for me. In my version, I add some warming spices, paprika to complement the bell pepper, a tiny bit of sugar to bring out the sweetness in the crushed tomatoes, and peas (hey food groups!). Both version wayyy surpass the school lunch version I had as a NYC public school student.
I have my usual brioche buns as the delivery vehicle for this hot mess. You can use kaiser rolls, hamburger buns – so long as it’s nice and porous and soaks up all the juices.
- 2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion or 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 red/orange/yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
- about 1 pound Honest Chops organic ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne/chili pepper
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 can of crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
- Heat oil in a pot and add onion, pepper and beef. Brown over high heat for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and spices and mix well. Add bay leaf, crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 20 min, stirring occasionally.
- Add peas and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Off the heat, add cilantro and stir to combine. Serve on hamburger buns, kaiser rolls, brioche buns – something that’s going to absorb all the juices!