Growing up, my mother really knew her way around a pound of ground beef. And I mean that as high praise. She could come home from work, bone tired, and unsheath a pound of ground beef (you know the packages—with the colored foam trays and snug-fitting plastic wrap) and have dinner on the table in no time flat.
Ground beef featured prominently in many of the kid-friendly recipes in my mom’s repertoire: chili, goulash, tater tot hot dish, spaghetti sauce, taco filling and, perhaps best of all, sloppy joes. I suppose, then, it’s no surprise that one of the things that I remember learning in the kitchen was how to brown ground beef, seasoning it with salt and pepper and letting it sizzle away in a skillet.
I learned how to make my mom’s sloppy joes early on—and this recipe is a twist on it. We all had our particular way of eating my mom’s sloppy joes. I preferred them—oxymoronically—to be as neat as possible: a small dallop on a bun’s lower half, drizzled with yellow mustard and capped securely with the bun’s top half. My sister—on the other hand—quite enjoyed the fun of the “sloppy” aspect of the sandwiches. My mom liked to forego the bun, spooning a heap of the filling on her plate and scooping up her bites using rippled, Old Dutch potato chips.
When my mom married my stepdad (who brought many of his gourmet tendencies and recipes along with him, but—wonder of wonders—loved sloppy joes as much as the rest of us), he took his sloppy joes open faced, using the edge of his fork as a makeshift knife to section off mouthfuls.
Somewhere in my teens, in addition to developing a severe case of bratiness, contracting boy craziness and suffering through an unfortunate impromptu dye job (red, in honor of my hero of the moment, Clare Danes’ Angela Chase), I also swore off red meat. Which meant the end of sloppy joes.
But, now I realize, it shouldn’t have. Because they’re perfectly delicious with ground turkey. And that’s what I’ve used in this recipe for sloppy joes. I’ve since come back around to beef, but I usually use ground turkey or chicken over beef. Maybe someday I’ll be known as the kind of lady who knows her way around a pound of ground poulty.With this recipe, I’m well on my way.
Turkey Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Everyday Food
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 carrots, coarsely grated (2 cups)
2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 pound ground turkey (93% lean, dark meat)
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 good-quality hamburger rolls, split
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium; add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add turkey; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 12 to 14 minutes. Serve on rolls.