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3.03.2013

Getting Sloppy...

As I have gotten older, I find that I have become less and less pessimistic. I realize that most people tend to become more cynical with age, but where, as my mantra once was, "I try not to expect too much so I won't end up disappointed," nowadays I am more inclined to say, "Everything will work out just fine." I'm not sure how this happened, other than an overall improvement in mood that has come with the end of puberty and the balancing out of my hormones that came with it, but the change has made me a happier person in general.

This sense of hope that I have developed, however, does occasionally get me in trouble. For example, I recently purged my magazine rack of nearly a year's worth of Bon App├ętits and Food and Wines by going through all of them and pinning the interesting recipes to my savory and sweet recipe boards on Pinterest. While I was filing all my inspiration recipes for later, I came across one from chef Ming Tsai, for Asian Sloppy Joe Sliders. I have been watching Ming on television since he was on the Food Network with East Meets West back in the 1990s, and I continue to watch him on Simply Ming on PBS, and yet I couldn't remember ever trying one of his recipes. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Nevermind the fact that I hate sloppy joes. As the name suggests, they are messy and hard to eat, which has always bugged me, but I've always attributed my disdain to the fact that sloppy joe sauce reminds me of barbeque sauce, and I can't stand that either. However, as an adult, my palate has expanded since childhood, and I hoped that this Asian-inspired sauce would be the thing to change my mind about sloppy joes and open my eyes to a new genre of sandwiches.

The ingredients seemed promising: garlic, ginger, sriracha, hoisin sauce, ground pork and ground turkey -- all things that I enjoy in other recipes. Except that as I was cooking it, and smelling it, all I could think about was, "I wish I were making those bahn mi burgers with this ground pork instead, because this looks gross." I'm not even sure what my hang-up is, because I am fine with ground meat in other scenarios, such as in spaghetti sauce, or tacos. As I spooned the filling onto my sandwich, my stomach turned. 

All things considered, the sandwiches weren't terrible; in fact, Justin liked them. The meat tasted good, but as the bun disintegrated and the meat started falling all over my plate, I thought back to all those sloppy joes I've eaten in my life, and I just could get past my disdain. Though I'd had high hopes that I could bring myself to enjoy sloppy joes by changing the flavor profile, it just wasn't going to happen for me. 

If sloppy joes are your thing, then by all means, go for it with this recipe. As long as you enjoy Asian flavors, you'll probably enjoy this unique twist. As for us, it's a good thing Justin liked these sandwiches, because he'll be polishing off the leftovers all on his own.


Asian Sloppy Joes
adapted from Ming Tsai

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium red onions, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
3 tablespoons sriracha
2 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground pork
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
hamburger buns
Shredded iceberg lettuce and spicy pickles (optional), for serving

1. In a large, deep skillet, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Add the onions, celery, sriracha, garlic, ginger and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add the ground chicken and pork and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, until no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Stir in the hoisin, tomatoes and lime juice and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Spoon the sloppy joe filling onto the bottom half of each bun. Top with shredded lettuce and pickles and serve.

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