Cincinnati Joe’s are Still Sloppy

One recent night I had no idea what to make for dinner.  When I wondered aloud what I should make, a friend said they were having Sloppy Joe’s* that night.  I can honestly say that I haven’t had a Sloppy Joe since I was a kid.  I always liked them, but for whatever reason, it isn’t anything I’ve ever cooked.  I know, I know.  It’s un-American!  Well, I set off to the store to buy the key ingredients as I thought about how I could put a little twist on the all-American classic.

I opted to make mine from scratch so as to avoid the extra sodium and additives found in most prepared and semi-prepared foods.  I used 90% lean organic ground beef, all-natural tomato sauce, and fresh organic veggies.  Plus I added a few extras for extra flavor, including balsamic vinegar and cinnamon (yes, cinnamon).  Cinnamon is a common ingredient in Cincinnati Chili, which is a regional-style of chili made with ground beef  but no beans.  It’s often served over spaghetti or on top of hot dogs.  Although I’ll never understand why something that resembles meat sauce more than chili is called ‘chili’,  I do love what cinnamon brings to the dish, so thought I’d incorporate it into my Sloppy Joe’s…and so they were christened ‘Cincinnati Joe’s’. 

I thought these Joe’s were even tastier than the originals!  They were a winner in my house, earning a thumbs up from 3 out of 4 taste-testers.  The lone dissenter defended her position with a simple “they are too sloppy!”  So, there you have it.  Just as sloppy, more delicious.

Cincinnati Joe’s

Makes enough for 8 sandwiches

1 small green bell pepper (ok to substitute a red pepper), cut into a small dice

1 small onion, cut into a small dice

1 1/3 lbs lean ground beef (at least 90% lean)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 – 15 oz can tomato sauce

1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

8 soft potato rolls, or other soft hamburger rolls

In a large skillet, saute the pepper and onion in a small amount of olive oil until softened (about 5 minutes).  Add the ground beef and break up into pieces as it cooks.  Add cinnamon, plus salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until meat is no longer pink.

In a large measuring cup, mix together the tomato sauce and brown sugar.  Add to the skillet along with tomato paste and cook uncovered for approximately 10 minutes, until it reduces slightly and thickens.  Add the balsamic vinegar and cook an additional minute or two. 

Serve hot on split hamburger rolls.

*According to Wikipedia, Sloppy Joe’s were said to be invented in Key West, Florida at a restaurant by the same name.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.

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