Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"White Trash Cooking" - Sloppy Joe's on Corn Bread

Date I made this recipe:  April 2, 2016

White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler
Published by:  The Jargon Society/10 Ten Speed Press
ISBN:  0-89815-189-9; © 1986
Purchased at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks- NYC
Recipe:  Sloppy Joe's on Cornbread – p. 35

There's nothing more fun than enjoying 60 degrees one day and then 30's (with wind gusts) the next, right?  Spring weather can be so fickle.

And so when the temperatures dipped, I trotted out my usual cookbook suspects – soups, stews, and casseroles - hoping to make something warm to get me through this cold snap.

But then I realized I was playing it too safe and that I had so many more interesting cookbooks in my vast collection to use that I needed to break out of the mold.

So I looked through a couple of shelves and pulled White Trash Cooking just because I could.

Typically, when folks learn about my cookbook collection, they usually ask if I have certain cookbooks in my collection.  Like there's some sort of rule for collecting but alas,  there is not.  Although several people – book publishers, chefs and those involved in culinary arts or writing, will suggest things that you must have, each collector's collection tends to run to their taste.  Mine tends to run toward interesting covers, interesting (sometimes hilarious) titles and out of print books.  Still, I have been somewhat predictable when it comes to expectations:  "Do you have Irma Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking?"  "Yes."  "Julia Child?"  Of course.  "Betty Crocker?"  People please—is the Pope named Francis?

Some though, get creative:  "Do you have Peg Braken's I Hate to Cook?  (Always asked by someone who hates to cook, co figure.) "Yes."

And then several years ago, when this book was popular, I got asked – all the time – "Do you have White Trash Cooking?" and believe it or not, the answer was "No."

"No?"  "That's right.  No."

It's not that I didn't want the book, it was just that at the time, I was on the hunt for more elusive books than that.

Finally, in July 2011, I was in NYC at my favorite cookbook book store – Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks – when I saw it and bought it.  When in Rome... Still, note that I bought the book in 2011 but just now got around to using it.  Timing is sometimes everything.

Now you may be asking yourself how the heck a Sloppy Joe recipe got itself included in a "white trash cookbook" and trust me, I asked myself the same thing.  I mean, it wasn't like I was lacking in opportunity to cook something white trashy like "Mock Cooter (turtle) Soup" (I don't do turtles, mock or otherwise) or "Mary Linder's Washday Soup" or even "Big Mamma's Cracklin Corn Pone," but none of these spoke to me (some for good reason!).  Instead, I went for a favorite of mine and many – Sloppy Joes.  I'm not sure why, I just know that I wanted it. (By the way, you know this book is southern by the recipe names:  most of them have two, such as "Edna Rae's Smothered Potatoes," or "Netty Irene's Macaroni & Cheese."  Bless.)

This recipe differs from other S.J. recipes though, because it is served over cornbread. Perhaps this is what pushes it into the "white trash" category?  For your convenience, there are a couple of cornbread recipes in this book.  But I wasn't exactly in the mood to make S.J.'s and cornbread too, and so I opted to buy already-prepared cornbread from Kowalski's Market.

Bad decision and here's why:  there are two kinds of cornbread in this world – sweet (sugar added) and not sweet (no sugar added).  I misread the label and thought I was buying "not sweet" (I really should have known better but was in a hurry) and let me tell you, sweet cornbread does not go with Sloppy Joe mix.  Does not.  So if you make this dish, take the time to bake non-sweetened cornbread; you'll thank me later. Although now that I think about it, it would have been nice had the cookbook author mentioned the cornbread issue for all of us who live north of the Mason-Dixon line and are not always familiar with such things.

It would been nice to also mention or at least elaborate on the can size of two ingredients listed:  1 "can" tomato puree or ketchup and 1 "No. 2" can Libby's tomatoes.  Thank goodness for smart phones because I Googled "No. 2 can" while at Target and found that it's 1 pound, 4 ounces or 2 ½ cups.  And then I guessed on the size of the "tomato" puree, deciding on a small can – 8 ounces or 1 cup – for this recipe.  It all turned out okay but dang, I hate guessing!

This cookbook  serves up a lot of southern favorites for every type of cooking category:  meats, vegetables, sandwiches, salads, desserts and the like.  There are four recipes alone for sweet pones (a type of cornbread), more than a few mentions of sweet potatoes, and of course, a recipe for Ice Tea South." As I mentioned above though, I think the jury is still out as to whether or not "Sloppy Joes" is a "white trash" recipe.  I mean, half the planet ate them growing and it remains one of my favorite "comfort food" meals. 

In fact, I've told this story before, but years ago when I was working on a project in downtown Minneapolis, I had a hankering for Sloppy Joes.  And unbelievable hankering as in "I need to have some right now!"

Now some of you may know, but others may not, that the vast majority of buildings in downtown Minneapolis (and also downtown Saint Paul) are connected by indoor walkways we call skyways.  Many small businesses, including restaurants, mostly quick serve, line these skyways that stretch for miles.

So when I got this hankering for Sloppy Joes, I asked around the office to see if anybody could think of a place that served them (they couldn't) and even called a few places, but alas nothing.  But then a miracle happened:  one day, weeks later, I was walking through one of the skyways and noticed a daily special signboard outside of The Brothers Deli (6th Street skyway) advertising Sloppy Joes.  I inquired whether or not this was a one time deal and was told they usually offer them every Wednesday.  I love Wednesdays!  I especially loved Sloppy Joes Wednesdays.  I was not necessarily in love though, with the weight I put on but that's another story for another day.

And now back to the cookbook...for those of you who love White Trash Cooking, please know that there is a White Trash Cooking II Recipes for Gatherin' and a 25th anniversary edition as well.  I have got to put White Trash Cooking II Recipes for Gatherin' on my acquisition list pronto because I'd sure hate to miss out on a great dish for all that gatherin' I do.

If you have a hankerin' for Sloppy Joe's on Corn Bread, here's a recipe for you (serves 6):
1 pound ground beef
½ cup chopped bell pepper
1 grated carrot
1 can tomato puree or ketchup (Ann's Note:  use a small, 8 ounce can)
1 teaspoon black pepper
¾ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
1 No. 2 can Libby's tomatoes (Ann's Note:  1 pound, 4 ounces or 2 ½ cups.  And by the way, I have no idea what type of tomatoes were called for so I used diced.  The result was a rather chucky mix so you might want to pulse them for a bit in a Cuisinart.)
¾ teaspoon salt
Cornbread (Ann's Note:)  Do NOT use cornbread containing sugar (for the record, damn that label print was tiny on the store-bought cornbread I used!).  You're looking for a sugar-free cornbread, such as you'd use for cornbread stuffing.   Google "Cornbread recipes without sugar."  If you own this cookbook, there are several recipes which should suffice.

Brown ground beef in big iron skillet.  Stir in onion, bell pepper, celery, and fry until brown.  Add carrot, tomatoes and puree.  Stir mixture well, season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for one hour and serve hot over hot-buttered cornbread.

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