During my first few years of elementary school, my family lived in Los Angeles. Because it was almost always warm enough to eat outside, my school didn’t have a cafeteria. Instead, we just had an outdoor courtyard with plastic picnic tables and a small window through which hot lunches were dispensed.
I was mostly a brown-bag kid in those days, but occasionally, when something on the monthly menu particularly spoke to me, my parents would give me a dollar and let me buy lunch. I always asked to buy lunch on the days when they served sloppy joes.
I think part of the reason had to do with how it was served. The saucy meat came packaged in a little aluminum tray, covered tightly with foil. On top, they’d stack a waxed paper dish that held the bun and a plastic cup of applesauce or fruit cocktail. You’d go to your seat with a carton of milk, a napkin and a plastic spork to assemble your very own sandwich. I loved it.
Until recently, these early childhood days were my only association with sloppy joes. A few weeks back, however, I was struck with an urge to find something new to do with a pound of ground turkey. So often I make turkey burgers or turkey chili; I was simply hungry for something else.
A little searching brought me to Jeff Mauro’s recipe for The Sloppy Lo. It’s built like a traditional sloppy joe, but it uses ground turkey instead of beef. I tried it, and my husband and I were both immediately won over.
The recipe makes a sweet, tangy, meaty sauce that’s hugely versatile. Sure, you can eat it on a bun with pickles like Jeff suggests, but it’s also good over eggs, spread into a warm flour tortilla, or served over a baked potato. As the school year picks up and days get busier, make a double batch as your Weekender and know that you have an easy dinner in the fridge.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— This is the sort of dish that gets better after a night in the fridge. If you have the time, make it in advance and reheat just before serving.
— I found that this recipe turns out a fairly tangy meat mixture. If you’re serving it to kids, you might want to tame the tang with a few spoonfuls of honey.
— If your family avoids carby things like rolls and buns, try eating this over chopped romaine lettuce for a sloppy salad!
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.