Being asked to make a feature dish for a 14-year-old’s wiffle ball themed party, where the guest list included ten hungry teenage boys, is somewhat of an overwhelming request. The foodie in me wanted to go beyond hamburgers and hotdogs for my brother’s birthday party; however, I couldn’t think too far outside the box since 14-year-old taste buds probably wouldn’t enjoy a recipe with obscure ingredients. The other factor in deciding a recipe was the love affair I have with my new 5.5 quart Dutch oven which is still going strong, and I was waiting for an opportunity to use it again.
My mom and I were discussing ideas, and she stressed that when young boys are hungry, they want something simple and will probably have thirds. She suggested the ever faithful Sloppy Joe, and when I plugged in that classic dish with “Dutch oven” in a search engine, I found a website perfect for my obsession with my new kitchen toy: Justdutchovenrecipes.com.
The actual recipe I based my creation on was titled “Sloppy Joes for 100.” While I don’t think I have ever made food for a group that large, the number wasn’t entirely off for my brother and his friends after second, third or fourth helpings. Still, with the help of some mental math (and maybe a calculator or conversion chart here and there) I adapted my recipe below from the one provided to serve twenty, and mad a few changes to the ingredients list.
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion; finely diced
1 medium green pepper; finely diced
1/2 c. celery; finely diced
1/2 c. carrot; finely diced
4 lb. ground beef
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. spicy brown mustard
1 c. ketchup
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 c. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 c. water
Preheat oven to 400˚
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and cook onion, green pepper, celery and carrot until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring often. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large roasting pan; add the next 7 ingredients. Stir sauce throughout, and add pan to preheated oven. Cook at 400˚, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours, stirring every half hour.
Dicing the vegetables finely can be extremely tedious; however, I felt it necessary to make the dish appealing to my audience of teenage boys. Another benefit to this, other than them not being able to pick them out of their sandwiches, is the small cuts of veggies filter through the meat into every sandwich and flavor the beef more than I realized. The sauce was light and tangy, which I attribute to the cider vinegar and tomato sauce. Just Dutch Oven Recipe’s sweet ingredient was brown sugar, which I substituted with molasses – I feel it adds a deeper taste while still contributing sweetness to the sauce.
The ultimate test to a Sloppy Joe recipe is how well the loose meat works on a bun. This recipe is certainly sloppy enough; however, it does not leave you with a soggy roll and a drippy sandwich. After taking the first (eagerly anticipated) bite of my sandwich, I noticed the sauce soaked through into the bun just enough; there was no danger that my roll would disintegrate in my hand as I devoured my Sloppy Joe.
My recipe for homemade Sloppy Joes was a hit with my brother and his friends not once, but twice – considering they each went back for seconds.