We started making these as we worked through a supply of elk shared by my in-laws a few years ago. I was not raised on the canned mix that so many seem to recognize as a Sloppy Joe. In fact, I had my first one as an adult, made from a supermarket seasoning packet and whatever the recipe called for on the back. It was no life-changer, but I saw the potential that this meal can be more than a cheap, last-resort mess. Much more.
The great flavors stand up to even the gamiest of meats, and anything lean works well, from goat to venison to beef. Anything too fatty has to be drained very well. We enjoy things spicy in our home, but the sugars of this recipe take out a great deal of the bite, so taste often and adjust your seasoning– don’t be too intimidated by the chilies.
The Real Sloppy Joe
I like to serve these with a big green salad drizzled with a simple vinaigrette, or sometimes coleslaw. The recipe serves two and doubles well.
1 T vegetable or canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped fine
1 jalapeño or 2 serano peppers, minced
3/4 Lb. ground elk or lean beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t chili flakes
4 T ketchup
1-1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 T chili powder
1 1/2 T brown sugar
1/4 t salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
burger buns (something light and soft, like potato buns)
1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and pepper and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and cook while breaking it up well until no longer pink. Drain any excess fat as necessary.
2. Push beef to the outside of the pan, making a well in the center, and add the garlic and chili flakes. Crush with the wooden spoon for about 30 seconds, until aromatic. Then add the ketchup, Worcestershire, chili powder, sugar and salt. Stir to mix, then add 1/4 cup of water and mix again. If there is no excess liquid, add up to another 1/4 cup.
3. Reduce heat to a moderate simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a sauce consistency, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
4. Heap half onto each bun to serve, or eat open-faced with a fork.