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The first sloppy joe I ever ate sticks out in my mind as one of the culinary highlights of my life, just as brightly as the first time I tasted really great fresh pasta or the first time I cooked a salmon filet sous-vide. It was summer camp, 1985. I'd just finished working in the wood shop, poured myself a wax paper cup of bug juice, and got in line for what looked like sauce sandwiches, which is exactly what sloppy joes are. I distinctly remember having to lick off the drips of the sweet, ketchupy sauce from my fingertips, which were still caked with wood glue.
I can't say that I've eaten tons of sloppy joes since my childhood, but I've been known to open the odd can of Manwich from time to time, and to be completely honest, it's usually a disappointment, much in the way that watching re-runs of He-Man makes me realize that cartoons weren't actually better when I was a kid—I was just less discerning. Tasted now, I find them a bit cloying and one dimensional.
Still, the concept is sound. What could be wrong with a saucy sandwich with a sweet and savory flavor in a soft toasted burger bun? Seeing as I still had a ton of chorizo leftover from making tacos, I wondered if it'd make a good base for some homemade sloppy joes.
Man, does it ever!
I started by sloppy joes off by deeply browning some onions and poblano peppers in a cast iron skillet, which is the *only* pan that I currently have in my kitchen; the rest have already been put into boxes for my upcoming transition cross-country.
Fortunately, as my good friend Jeffrey Steingarten discovered, the cast iron skillet is the only real pan you need. I tend to agree.
Once browned, the chorizo goes in. My recipe is loosely based on this recipe from Josh Bousel, though his is designed to be stuffed into casings and cooked whole, while mine is meant to be a quick, loose sausage. It's flavored with ancho chili powder, oregano, cumin, cloves, coriander, cinnamon, and black pepper, along with plenty of garlic and a dash of vinegar.
It covers the savory bases quite nicely, but a sloppy joe isn't a sloppy joe without a bit of sweetness and extra sauce. A can of crushed tomatoes, a spoonful of brown sugar, and a dash of hot sauce complete the flavor profile.
To top the sandwiches, sliced avocado and white onion work, along with a pile of hot pickled peppers on the side. You are hot, you are spicy, you are sweet, you are delicious, and I shall name you chori-joe.
Oh, and of course, you should be using Martin's Potato Rolls, the only hamburger bun I've ever considered getting romantically involved with.
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