Friday, February 10, 2012

Super Sloppy Supper XLVI

February 5, 2012
Sloppy Joes, Not That Sloppy
French Fries
Chocolate Soufflé
Henry Weinhard's Root Beer, Vella Merlot

I had several goals for this meal, none having to do with the menu per se.  As my Sunday morning training walks for the Big Sur 21-miler get longer, the time I have to prepare dinner  gets shorter and the meals get simpler. I wanted a meal that didn't generate leftovers as we had plenty. And, I wanted something that could easily be served in the living room while we watched the Super Bowl and commercials.

Sloppy Joes is a dish I have prepared often.  I usually use a recipe from my Aunt Peggy who worked in the cafeteria at Oneida High School. We don't know for sure if that's where the recipe came from, but we suspect it could be related to the Sloppy Joes served there. I can remember having her Sloppy Joes at a family picnic at Green Lakes State Park when I was quite young so it's been in the family for a long time. My mom used Peggy's recipe as do my siblings, we included it in a family cookbook that we put together for a family reunion several years ago.

Chef John at Food Wishes recently published a recipe for "Sloppy Toms", made with ground turkey, and he had a link to an earlier recipe for Sloppy Joes. I have tried several recipes other than Aunt Peggy's over the years and found they're all about the same with only minor differences. I decided to try the Food Wishes recipe. I liked the detailed description for the desired texture for the sandwich filling. You want it to be sloppy, but not so sloppy that it all falls out of the bun, or so juicy that the buns fall apart from too much liquid. In other words, you want to pick up your sandwich to eat it, you don't want it to be a knife-and-fork sandwich.

The recipe called for 1.5 pounds of extra lean ground beef. The best I could find at the supermarket was a package of 85% lean ground beef. (I could rant about the packaging practices of supermarkets, but I'm restraining myself.) It worked out OK but I think it might have been better if I had purchased something leaner. The finished product tasted good and stayed in the bun well. The meat was nice and tender, and not rubbery as it can be sometimes, with good flavor.

I have never made a soufflé and had been thinking of trying this Cook's Illustrated recipe since it first came out in the magazine. It was appropriate for this meal, too, since it was prepared ahead of time. It makes eight individual portions which we can bake, two at a time, and eat fresh from the oven.  We had purchased ramekins so we would have enough for this recipe, and we're finally getting around to using them.

This is not health food! Making eight individual soufflés used six egg yolks and eight egg whites. There is almost one whole egg in every portion, plus ½ tablespoon of butter, and one ounce of chocolate. There's also a little bit of orange liquer. The recipe specified Grand Marnier but we didn't have any. I don't know why, but we did have a bottle of Curacao, so I used that. Frankly, we can't taste it in the finished product.

It took me less than an hour to make the soufflés Saturday evening. I started at the end of the second period of a San Jose Sharks hockey game, listening to the radio broadcast as I worked, and I finished about the same time as the game. I may have over beaten the egg whites, they were pretty stiff when I was done, so that will be something to watch out for next time. The soufflés are frozen when done, 8 individual serverings stored in the freezer until needed. The Sharks lost.

On Sunday after dinner I warmed up the oven and baked two soufflés. I put them on a small baking sheet; I was concerned that taking ramekins from the freezer and putting them on a 400° oven rack would be too much of a shock for them. The soufflés rose well, though not as much as the ones in the recipe photos. The baking time is 16-18 minutes but I cooked them longer hoping they would rise some more.  I'll have to experiment with the timing, I have six more to bake. They didn't release cleanly from the ramekins, even though they had been well buttered.  They were warm, rich, and chocolaty.  Diane thought they were overcooked, and she encouraged me to keep trying until I got it right, so I guess they weren't too bad.

I didn't achieve all of my goals for the meal. It was easy enough to prepare after my long walk. I did most of the work during half time of the Super Bowl. However, we do have leftovers which we will need to deal with. That's not so bad, its good to have easy-to-prepare meals for week days, too. We ended up eating dinner after the Super Bowl was over (Yea Giants!) but it would have worked as well on TV trays in the living room as it did on the dining room table. As a bonus, I learned that Sloppy Joes are named after a bar in Key West called Sloppy Joes, where it was first made. The bar is still going strong.

Sloppy Joes, Not That Sloppy from Food Wishes
Make Ahead Chocolate Soufflé from Cooks Illustrated

Note: You may need to be a member to see the recipe on an America Test Kitchen web site.

It's no surprise, the baked ziti is really good as a leftover. It's easy to warm up in the microwave, tastes good, and has good texture. Several of my siblings say they usually freeze some when they have it, and that works well, too.

The Chocolate Chubbies held up well. They started getting a little dry 3-4 days after they had been made. However, a few seconds in the microwave oven freshens them up. We haven't tried the frozen cookies yet.

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