Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Recipe: Sloppy Joes and Rough Cut, Beer-Battered French Fries

My dad mentioned the other night that he'd been craving sloppy joes, something we used to eat a lot when I was a kid but haven't had recently. I offered to find a recipe for them, and decided to pair them with some homemade, battered fries (I've been chomping at the bit to try making french fries with my Breville deep fryer). Now, despite my dislike of Rachael Ray, her husky voice, and her silly catchphrases (EVOO. Ugh.), it was her recipe for Super Sloppy Joes that I decided to work off of, and I found my beer-battered french fried recipe on Man vs. Kitchen. I didn't change much with either recipe, except to mess about with seasonings a little bit, and the food turned out great. Meaty, falling-out-of-the-bun sloppy joes + crispy-fluffy French fries = good ol' fashioned American food that's perfect on a warm day. It was a great meal last night, and evidently (according to my dad, who was on his own for dinner tonight), the meal as leftovers was just as good.

Serves: 4-6
Prep. time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: About 20 minutes for the meat, and up to an hour for the fries (they must be fried in small batches)
Difficulty: Easy (frying without a deep fryer can be tricky though—look for instructions on how to do this online)
Special Equipment: Deep fryer

For the french fries
  • 5-7 small to medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into french fry sticks (it's okay if the fries are all slightly different sizes, as long as they're still fairly similar in width; keep peeled potatoes submerged in water to keep them from turning brown)
  • Milk (enough to fill a pot until just above the cut potatoes)
  • 2&1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1-3 tsp. ground red cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cold bottle of beer (I used Yuengling Lager; you can use your favorite beer, but I suggest not using any light beers or really cheap beers, like Natural Light and Budweiser)
  • Vegetable oil for frying (canola oil or peanut oil would also be good)

For the sloppy joes
  • 1&1/2 lb. ground beef sirloin (93% lean, or something very close to that, is best)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced (I basically minced mine—bigger chunks of onion just don't taste good in sloppy joes and burgers, and they mess up the texture)
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • A small pinch of ground red cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • Olive oil (enough to lightly coat the bottom of a pan)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Sandwich rolls
  • Condiments of your choice, if desire (cheddar cheese slices, lettuce, sliced green bell peppers, sliced tomatoes, and sliced red onions are all good choices)

Heat the olive oil in a slightly deep, large pan over medium heat. Crumble the ground beef a little bit and toss it into the pan. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, break up the meat and let it cook until it starts to lose its pink color. Add in the brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and stir into the meat to combine, then cook until the meat is lightly browned. Add in the onion and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the tomato sauce and paste, cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer while you prepare the french fries (as long as the heat is low, the mixture can cook for quite some time—longer cooking lets the flavors really blend). 
Preheat the oil for frying (if using a deep fryer, the temperature should be at 375*F). Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature. Peel and cut the potatoes, rinse them thoroughly in cold water, submerge them in milk in a large pot, and put them in the fridge. In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients for the french fry batter. Whisk the two eggs together in a small bowl, then stir into the dry mixture. Slowly pour the cold beer into the mixture, stirring the batter as you go. The finished batter will be very thick and slightly lumpy. Place a cooling rack over a cookie sheet (the battered fries will rest on this and drain a bit before getting thrown in the fryer) and layer paper towels on another cookie sheet. Drain the potatoes, then return them to the pot. Dunk each fry into the batter, then place on the cooling rack (you probably won't be able to fit every fry on there, so just batter them in batches). Drop a large handful of fries into the frying oil (make sure the oil is 375*F), then quickly poke around at them to keep them from sticking. Fry for about 5-7 minutes (they may need a little longer) until golden brown and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside (I used tongs to lightly squeeze the fries to check for internal softness). Put the finished fries on the paper towel-covered cookie sheet to drain them/soak up some of the oil. After a minute or two, place the finished fries in an oven-safe dish and transfer to the oven to keep them warm. Repeat the frying and draining process and add finished fries to the dish in the oven. 
Serve the sloppy joe mixture on sandwich buns or rolls (great plain or with condiments) and serve the french fries alongside. Best eaten with a cold bottle of beer to drink on the side. :D

This is such a perfect casual dish for a warm, sunny day. The meaty, salty, tomato-y flavors of the sloppy joes pair perfectly with the slightly spicy, slightly salty, slightly beer-y fries, and the textures, soft and crunchy, are perfect together.

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