Michelle has been asking me to make Sloppy Joes since before we got back to Charlotte, so tonight is the night. I was trying to come up with a good side dish to go along with the meal, and I tweeted America’s Test Kitchen to see if they had a recommendation. They suggested I make some cornbread to go along with the meal, so that’s what I am going to do. I’ve never made cornbread before, but the recipe looks as easy as the sloppy joes, so we’ll give it a try.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the beef, brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces, until the meat is no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
Stir in the tomato puree, ketchup and water. Cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon 1/2 cup of the meat mixture into each hamburger bun.
Trust me, making your own sloppy joe sauce is so much better than using anything out of a can or a spice package. Homemade doesn’t require a lot of ingredients (the only thing I didn’t have in the house is the tomato puree) and it will taste far better than anything you can buy.
Now for the cornbread. As I said, I’ve never made it before, but the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen seems pretty basic and I had all the ingredients on hand, so let’s give it a shot.
4 teaspoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup rapidly boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Set a cast-iron skillet with the bacon drippings or oil in the oven while it heats. Measure 1/3 cup of the cornmeal into a medium bowl. Whisk the remaining 2/3 cup of cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a small bowl and set aside.
Add the boiling water to the 1/3 cup of cornmeal and stir to make a stiff mush. Gradually whisk in the buttermilk until smooth, then whisk in the egg. When the oven is pre-heated and the skillet is very hot, gently fold the dry ingredients into the mush mixture until just combined.
Carefully remove the skillet from the oven. Pour the bacon fat or hot oil from the skillet into the batter and stir to combine. Quickly pour the batter into the skillet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Flip the cornbread out of the skillet and onto a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
According to the recipe, baking the cornbread in a greased and pre-heated cast-iron skillet will give the cornbread a brown, crunchy crust, which is what I like. If you don’t have a cast-iron pan, you could use a cake pan (round or square) or a regular skillet, but it may not be as crunchy. Just a quick note on this recipe. I didn’t have buttermilk on hand, but it’s very easy to make your own buttermilk at home. For 1 cup of buttermilk, stir 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice into the milk and let it stand for 5 minutes until thickened.
That’s all there is to it. I do have a menu for the rest of this abbreviated week. It is:
Thursday: Apple and Prune Stuffed Pork Loin
Friday: Roast Chicken with Oven-Glazed Carrots and Warm Parsley Sauce
Saturday: Snacks for Dinner (This is a Sean favorite, so you’ll see what it is Saturday)
Sunday: Roast Beef with Au Jus
Some good meals to look forward to this week. The apple and prune stuffed pork is a Michelle favorite, and I need the chicken to make some stock this week, so it works out pretty well. Check back tomorrow to see about the pork loin recipe. Until then, enjoy your evening and enjoy your meal!