After my post about Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Havana I started wondering if there was any connection between the bar and the Sloppy Joe’s sandwich. I was told that the American Sloppy Joe’s sandwich is an off shoot of the Ropa Vieja (old clothes), served in Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Havana, Cuba. A friend got this Sloppy Joe’s sandwich recipe from a waiter at a restaurant in Key West, Florida. It works for me.
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup onion
½ cup green bell pepper
1 lb. ground beef
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Black pepper and salt to taste
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
½ cup Heinz Chili Sauce or ketchup
2 tbsp. brown mustard
2 tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
6 hamburger buns
Roughly chop the onion and green pepper finely or place them in a food processor until well diced. Put the oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Fry the onion and green pepper until some of the moisture evaporates.
Add the chopped beef, Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper. Break up the beef with a spoon as it browns. When the meat is browned, drain the excess grease from the pan.
Set the pan aside and combine the crushed tomato, mustard, brown sugar, and spices in a bowl. Mix well.
Pour the sauce into the pan with the meat and raise the heat to medium-high. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Sloppy Joe’s Bar opened in Havana in the 1930s. It was frequented by Earnest Hemingway, Errol Flynn, Alec Guinness and many other celebrities. I recently came across their cocktail recipe book online and tried a few. They’re kind of fruity and tropical which makes them perfect on a hot day.
Sloppy Joe’s Cocktails
1 ½ oz. white rum
1 ½ oz. pineapple juice
1 tsp. Grenadine
1 tsp. Luxardo
Shake with ice and serve in a flute.
Juice of ½ lime
1 oz. white rum
1 oz. Italian vermouth
1 oz. Apple Jack
1 tsp. grenadine
Shake with ice and serve in a cocktail glass.
Juice on 1 lemon
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. green crème de menthe
1 egg white
1 ½ oz. gin
Shake with ice and serve in a flute. Typically, a “fizz” is topped off with some club soda, but not this one.
Different people make Bolognese differently. My recipe is for basic Bolognese. I don’t used any garlic because the sofrito (carrot, onion, celery) is enough for the aromatics. Some people use pancetta, but with a mix of pork and beef it isn’t necessary. Often recipes call for chicken or beef stock but that’s not needed with a pound of chopped meat already in the sauce. Don’t be tempted to add and basil, oregano, bay leaf or any other herbs or spices. They’re not needed. On American menus you sometimes see “Spaghetti a la Bolognese.” Spaghetti should never be served with Bolognese sauce, only broad long pasta like mafalda, pappardelle, tagliatelle, fettuccine, and sometimes rigatoni.
1 diced carrot
1 diced medium onion
2 diced celery stalks
½ lb. each – beef and pork
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white or red wine
salt & black pepper to taste
Dice the onion, carrot, and celery. That’s the sofrito, the base for many Italian sauces. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir. Cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the sofrito to a bowl and set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot and brown the meat, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. Return the sofrito to the pot. It’s fine if some of the meat is still a little pink.
Now add the wine and deglaze the pot. Stir and cook for 5 minutes and then pour in the crushed tomatoes and 2 cups of hot water. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 2 hours. If the sauce gets too thick as it simmers add more water. While the sauce is simmering, start a pot of boiling water for the pasta. I’m using fettuccine. Drain the pasta when it’s done and save a cup of the pasta water.
To serve, put a sauté pan on low heat. Put some of the sauce in the pan, add some pasta, and stir with a little pasta water. Place in a dish and sprinkle with Parmigiana cheese.
This is a simple and quick recipe similar to aglio e olio. You can make the sauce in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes has a fresh light taste so I wouldn’t recommend any cheese on this one.
1 lb. spaghetti
¼ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt, black pepper
Red pepper (from a pinch to a tablespoon)
½ cup chopped parsley
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Start a pot of water for the pasta and begin to cook the pasta.
Slowly cook the garlic in the oil in a large frying pan. Add the seasoning (salt, black and red pepper) and the parsley. Stir and then add the tomatoes (half of them cut in half). Cook over a medium heat until the pasta is almost done.
Add a cup of the pasta water to the sauce and then add the almost cooked pasta to finish cooking. Add additional water as necessary to keep it moist.
Posole is a traditional Mexican dish. It’s a thick soup made with meat and hominy. You can have your butcher cut a pork shoulder into pieces. The toppings are up to you. Use as many or as few as you like.
5 or 6 dried ancho chiles
6 cloves garlic (3 crushed & 3 finely chopped)
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
Salt & black pepper
Olive oil for browning
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
3 15-ounce cans white hominy, drained and rinsed
Remove the stems from the anchos and shake out as many seeds as possible. Put them in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove them after about 15 minutes, let them cool a bit and then put them and 1½ cups of the liquid in a blender. Add the crushed garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt, and blend until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pushing the sauce through with a rubber spatula.
Season the pork with salt and black pepper and set aside. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pork and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Add the onion to the pot and cook until soft and translucent. Add the chopped garlic and return the browned meat. Increase the heat to medium high.
Stir in the chicken broth, oregano, bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup or more of the chili sauce (depending on your taste). Add enough water to cover the meat and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and slowly simmer, turning the pork a few times, until tender – about 2 hours. Stir in the hominy and continue to simmer, uncovered, about 45 minutes more. Remove the bay leaf. Add some water if the posole is too thick. Check for seasoning.
Serve the posole with the remaining chili sauce and a topping of fresh diced avocado, shredded cabbage, diced onion, sliced radishes, and/or cilantro.
Not everyone likes liver. I think that’s more because of the way liver is prepared than what it actually tastes like. Lots of people over cook it, giving it an unpleasant texture. The key to tasty liver is to serve it rare. Fry it quickly in a hot pan for just a few minutes until the exterior is brown. That’s all.
3 tbsps. olive oil for frying
1 to 1 ½ lbs. calf’s liver cut into strips
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsps. butter
3 or 4 thinly sliced onions,
3 minced garlic cloves
4 ozs. white wine
Fresh parsley, chopped
Pat the room temperature liver dry and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot add the liver strips and fry until browned on both sides. Don’t crowd the pan or the liver will steam instead of brown. Remove the liver and set aside on a plate.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the butter to the same skillet. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the garlic to the onions and sauté and blend for about 1 – 2 minutes. Add the liver back to the skillet and pour in the wine. Let the wine reduce for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove everything to a serving platter, pour the pan drippings over it and sprinkle with parsley.
Gravy for Venezuelan Liver and Onions – If you’d like, use the pan drippings to make a gravy. Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the drippings. Stir constantly for 1 -2 minutes over medium heat, then add 1 cup of beef stock. Cook and stir until thickened. Serve over liver and onions.
Aspic is savory and traditionally made with some kind of animal stock, like chicken, pork, or beef. Gelatin refers to sweet or non-savory dishes, like a Jell-O salad. I came across this article in Gastro Obscura that goes into this subject in more detail with interesting and very unappetizing graphics.
How America Embraced Aspics with Threatening Auras
– From futuristic test kitchens to Under-the-Sea Salad, midcentury Jell-O took a turn for the weird. –
“The lamb ribs lie in a precisely arranged herringbone pattern, surrounded by nubs of green beans, hard-boiled eggs, and capers, all entombed in a flavorless, wobbling mass. A two-tiered tower harbors swirling clouds of mayonnaise anchored by erect stalks of asparagus. An acid-green, lime-flavored mound holds a can’s worth of tuna speckled with pimento olives. Few foods today feel as anachronistic as the gelatin “salads” (a catch-all term for dishes sweet, savory, and everything in between) of midcentury America.”
This is a big recipe. You can serve half of it hot, and the next day serve the remainder as a salad.
2 broccoli heads (about 1 ½ lbs.)
Olive oil for frying and drizzling
1 red bell pepper cut into thin strips
6 cloves thinly sliced garlic
1 tbsp. anchovy paste or 5 anchovies
1 large lemon cut into 8 thin rounds and 1 tbsp. juice
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
Trim the broccoli into small florets with some stem remaining. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the broccoli. Blanch the broccoli for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
Bring about 5 tbsps. of oil to medium heat in a frying pan and add the peppers. Fry for 10 minutes, add the garlic and anchovy paste. Blend and cook for 5 more minutes. If you’re using whole anchovies, cook until they break down.
Heat a well-oiled grill pan. Toss the blanched broccoli with 3 tbsps. oil. Once the pan is hot, grill the broccoli, turning so there are grill marks on both sides.
Grill the lemon slices for 1 – 2 minutes on each side to get a nice char. Chop the slices and add to a bowl with the parsley, 1 tbsp. lemon juice and 2 tbsps. olive oil.
Place the broccoli in a large bowl and add the pepper mixture and the lemon/parsley mixture and toss.
Arrange in a serving platter and serve hot or if you prefer, chill and serve as a salad.
If you like black pepper, you should try Peposo Beef. It’s a simple recipe but with 3 hours of simmering be sure to give yourself time to make it. This is a basic recipe, and you can make some variations. I think the carrots add a bit of color and texture, but you can leave them out. Three hours of simmering soften the pepper corns and make them very edible but if you want you can add them in a spice bag that you can remove before serving. One thing you shouldn’t change is the wine. This is a Toscano dish and should be made with Chianti.
Heat the oil in a pot on medium heat. Add the crushed garlic cloves and peppercorns and cook for one minute. Add whatever herbs you’re using and then add the meat. Sear until its lightly browned on all sides.
Add the wine, cover, and simmer on a low heat for about 1 hour. If it gets too dry add some water and continue simmering. Add 4 cups hot water, and the carrots if using, and cover the pot. Allow it to simmer slowly for another 2 hours, checking regularly to see that the liquid has not evaporated completely. Add water if necessary to keep the meat covered.
After 2 hours remove the lid, and let the liquid evaporate until the meat is left in a thick brown juice.
Peposo Beef is traditionally served with polenta. I like it with pasta.
My mother used to make what she called corn flake chicken. She got the recipe from one of the women’s magazines she used to read. The corn flakes and deep fry make this chicken extra crispy. The brining was my idea and so was the addition of Cajun Spice.
For the brine –
4 cups warm water
4 tbsps. kosher salt
2 tbsps. sugar
For the egg wash –
2 or 3 large eggs
1 tbsp. paprika (hot or sweet)
1 tbsp. Cajun spice
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tbsps. milk
For the chicken –
½ cup flour
1 ½ cup ground corn flakes
1 whole chicken cut into pieces
Enough vegetable oil to cover chicken in a deep fryer
Cut the chicken into 10 pieces – 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 breasts each cut in half. Place the pieces in the brine and leave for at least 3 hours or as long as overnight.
Pre-heat oven to 400o and fryer oil to 350o.
Blot the chicken pieces dry. Dredge in the flour and coat evenly. Shake off excess and place in a dish.
Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the paprika, Cajun spice, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and milk.
You’ll need a cup and a half of ground corn flakes to coat the chicken. A 12 ounce box of corn flakes will give you 2 cups. Pour it into the blender and whirl until the consistency is like coarse breadcrumbs. Dip the floured chicken in the egg wash and let the excess drip off. Press it into the corn flake crumbs and thoroughly coat it.
Place the chicken in the 350o oil and fry for 2 – 3 minutes, turning once. You only need to brown the corn flake crumbs. The chicken will cook in the oven. Fry as many pieces as fit in your fryer without touching. Place the fried chicken in a lightly oiled roasting pan and roast for 25 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve.
The same recipe, minus the brining and oven, works well with fish too. Just deep fry for a few minutes longer.