SFC: Mexican Joe

           Been a while since I’ve done one of my cooking posts, even my last one 8 days ago was only two paragraphs.

            Well, had a nice night in yesterday, and with my cousin coming over for another one of our special anime-movie binges it was up to me for dinner. Since I still had almost a whole pack of hamburger buns leftover, but no hamburger patties, that little craving for Sloppy Joe’s decided to crawl up. Luckily I was going to the store anyways, so I could get whatever I still needed.

            You know me, I rarely like doing things normally (at least not for this blog), so I was thinking of how to change my Joe up (funny thing is, I didn’t even think about doing a post about it until after starting cooking; really shows how long it’s been right?), and dropped by that fantastic, super fresh, plastic-wrapped variety meat isle for my beef. In my search, I found a little tube of chorizo which, to my surprise, actually cost less than ground beef. Now, that’s probably a noted indication of the actual quality, but as I was penny pinching a bit, really wanted it, and didn’t have the time to make my chorizo, a plastic tube it is.

            Ultimately, I always suggest, as with any quality product, that one either make their own or ensure they buy a decent-enough version from a good store. To that end I found a post online which details the steps to the home chorizo process pretty well; would love to go through it myself, but as I didn’t actually do it I don’t have any pictures to back it up.

             http://userealbutter.com/2012/07/25/mexican-chorizo-recipe/

            One thing I’d like to add; make sure you wait at least a day before using your chorizo, that way you let the meat “cure” a little bit in the salt/spice mix, as well as allowing the flavors time to blend and settle.

            Now, back to my Joe. Start off with my onion, which I chop large a-la Rick Bayless when he makes his chorizo-onion taco filling. Add to a HOT pan (don’t forget that butter!) – these we are not caramelizing, nor are we sweating; the plan is to get them cooked but keep a little more of that nice little bit of onion texture in the final product.

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            (Excuse the foggy picture, lotta steam in the room, haha) Chorizo is added, in my case squeezed out like a spicy, meaty toothpaste. Sorta creeped me out a bit, but I was prepared for weird-textured chorizo, so long as it cooked up to a tasty final.

            Didn’t want to do just a chorizo, so I grabbed a bag of diced, cubed chicken meat. If you’ve seen these things, in the same isle as the packaged and canned tuna, you open it up and it smells like cat food. This isn’t of course the chicken, but the weird liquid they decide to “preserve” it with. Definitely don’t use it if you have a choice, cook your own or get a better quality. But the parents like keeping it around to put on top of nachos, so I took advantage. Poured it in a strainer and washed thoroughly, the resulting is very plain diced of dried chicken, which I then chopped to a nice shred.

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            Add this to the chorizo, which is now fried completely. At this point, one could easily stop and use this to fill whatever tortilla one has lying around for a nice lunch. However, we’re going for Joes, so more steps it is!

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            I also had a really nice can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, so that went in as my sauce base. For some reason we didn’t have any of those “tomato sauce” cans (surprised me), and I needed more liquid to better allow things to “stew.” Quick fix; put some water in the empty can, swirl to get any leftover bits of tomato, and add. Gonna reduce almost all of it anyway. In the ideal world, would either puree a nice can of whole, peeled tomatoes, maybe add a bit of flavorful stock/broth and some Spanish wine to deglaze the pan.

            I wanna take a little break right now and talk about canned tomatoes. Some people reading at the moment may still be at the point of wondering “why would you choose canned tomatoes, shouldn’t you be suggesting we use fresh?” (For those who aren’t, just skip this, save the 10 seconds and do something fun!) And to a point the question is true; who wouldn’t want to use the freshest, richest flavored tomato that one can get?

            The thing is, we can’t get that tomato (at least not easily). Most store tomatoes, though good, aren’t at this heightened level of freshness and quality, especially since they’re gotten out of season. Canning, in opposition, gets a very bad rap as low-quality produce, which is only exacerbated by those bowls of horrible del monte green beans, peas, and beets we were forced to eat as children. True canning, though, was ultimately developed as a technique for preservation, and when it comes to tomatoes this aspect shines. Real canned tomatoes hold a lot of quality in them; they’re peeled/diced/crushed (depending on style) soon after being picked, and canned immediately. Like this, they still hold almost all of their flavors, while at the same time creating this flavorful little tomato-liquid we can use in our cookings. This as opposed to a stem of out-of-season picked tomatoes that have been sitting in a box for who knows how long.

            If one looks, one can find even higher quality, organically made canned tomatoes. So unless one has their own garden of this little vegetable-turned-fruit, and doesn’t need it in a purely raw sense, don’t be remiss to take a pause in the tomato section of the canned veggies.

            Alright, that’s another ramble done, I still need to finish this sandwich. Remember, even if one has a quality-made chorizo, and especially if they don’t, taste the Joe after it’s been stewing for a bit. I’m glad I did, as I found the spices quite lacking where I wanted them to be, so a quick trip to the spice pantry and I fixed that up nicely. Not to mention one always need to adjust their basic Salt-Pepper seasonings.

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            Tomatoes and onions are soft, everything is blended to that fine “Sloppy Joe smudge,” and the liquid is reduced enough, dinner was finally ready. As with all Joe’s, we don’t bother with toasting the bun, as the true height of the Joe is that LACK of textural components. We savor in the uniform softness, taking our joy in how the simple white bread soaks up the flavorful meat-sauce.

            Top it with shredded cheese (Mexican Mix, of course), and we now have our “Mexican Sloppy Joe w/ Chorizo and Chicken.” I think it turned out good overall, very tasty final product. If I were to think of the “ideal” method for making this again, though, think I’d stick with pure Beef Chorizo and onions, and for the sauce use a really good, spicy Red Mole, some Queso Fresco for the cheese. That would just be awesome I think.

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            Though it’s not a true Mexican meal without some Mexican, Glass-bottled, pure-sugar Coke. A side of tortilla chips to pick up all the Joe that fell out.

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            And for later on in the night, to better celebrate the warmth after the December-reminiscent snowfall, a bit of Mexican Hot Coco. Not sure how proud Rick Bayless would be at the night, but I think he’d at least appreciate the effort.

Messy Giuseppe

giuseppe1

www.messyg.com/

https://twitter.com/MessyGTruck

Main Location: St. Paul

            Our cities’ first Italian-based truck, Messy G’s (as they like to call themselves… I think…) takes our childhood sloppy joe and ramps it up with the rich, spiced tomato sauce and hot… well I don’t know what kind of meat, secret recipes and all. They then top this special mix with a slice of provolone, letting the conserved heat of the sloppy melt it down to gooeyness.

            Besides the Joe, Messy G’s offers quite a few other Italian-based hoagies and sandwiches, using cured and cooked meats with various toppings. Giardinara, basically a spicy Italian vegetable relish with larger cuts of various veggies, is used often, and a prize topping to get if you still haven’t tried yet. They also offer a grilled cheese with honey, basil, and tomato on Vienna bread… mmmmmm, if I go again that’s my main goal.

Food: 6

            It all looks and sounds good, but the meat in a lot of the hoagies can seem somewhat hoagie-generic; like what you’d find in a restaurant who’s focus is something else but still serves. The sloppy joe tastes good, but the meat is very loose (well, loose for a sloppy joe). When I had mine the spicyness just seemed to stand out too much. There was not really any “depth” to the spice either, felt like just heat (and I’m good at picking out flavor depth in spicy foods, why I love curry so much).

            The food is still good, and there are nice gems here and there, the grilled cheese for example. However, I still feel there might be better options out there when it comes to flavor.

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Holdability: 4

             You cannot walk with the Messy Giusseppe at all; you have to sit down, grab a few napkins and buckle down. If you can pick it up and eat at least half with just your hands (both are required), then good onya; but at some point you will need a fork and, possibly, knife to get the rest.

             Other sandwiches are a lot easier to hold and walk with, but they are served in a basket, and some risk a little spillout from giardenera and other toppings. I debated raising the score a bit because of this, but the Messy G Sloppy Joe is the item most people get, it’s what they advertise, so that shall act as the bulk of the score.

Price: 7.5

             Tends to be slightly higher around the $8-9 range. The hoagie with cured meats is probably worth it; they use some nice cuts for that.

Speed: 9

              A lot of pre-made, ready-to-assemble items; all they need to do is spread the buns, push in the meat and let the toppings explode (… sorry, I hang out with a very dirty crowd at times). The Sloppy Joe is very quick itself, so one has very little of a wait.

The TOE: 6.5

              They have a great concept, they have taken a beloved childhood food and made it adult-worthy. Many of the other sandwiches are pure on-the-go focused. Truck design itself is very fun, bright, and appealing, with the people behind the booth exactly what you want to see. However, once you get the food, a lot of that just becomes… a little skewed.

              Way I see it, they are VERY close to that little “wavelength” of what true “Food Trucks” feel like, but they just aren’t there. That can make it feel weird when thinking about it. It is that “ahhhh, so close!” event that seems to distort it even more than if one was just a little farther away.

                      Tally: 33/50

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Final Thoughts

            I understand that a lot of people really like this truck, and that it has been voted best in the Twin Cities by one or two local magazines. To tell the truth, I am really hoping that maybe I just had a bad batch of sloppy joe, and that the other pictures taste a lot better than they look. I expect to get some flak from this particular post.

           I have studied these things, been around them; I trust my taste buds, and I know grey meat when I see it.

          Now, as for my suggestions: when you can sit down, certainly still get the Sloppy Joe; it may be spicy, but it’s a good fork n knife meal. When walking is required, either go to another truck, or grab the Grilled Cheese or the Hoagie; it has some nice cured meats on it.

          Ultimately, there are probably a few better options out for same or similar prices; if you crave Italian or options are limited, it is still a good stop.