Bobby Flay’s Throwdown Sloppy Joes, aka Neat Joes

A couple of months ago I mentioned that I had fallen in love with Bobby Flay’s Southwestern style. His smoky flavors and love of chiles spruced up with tangy ingredients are appropriate for the summer season and, since I’ve failed utterly at making some of his more artful dishes (that require a certain finesse I do not possess) I took a trip over to his website and found a recipe from his Throwdown series: Sloppy Joes.

The premise of the TV series goes like this: Bobby finds some dude or chick who allegedly makes the best of something. Bobby and his team of assistants then come up with their own version, arrive on the scene with a camera crew, and do a big cookoff (aka a “throwdown”) to see who makes the better dish. Kind of like West Side Story, but with cooking. (When you’re a Flay, you’re a Flay all the way, from your first poblano to your last dyin’ day?) Typically the dishes are really fun, homespun foods like spaghetti, lasagna, cookies, mac and cheese, the kind of food any American could get behind, and you can find the recipes either at the Food Network website or on Bobby Flay’s website.

I didn’t see the sloppy joe throwdown on television, but it looked good when I was perusing his website. Bobby’s version is actually called “Neat Joes” because they’re more of an open-faced sandwich set atop toasted, garlic-butter-smothered sourdough bread. My bread was cut into very thick slices so I could just pick it up with my hand and shovel it into my mouth, rather than negotiating with a fork. This format also makes it a great option for picnic food. Serve with some red wine and you’ve got a winner. And you’ll have to forgive the photos — it’s not easy taking a refined photograph of a sloppy joe.

Throwdown Sloppy Joes 3

I really liked the smoky flavors in this. My fear was that it was going to be really spicy, but it was actually a mix of savory and sweet. To ramp up the spice, add more chipotle to the BBQ sauce and some of the inside rib of the poblano to the meat. I didn’t really know what to expect so I only put in one minced chipotle and the sweet parts of the poblano chile.

One note before we get into this recipe. First, I didn’t cook this on a grill, I cooked this in an oven. In order to roast my chile and pepper, I did it in the oven on a cookie sheet lined with foil. I put that into the instructions in case anyone else needs to oven-roast theirs as well — it only takes a couple of minutes to do and clean up is a snap.

Throwdown Sloppy Joes, AKA Neat Joes
Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Throwdown

BBQ Sauce (or you can use 1 jar Mesa Grill BBQ Sauce)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 cups ketchup
½ cup water
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1-2 diced chipotles (depending on how spicy you want it)
¼ teaspoon chile de arbol or cayenne
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons molasses
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onions and cook until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the ketchup and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for an additional 10 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally.

2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth, season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool at room temperature. Sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.

Sloppy Joes, AKA Neat Joes
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 lbs ground chuck (80/20)
1 cup red onion, small dice
1/2 cup small dice roasted poblano chile
2/3 cup small dice roasted red bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 1/4 cups Bobby’s Mesa Grill BBQ Sauce (recipe below)
1/4 cup water
1/4 ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or cilantro, plus more for garnish
8 pieces of buttered, garlic bread (recipe below)

1. Place oven rack in upper third and turn oven on to broil. On a lined cookie sheet, place the whole poblano chile and red bell pepper. Every 1 1/2 – 2 minutes (or when the sides of the vegetables start to roast up by turning a little brown), turn them about a quarter or third of a turn, and repeat until the outsides are roasted. Remove from the oven, turn the oven off and let the vegetables rest. As they cool, they will soften. Dice into small pieces.

2. Heat the oil over high heat in a large high-sided sauté pan until the oil begins to smoke. Add the beef, breaking it up into small pieces using a metal spatula or wooden spoon, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

3. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the poblano, bell peppers and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the ancho powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add the BBQ sauce, ½ cup of water and the ketchup, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the mustard, Worcestershire, honey, brown sugar and molasses, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Return the beef to the pan. Remove the cover and continue cooking until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Add the vinegar, season with salt and pepper and stir in the cilantro.

4. Top slices of the garlic bread with some of the sloppy joe mixture, sprinkle with cilantro or parsley.

Okay, I know this looks like a lot of instructions — it’s a little deceiving. Start by making the BBQ sauce. All you do is throw it into a pot, let it cook, then give it a whirl in your processor. Then leave it sitting in the processor to cool while you get the beef ready. In the very end, while the beef is simmering for the last 15 minutes, you’ll toast up your bread. I did mine in the oven on the same cookie sheet I used to roast my vegetables. All in all, these joes took about 45 – 60 minutes to put together from start to finish, and was a really fun dish for a summer evening. I will definitely make this again.

Bobby Flay's Throwdown Sloppy Joes

Garlic Toast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices sourdough bread, cut ½-inch slices

1. Combine the butter and garlic in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the butter is melted, season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let sit 5 minutes.

2. Preheat broiler. Put the bread on a baking sheet and broil until both sides until lightly golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Remove from the oven and brush with the garlic butter.

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