This simple, no-fuss meal stirs up childhood memories of family time
The piles of books on my bedside table sat so high they actually formed a small wall preventing the soft lamp light from spilling into the room. Like so many other people suddenly living in quarantine, I knew, at the very least, I had the time to tame these towering stacks.
I picked up a memoir, shared by a friend earlier this year. It had been sitting among the others gathering dust. The author recounted her life, weaving in a few recipes from her history. And in this new reality, reading about these dishes tickled a distant memory. Neither recipe require any special equipment or rely on splashy gourmet ingredients — just pantry staples tempered with the intangible: nostalgia.
With two working parents, I don’t remember a lot of weeknight family dinners. Not a complaint so much as an observation from my childhood. The ritual of gathering nightly together was lost in the grind of everyday life. But I can recall my mom’s Sloppy Joes.
They were served on large, spongy hamburger buns and contained sliced green olives. (Those olives always reminded my younger self of eyes staring back from the plate). That simple, no-fuss meal was comforting, reassuring even. It came together quickly so we could linger at the table as a family, just enjoying one another’s company at home.
While the Sloppy Joe bubbles away on your stove, you’ll have time to make the drop biscuits. They are as tender as they are easy. For the recipes below, most of these ingredients might already be on your shelves or in your refrigerator. Those that aren’t shouldn’t be too hard to come by, even these days.
Author’s note: Because articles for monthly magazines are written so far in advance, I have no idea what your life will be like when you read these words. But I hope you’ve stayed connected to loved ones, shared a meal or drink (remotely) with friends, and that you’ve rediscovered something beautiful in your life — something that brings you joy, clarity and peace.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2½ pounds ground beef
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in juice
½ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Tabasco, more to taste
Chopped green onion for garnish, if desired
Cheddar buttermilk biscuits, see recipe
Place an 8-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat and add oil. Heat until hot, but not smoking, then sauté onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic, stirring, until golden.
Add beef and cook, breaking up large clumps with the edge of a spatula until meat is no longer pink. Add salt and pepper, stirring to mix.
Combine tomatoes with juice, ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco in a bowl and stir until smooth. Add to beef mixture and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 25-30 minutes.
Serve Sloppy Joes on split cheddar buttermilk biscuits. Top with chopped green onions, if desired.
Cheddar Drop Biscuits
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cups (6-ounce) extra-sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated
3 scallions, finely chopped
1¼ cups milk
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450 F. Prepare a large baking sheet by buttering it. Set it aside.
Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add the cold butter and quickly incorporate it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips. The mixture will resemble coarse meal with pea-sized pieces of cold butter.
Stir in cheeses and scallions, then add the milk. Stir the mixture until all ingredients are just combined.
Drop the dough in 8 roughly equal mounds about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then serve or store. Biscuits can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
Alicia Cahill is the owner of The Kitchen Chick, 2402 Market St. in Galveston.