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Column: Can't beat a loose meat sandwich

2023 is off to a great start in the kitchen, seeing I’ve gone over a month without dropping a pizza in the bottom of the oven.

It has been nice enough that I could probably smoke something outside, but I recently signed up for Apple TV, so I have not been too interested in getting off the couch.

With a new year, I’m sure there will be plenty of new recipes mixed in with the old traditional favorites.

One of the favorites that will never fall out of the rotation is “loose meat sandwiches,” aka “tavern sandwiches.” I’m not from the Midwest, where this sandwich originated, but I remember watching the show “Rosanne” as a kid. When the fictional family used their life savings to open a restaurant specializing in “loose meats,” I was intrigued.

By the time I started cooking regularly, I had forgotten about the Conner family, but eventually, I saw a program on the food network that featured the sandwich, and I had to try it.

Everyone in the house seemed confused when I described what I was making for dinner. I was asked, “isn’t this just a sloppy joe, or what not just make hamburgers?”.

As soon as I served the dish, the questions stopped, and there are often requests for me to make it.

I’ve never eaten a traditional “loose meat,” in Iowa, but I have come up with my recipe that is easy to do if you are looking for something different.

I start with some 80/20 ground beef and season it like there is no tomorrow. I get it cooking and add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Once some grease forms, I throw in some mustard and Worcestershire. Once it is browned, I drain the grease, add a half cup of beef broth and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

While the meat is simmering in the broth, I will heat some buns with a slice of American cheese. I’m sure you could use another cheese, but nothing melts better than American, and it never overpowers the meat.

I will top my loose meat with a bit of diced onion, ketchup, mustard, and pepperoncini.

The peppers add a little zing that makes me smile. I ate two last night and typing this made me want three more.

This is so easy to make, and it always hits the spot. We usually serve it with macaroni salad.

Sounds like a sloppy joe?

No, there is not any tomato involved.

Sounds like a cheeseburger?

No, I haven’t had too many cheeseburgers seasoned like that and simmered in broth.

If you are on one of those diets where you don’t eat bread, you could throw it in a bowl. There probably is nothing wrong with a “bowl of meat” for dinner.

Sometime this week, I’m going to start looking at some out-of-the-box recipes to try this year, and maybe I can find a few that stay in the rotation. If not, I’ll always have my old friend “loose meat” to keep me company.

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