Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Loose Meat Sandwiches

I never heard of a "loose meat" sandwich until they appeared on Roseanne I dunno how many years ago, when the main character based the restaurant she opened, the Lunch Box, around her famous recipe for loose meat sandwiches. Not long afterwards, being a new resident to central Illinois, I visited my first Maid-Rite. The sandwiches there were pretty good -- though I think they tasted better if you have a nostalgic attachment to them.

Then last year, I had one of my sister-in-law's loose meat sandwiches. I'm not even sure if that's what she called them, but they were ground meat sandwiches, the filling for which she had warmed in the Crockpot. It was her grandmother's simple recipe, and I'm telling you, I could have eaten fifty of them. In reality, I think I may have eaten just over twenty.

I recently made up my own recipe based on what she told me was in those (I'm sure she would have given me the recipe over the phone, but if I'm often too lazy to look at a recipe, I'm definitely too lazy to pick up the phone). I think I got really close, although I think she may have used meat with a higher fat content. I had very lean ground beef, which as usual, had only made it into our house because I had to buy some to make something else to bring to a crowd of people.

Loose Meat Sandwiches

The difference between these and say, a Manwich or a Sloppy Joe is that basically they aren't as tomato sauce-y, and there aren't any green peppers in them. The ingredients that you add cook down enough so that all that is left is their enhancement of the meat itself.

First, I added the following ingredients to the food processor:

1 cup celery
1 cup onions
1 cup carrots
3 cloves garlic

Pulse those until everything is very finely chopped, but not puréed. Then add the vegetables to a large sauce pan or skillet, and wilt the vegetables with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Then add about 1.5 pounds of ground meat, and brown it (drain if you wish, which will yield a leaner end product). Add about 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup mustard, and a little brown sugar. Season it again.

I simmered mine together right there in the pan for about 45 minutes, or until the meat is crumbly, and the other ingredients are no longer recognizable as separate entities, so to speak. It should just look like ground meat. You could also transfer it to a slow cooker immediately after the browning phase, and place it on "low," and let it simmer in there until you achieve the same result. (Couple hours, probably).

I served the sandwiches with Trader Joe's greens, cooked with broth, onions, garlic, and their thick-cut turkey bacon... There reheated very well, were delish with a little cheddar on them, and tasted very, very good. You can double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd, too!


  1. I also had never heard of a loose meat sandwich before Roseanne. :) Quality TV right there...Then I went to this hot dog place near our house with my husband and since I don't like hot dogs I tried their loose meat hamburger, which is basically the same thing as a loose meat sandwich. Quite messy and very tasty, although it never would have occured to me to make it at home. I might have to try this recipe sometime soon.

    Oh and the autofill finally kicked in when I was filling out this comment. Yay! :)

  2. Why do you know so much about Peoria restaurants -- Maid Rite, Emos?? Did you road trip over here during college just to eat lunch?

  3. Ha ha... No, I lived in Peoria. And for a couple of years I had a boyfriend from that area, so we were there a lot even before that.

    You name the town in central or southern Illinois, and I've probably lived there at some point. The list is: Carbondale, Bourbonnais, Kankakee, Champaign, Farmer City, Peoria, and Bloomington. Then the Chicago area!

  4. Interesting, I've never heard of a loose meat sandwich!

    I'll have to try this one though, as my only problem with Sloppy Joes is that there is too much tomato-saucy flavor in them!

  5. I can't remember if I ever posted this before, but when you have left over meatballs/sausage and sauce, smash up the meat with a potato masher in the sauce, heat this up and serve with homemade slaw of shredded cabbage, tablespoon of red wine vinegar, tablespoon of sugar and cup of mayonnaise - ie. your basic coleslaw. Place bigger meat pieces with sauce on burger bun, top with slaw, put the top on the sandwich and then top with the meaty-mashed sauce -- a couple of dashes of hot sauce -- My whole family loves this - mid week after we've had pasta, meatballs and sauce the prior weekend. Enjoy!

  6. Great idea! Someday I plan to do a post about meatloaf, and then mashing up the leftovers to put in stuffed peppers the next day...

  7. MEATLOAF!!!!! Now you're talking!!!! Can't wait.