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Jun 7, 2011
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Wine With . . . Sloppy Joes
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
 
This variation on an old childhood favorite will not only bring out the inner kid in you, but will also satisfy the more adult side of your nature.  To give the Sloppy Joes somewhat more panache and complexity, we’ve tweaked the classic formula a little without forsaking its inherently simple, honest character.  Pancetta and ground pork added to the basic ground beef contribute rich flavor and sumptuous texture, and the optional fresh herb and olive oil mixture drizzle adds further depth of flavor.  But if Sloppy Joes aren’t really your thing, this mixture can alternate as a terrific pasta sauce.  Or tuck some of it into bell peppers or scooped out zucchini or tomatoes; drizzle with olive oil, top with a sprinkle of cheese, and bake until browned and sizzling.
Sloppy Joes 

Serves four.
 
3 ounces pancetta
1 medium onion, minced
1/ 2 pound ground beef
1/ 2 pound ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each thyme and oregano
1/ 4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 16 ounce can tomato sauce*
Salt to taste
4 buns split in half**
Fresh herb-olive oil drizzle (recipe follows)
 
With a sharp knife, finely mince the pancetta.  Place in a non-reactive skillet over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta begins to brown.  Add the onion and continue cooking for another few minutes.  When the onion has softened and is becoming translucent, add the ground meats.  Raise the heat to medium high, add the garlic and seasonings, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through.  Stir in the Worcestershire Sauce and add the tomato sauce.  Simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes.  If it seems too dry, stir in a little chicken broth, water, or wine (red, white, or pink).  To serve, lightly toast the buns and top them with the Sloppy Joe mixture.  Drizzle with the herb-olive oil if desired.
     
* We prefer unsweetened tomato sauce, though it can be challenging to find.  Goya is one brand that doesn’t include sugar in the ingredients.
** Use regular hamburger buns, or the thin sandwich alternatives that recently have begun appearing in markets.  Arnolds is one popular brand, and we also like the Ozery label.
 
Fresh Herb-Olive Oil Drizzle
2 cups lightly packed fresh herbs such as basil, parsley and/or cilantro
1/ 2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
Salt to taste
 
Chop the herbs and process them with the olive oil and parmesan in a blender or food processor.  Taste for seasoning.  Drizzle a little of the mixture over each of the Sloppy Joes and pass the rest at the table.
 
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While this quite clearly is a better red than white wine dish, we were unsure what sort of wines would fare best with it.  To find out, we opened twelve different bottles, representing a wide variety of styles.  And since Sloppy Joes are pretty casual fare, we set a price ceiling of $20.
The wines that did not pair very well fell into two general categories.  Not surprisingly, some were too light-bodied.  A New Zealand Pinot Noir, for instance, simply got lost when it had to deal with the rich flavors of the dish.  Other wines, and this did surprise us, seemed too tart.  For example, we had thought that a Chianti Classico would perform nicely since wines of that type usually work with tomato-based pasta sauces.  The rich meatiness of this dish, however, ended up making the wine taste almost sour.  By contrast, the wines that did perform especially well, though representing different grape varieties and geographical origins, all were fairly full-bodied, with deep flavors and somewhat pliant tannins.  They were soft on the palate, echoing the texture of the dish, but at the same time legitimately dry and satisfying.   
 
 
Selection
 
Approx. Price
Comments
 
La Linda, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza ( Argentina ) Malbec 2007
(Imported by Testa Wines of the World)
 
 
$11
 
A juicy Malbec, with a smooth texture, and dry, pasty tannins in the finish, this wine’s fresh plum and cherry flavors melds nicely with the equally juicy Sloppy Joes. 
.
 
 
Marco Real, Navarra ( Spain ) Tempranillo 2007
(Imported by Steve Miles Selections)
 
 
 
$11
 
Showing little or no wood character, this wine’s plum and berry fruit flavors make it sing with the dish.  Fresh and ripe but not sugary, they make for a very pretty combination.
 
 
 
Perrin & Fils, Côtes du Rhône (France) Réserve 2009
(Imported by Vineyard Brands)
 
 
 
$11
 
 
Spicier than the other wines we’re recommending, with a peppery kick and notes reminiscent of dried summer herbs, this wine nonetheless shows the kind of fresh, deep fruit profile that work so well with our Sloppy Joes.  The secondary aromas and flavors are an added bonus.
 
 
 
Quinta de Roriz, Douro ( Portugal ) “Prazo de Roriz” 2008
(Imported by Premium Port Wines)
 
 
$17
 
A blend of Touriga Nacional (35%), Tinta Roriz (35%), Touriga Franca (28%), and Tinta Francisca (2%), this is an impressively structured wine.  Many Douro reds seem to us tight and unyielding when first opened.  This one, by contrast, is full of almost opulent flavor, with real depth on the palate and a long finish that the dish complements but never interrupts.  It is a downright delicious match.
 
 
 
Villa San-Juliette, Paso Robles ( California ) Petite Sirah 2009
 
 
 
$17
 
Not that long ago, Petite Sirahs used to be hard and tannic, especially when young.  Not these days, as more and more of them feel supple and fairly burst with fresh black and blueberry fruit flavor.  That definitely is the case with this one, and that fruit-forward character is precisely what makes for such an attractive pairing.