Sunday, July 4, 2010

Taste the Trailer Park

I love Anne Burrell.

For those of you with lives that don't include marathon sessions of drooling in front of the TV watching the Food Network, Anne is the spiky-haired spitfire host of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef who likes to use phrases like "shootin' match" and "BIG MEAT" and constantly refers to each stage of a dish as a "situation". I feel like we were separated at birth. She was sent to culinary school; I went to learn how to pretend on stage. She was Mario Batali's right hand woman, and she always makes some really tasty vittles while teaching you something you may not have known. Little fun facts like a chef's hat (or toque) has 101 pleats to represent the 101 ways to prepare an egg or that risotto is, contrary to popular belief, not the name of a delicious Italian rice dish, but rather a method of cooking.

Well, Anne, I have discovered a new cooking method of my own: Loose Meat.

I first encountered this tasty yet nasty sounding food shortly after I moved from Chicago to Memphis. Our friend CSGPW (with that many initials how could she be anything BUT southern) called us up and with her emphatic, M'sippi drawl stated that she had a "wild hair" and a "hankerin'" for some Loose Meat and she was"fixin' to fix some up." What I experienced that night was nothing short of culinary magic straight from the back woods or the finest of trailer parks.

Think Sloppy Joe meets a Krystal or White Castle burger. It is oniony, mayonnaisey, mustardy goodness on a bun. Perfection in its simplicity. State fair food you need to eat with a fork. There is nothing pretentious or polite about these suckers. They are the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, and you are a little embarrassed about how much you love them. Kind of like Pretty Woman.

Apparently there are several variations and many protest to have the original recipe, which is why I have determined it is a method of "cooking". Midwesterners claim it as their own (it was the best seller at Roseanne's diner) and Southerners will swear that you can only find it in the Delta. What follows is my introduction to the Loose Meat genre: the Tallapoosa Loose Meat Sandwich.

Once you try this, you will want to marry your cousin and become a carnie.

But don't.

That's just weird.

Tallapoosa Loose Meat Sandwich

Don't judge.

2 pounds ground beef
a lot of flour
3 cans of Campbell's French Onion soup
tons of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a large cast iron skillet and brown the meat. Season with pepper. Whatever you do, DO NOT ADD SALT. With the soup, you are about to unload enough sodium that could kill a yak. Once the beef is browned, add enough flour to generously coat. The mixture should become a little gummy. Add the soup and stir constantly until, according to CSGPW, "you have the consistency of oatmeal." Done! Follow the Commandments to serve.

The Tallapoosa Loose Meat Commandments

Thou shalt not get ketchup anywhere near it.
Thou shalt not use any cheese.
Thou shalt put it on a plain hamburger bun.
Thou shalt use Duke's mayonnaise and good ol' plain yellow mustard.
Thou shalt use only hamburger dill slices.
Thou shalt use only red onion slices.
Thou shalt serve it with plain Lay's potato chips.

The beverage of choice: an ice cold Co'- Cola in a glass bottle.

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