Iowa Loosemeat Sandwiches are a Midwest favorite, not quite burger, not quite Sloppy Joe made in the style of a Maid-Rite sandwich.
Iowa Loosemeat Sandwiches
Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
First off, I can’t get into a discussion about whether these are clones of Maid-Rite sandwiches or the ones from the Blue Mill Tavern. I have only been to Maid-Rite once, never to the Blue Mill, and while these fit the memory I have of those, without having a side-by-side comparison, I don’t want to get into it. But I do like the flavor of these. As to any authenticity, you’ll just have to decide for yourself, as I have heard Maid-Rites vary from place to place (why I didn’t bother fetching a sandwich to compare while developing this as I sometimes do when I make clones) and as far as recipes on the internet go, good luck. I can’t really tell you anything about the Blue Mill Tavern, except they are supposed to be the same thing, or so I heard (maybe you disagree). There are as many internet recipes as the stars in the sky. I’ll be making this recipe whenever I have these. Maybe you will like it too, maybe you won’t. Feel free to leave your comments below.
The sandwiches themselves are a Heartland classic, possibly being adored most by farm workers in the Iowa Beef Belt. Fondly called loosemeat sandwiches, after the Maid-Rite restaurants, and then later the Tavern sandwich, as made popular by the Blue Mill tavern, these have been around since the 1920’s when many famous sandwich shops started getting a foothold in American food culture. They are a crumbled beef mixture, dressed simply with mustard, onion and dill pickle on a steamed bun. SOmetimes with cheese. Steaming seems to have been a big thing back then, as White Castle hamburgers is also famous for steam-cooking their meat, with the bun being placed on top while it cooks to steam the bun as well (and they got their start in the 1920’s if I recall correctly).
The loosemeat sandwich is one of Roseanne Barr Arnold’s favorite foods and seems to have had a peak in popularity around when she was discussing it, or so I thought.
It is really not quite like a burger or a sloppy joe. You might notice one of the things I do in my sandwich is to add a touch of flour to bind the meat. These helps keep the sandwich less messy, but I don’t think it is authentic in any way. I also don’t think it detracts from the taste so I am keeping that as part of my recipe, even though I don’t think the “official” loosemeat sandwiches use it.
I find that the easiest way to get a steamed bun effect (besides actually steaming the buns) is to place the sandwiches on a microwave safe plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap and nuke for 30-45 seconds to let the bun get soft and warm. It is my preferred method.
And as with all my recipes, I hope you enjoy. Not exactly “Meatless Monday” today, but I did post about a vegetarian chili on Saturday, so don’t really follow that too much with my blog.
Iowa Loosemeat Sandwiches
- 1 pound ground beef chuck
- 1/4 cup packaged onion soup mix
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (optional)
- hamburger buns
- yellow mustard (optional)
- dill pickle slices (optional)
- minced onion (optional)
- American cheese slices (optional)
- Grind soup mix in a spice mill or pulverize in a mortar and pestle until powdered; set aside.
- Brown meat in a skillet, breaking up any lumps.
- Add spices and broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour.
- Uncover, raise heat to medium and cook until liquid dissipates, about 30-40 minutes more.
- Add flour and stir in, cooking just until meat clings together.
- Serve meat on buns with mustard, pickle, minced onion and cheese if desired.
- To soften buns, cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave about half a minute.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com
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I don’t think plastic wrap in the microwave is a good idea. The same result can be had with paper towels.
Not even close to how they make them at the central Iowa maid rite shop.