Being the Food Network-aholic that I am, I was following this past season of The Next Food Network Star. It's your garden variety reality competition series, in which foodie finalists compete to win the grand prize of their very own cooking show. Said show is then aired on weekend mornings on the channel, and if their first, six-episode season turns out to be a success, then the winner continues their cooking show. It's a pretty cool concept, and I've enjoyed watching for 3 or 4 seasons now. I can't say, though, that I have ever been as excited to make the winner's food as I was to make Aarti's food.
Food blogger Aarti Sequeira took home the title this year, and her cooking show, Aarti Party, began two Sundays ago. In her show, she tries to take the mystery and challenge of cooking Indian food, and turn it into something accessible for the home viewer. She likes to put an Indian spin on ordinary American dishes, thus showing the home cook how to utilize Indian techniques and spices to turn the familiar into the exotic. It sounded like a great way to branch out and try new things. Plus, I thought Aarti was great when I watched her all season long. She has a very calm, soothing presence on camera, and she definitely seems knowledgeable and creative in her cooking.
The first main dish she made on her new show was this: Sloppy Bombay Joes. She turns the average, everyday sloppy joe into international cuisine by transforming the messy, tomato-ey sauce we're used to in this dish into an Indian-style sauce. I was intrigued, and the food looked delicious on the show.
As it turns out, I loved these sloppy joes! The flavors were at once familiar and unknown, as the Indian spices mingled with the traditional tomato sauce and the meat and veggies. Her addition of raisins and pistachios was, I thought, inspired. The idea of extra textures in my sloppy joe was a welcome one; it made the meat mixture more interesting and much more flavorful. I didn't know how I'd feel about all these components working together, but it was fantastic.
If I had any gripes about this dish, they'd be very trivial. I felt like the slop was almost too sloppy, if that's possible. I mean, just by looking at this recipe's title, you'd think I'd be prepared for a mess. But I think I made my sauce a tad too runny. I'm sure I could have simmered everything longer and thickened it up a bit more, but I guess I was just eager to eat! I just served the meat mixture up with a slotted spoon to drain some of the excess liquid, and it was fine. My buns began to fall apart while being eaten, but I can imagine that the joes could be served up in pita bread or even tortillas, and still taste great.
Now that I've tasted her food, I can't wait to see what else Aarti's got in store for us. I'm sure this was just the first of many of her creations that I'll be trying out!
For the sauce:
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 serrano chile, seeded and finely minced (save the other half for the turkey)
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
For the turkey:
3 to 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup shelled pistachios (about a small handful)
1/4 cup raisins (about a small handful)
1 tsp. cumin seeds (I had to use ground cumin; I had no seeds)
1/2 white onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 serrano chile, seeds intact (not chopped)
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 tsp. honey
1/4 cup half-and-half (I used 1% milk)
Small handful cilantro, chopped (soft stems included)
4 to 6 hamburger buns
1. Begin by making the sauce: Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until it shimmers. Add the ginger, garlic, and serrano pepper. Saute until the ginger and garlic brown a little. Add the garam masala and paprika and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
2. Begin the turkey: In a large skillet, warm 2 Tbsp. of oil. When shimmering, add the pistachios and raisins. Cook until the raisins swell up and the pistachios toast slightly. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Return the pan to medium heat, add 1 to 2 more Tbsp. of oil, and warm until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 10 seconds, or until some of the sizzling subsides. Stir in the onions and bell pepper; saute until softened (since I had ground cumin, I just threw the cumin in with the onions and peppers). Add the serrano pepper. Saute for another couple of minutes, seasoning with the salt. Stir in the turkey, breaking up the big lumps. Cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, your sauce should be ready. Pour the sauce into the skillet with the turkey. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
5. Once the turkey has cooked and the sauce has thickened a little, remove the serrano pepper. Add the honey, half-and-half, pistachios, and raisins. Stir through and taste for seasoning. Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro (I stirred my cilantro in at the end).
6. Toast the buns, fill with the turkey mixture, and serve. Eat (with your hands!) and enjoy!