In planning my first move to Europe, I had this grand delusion that it would be just like home except with cobblestone streets, architecture older than 1952, pubs full of locals drunkenly singing in unison and exotic-accented men, as those are the only reasons anyone moves to Europe in the first place.
I definitely got the cobbled streets, the historic structures, the quaint pubs and, of course, the exotic men folk to oggle. But it was nothing like home.
Perhaps underneath my cliched expectations of Europe, different was what I actually wanted. Some place new and exciting to invigorate the soul and spur adventure.
Even though this shiny new continent filled those voids, to my surprise, it also caused discomfort in ways I didn’t know it could. Afterthoughts at home became necessities abroad.
My creature comforts no longer included a down comforter or a dirty martini. Instead, Ziploc bags and American-made cotton swabs were at the top of my wish list. Call me eccentric, but the European ones do not have enough padding for safe ear cleaning. I could puncture my brain. And DIE.
As so, I turned to the expat black market.
Every expat is guilty of brazen importation. We just can’t help ourselves. Any person traveling across the Atlantic becomes our personal drug mule. Instead of a stash of cocaine hidden in their bum, it’s a log of Velveeta or bottle of fabric softener crammed into a checked bag.
Customs be damned. I need my hot sauce.
I’ve become the person that calculates luggage weight down to the very last ounce. No pocket is left unused. No shoe goes unstuffed.
“Your bag is 3 pounds under the limit? You know, a bag of masa harina will fill up that empty space quite nicely.”
“Your colleague’s sister is coming to visit? Can you ask her to bring some sriracha?
I even had my brother smuggle a KitchenAid mixer into Amsterdam. A pack of Norwegians started bidding on it at the airport.
Sloppy Joes Recipe
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 lb (550 g) ground beef
1/4 c dark brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium red onion, minced
1 small red bell pepper, minced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (or classically, worschestshire sauce)
14 oz can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tbsp tomato paste
For the Joes
Heat a large pan or pot over high-heat. Add olive oil.
Brown the ground beef, while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Once the meat is almost completely browned, add the brown sugar and spices.
After meat is browned and sugar has melted, add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the vinegar and tamari. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir until combined. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, until thickened to your liking.
Buttery Hamburger Bun Recipe
Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria
3 1/2 c (550 g) all purpose flour
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 c (50 g) sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp (10 g) yeast
3/4 c (200 g) lukewarm water
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the dough
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, yeast, cold butter and sugar.
Whisk the egg in a separate bowl. Add the water, then whisk to combine.
Add water and egg to the flour. Stir until a dough forms. Once dough becomes to thick to stir, turn the dough out onto a counter or board and knead until dough becomes elastic and smooth.
Form ball with the dough. Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm, draft free place for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
To speed up the rise, turn your oven into a proof box by placing a casserole dish of boiling water at the bottom of your oven. Put the bowl with your dough on a shelf above the dish. The hot steam from the water will provide the ideal conditions for your dough to rise.
Once the dough has doubled in size, gently remove the dough from the bowl and place on your counter or board. For hamburger-sized buns, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. If you have a scale handy, weigh the entire dough, then divide by 10. You’ll get the exact weight each bun should be. For sliders, divide the dough into 12 pieces.
Gently shape each piece of dough into a round ball without working it too much. Place each dough ball on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, then gently press down to form a flat round. Be sure to keep all your dough covered with a towel or plastic wrap while shaping to keep them from drying out. Give each dough piece 2-3″ of space.
After all buns have been shaped, cover the cookie sheet with a tea towel. Return buns to your oven or draft-free spot and let rise for another hour.
To finish the burger buns
About 15 minutes before the hour is up, preheat your oven to 375F (190 C). If your buns are rising in your oven, make sure you take them out first before turning the oven on. That’s a mistake you only want to make once.
Before baking, brush each bun with half of the melted butter.
Bake buns for 12 to 18 m until golden brown. After you pull them out of the oven, brush the buns with remaining melted better. You could wait until the buns cool, but I can’t imagine why you’d forgo a hot, pillowy bun for a room temperature one. We’re aren’t heathens.
To make them even more scrumptious for sloppy joes, or burgers, split open the buns, brush with more melted butter and toast under your broiler.