Eating like a local: Regional food specialties
--The elusive loose meat in Iowa and other Midwest states
This next post is a combo post that includes a entry into the "regional eats" category and also a recipe for that regional food and the tailgating category. The loose meat sandwich is a creation from Iowa that can best be described as a sloppy Joe without the slop. The origin and creator of this sandwich is hazy and information on the internet is scattered with different stories. Another common name for a loose meat is a "maid-rite." This term comes from the name of one of America's first quick service casual dining restaurants started in Iowa in 1926 by a man named Fred Angell, a butcher from Iowa. When Angell turned his walk up spot into one of America's first eat-in joints, a craze was unleashed. The loose meat sandwich gained even more fame around the world when Roseanne served them at her fictional restaurant the "Lanford Lunch-Box" on her sitcom in 1992.
a Midwest tradition
Since they were introduced back in the '20's, Maid-Rite and the loose meat sandwich has spread all over the Midwest into small towns across IA, IL, NE, IN, MN and a recently opened location of Maid-Rite in Madison, WI. It is a sandwich that has decreased in popularity over time but is making a comeback of late with Maid-Rite leading the way. While Maid-Rite might be the most well known of the loose meat slangers these sandwiches are served at many taverns across Iowa and fast food places alike. Just like a hamburger and everything else the recipe/technique differs at each location. While alot of the Maid-rites along the highways and in Midwestern cities may be new and squeaky clean corporate locations, you can still find many that are independently owned and haven't changed at all thru time. On my recent trip thru hog heaven we found an old school outlet in Christopher, IL. It was my first Maid-Rite since a couple years back when I got to experience another old school Maid-Rite in Davenport, IA.
a locals favorite in Christopher, IL
Homemade Reese's pie
Old School Pie display with todays selection
Maid-Rite Sandwich (Christopher, IL)
When I first read about these things a few years ago they brought back a memory I had of eating them way back in the day and I immediately liked the idea of making my own and seeing what they were all about. Over the past couple year's I have created what I like to think is one of the better loose meats you can have. The LM is basically a old school 30's style cheeseburger with the meat being loose instead of formed to a patty. Other important factors in creating the perfect LM's are to make sure that you use regular cheap hamburger buns and make sure they are steamed. It is important that you grind down the meat so that there are no little clumps at all, use a potato masher to do so.
KingT's Loose Meat's (Serves 4)
2 lb's ground beef (80/20 works best)
1 small/medium sized onion diced and chopped finely
cheap hamburger buns like Wonder
slices of cheap American cheese
thinly sliced pickles (I use deli kosher)
chopped raw onions
1 to 2 cans of chicken Stock
salt & pepper
1) Add onion's into a large skillet and proceed to add the ground beef and break it down with back of wooden spoon. Sprinkle with S&P.
2) Let beef/onion mixture continue to cook and drain the fat when it reaches a high point. Continue the cook the mixture and use a potato masher to mash down the meat and let cook until it gets dark and edges become crispy.
Meat halfway thru beginning to be mashed
3) When the beef has cooked thru and is well mashed sprinkle some Lawry's salt and fresh ground pepper on top and give it a few squirts of mustard. Cover the beef mixture with chicken stock until just slightly covered.
4) Let the mixture cook on low until the stock has been completely absorbed into the beef.
5) Take your steamed bun and use an ice cream scooper or spoon to put a few spoonfuls on the bottom of the bun and immediately top with slice of cheese (or not) and some raw onions, pickles and mustard. For a super easy meal serve these with Ore-Ida crispy tator tots.
Roseanne aint got shit on these...KingT's mobile home hamburgers
103 W Sylvia Ave
Christopher, IL 62822
Maid-Rite (Locations through-out Iowa & the Midwest)