Before our recent Fargo trip, I made a list in my head of restaurants to check out while we were there; places that were either new since our last visit or those I’d been wanting to try, but just hadn’t yet. Mezzaluna, Maxwell’s, Sarello’s (actually across the river in Moorhead, MN) and Red Raven Espresso Parlor topped the list.
Disappointingly, Sarello’s was closed all week for the holiday and with limited time, we never made it to Maxwell’s. However, we were able to cross Mezzaluna and Red Raven off our list, and we’ll definitely go back to both. Mezzaluna was a great place for happy hour with a bar menu that included a very well-seasoned, hearty portabella mushroom “burger” with homemade tots—either potato-asiago or sweet potato (I got one, my mom the other, and we shared—I preferred the sweet potato). Some nice wine and beer options were discounted and their dessert menu had several tiny, two-bite-sized selections, so heck, why not? Two bites of blueberry pie with lemon curd bliss!
But my meal at Red Raven was the one that left me craving it over and over again! The Sloppy Duck (mock duck) sandwich was spicy deliciousness that I knew I must attempt to recreate at home. The Red Raven Espresso Parlor is a worker-owned and run espresso place in an old fire station with a funky interior displaying the works of local artists, and out the side door, a peaceful, flower-filled courtyard patio. They also have live music, in fact, that evening was to be open mic night for original music—how cool! The food appeared to be exclusively vegetarian, which meant I had choices! I love choices!
Not expecting such a generous-sized sandwich, I added a side of quinoa tabouli and while the sandwich with its accompanying baby carrots and pickle spears was a meal in itself, I wasn’t sorry. This was the best and freshest tasting tabouli I’ve ever had! Pete’s artichoke and hummus sandwich was excellent too, but didn’t linger in my memory like the Sloppy Duck. The day was too hot and humid for the Red Raven’s namesake espresso, but our thirst was thoroughly quenched with large glasses of Italian soda over ice—we both chose cherry and it was the perfect refreshing beverage to cool us off and balance the bold flavors of our lunch!
Here’s my attempt at duplicating that crave-worthy sandwich. I think it’s close, and more importantly, it’s delicious! Both Pete and I enthusiastically agreed!
Spicy Mock Duck Sloppy Joes
The Red Raven’s version was served on sliced bread—good quality, artisan bread. It was wonderful, but really too filling for me. I made the switch to a small, crusty whole wheat bun, but if you’re hankering for a large meal, big slices of bread would be a great choice! Mock duck, which is made mostly from wheat gluten and spices, can be found canned in the Asian or gourmet section of a well-stocked grocery store. It also can be found at Asian markets or your local co-op or natural food store, but my experience is that it’s about half the price if you can find it at a grocery store. The Cub Foods near me has it for less than $2.50/can and I’ve see it priced over $5/can other places.
2 10 oz. cans mock duck, drained, liquid reserved
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as grape seed or safflower
1 medium onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced, include all the seeds (yee haw!)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup organic ketchup
1 ½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s Naturals is my favorite)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon organic brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ to 1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crusty, toasted whole wheat buns or artisan bread slices, for serving
Placed drained mock duck in bowl of food processor. Pulse a few times to break it up. Add a little of the mock duck liquid and process for just a couple seconds. Continue until it’s kind of a cooked hamburger consistency. Set aside.
Heat a large pan over medium heat. When hot, add oil. When oil is hot, add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic and stir to combine. Add remaining ingredients, excluding buns/bread. Mix together and increase heat until mixture boils. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer mixture for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and simmer 10 minutes more. If too thick, stir in a little of the remaining mock duck liquid.
Serve hot on crusty, toasted whole wheat buns or bread, topped with pickles if you like, such as these. A fresh salad of julienned kohlrabi, scallion, and leaf lettuce with a light dressing rounds out the meal. Serves 4-6. And it’s even better the next day!