Hey everybody! What's Good at Trader Joe's has a new contributor! So it's been a while since this blog has been updated ... my old college buddy Nathan's been busy moving across the country or something ... and my wife Sandy and I (Russ) happen to pretty big TJ's fans ... so hopefully you'll be seeing at somewhat regular posts by me. We're hoping this blog, while a work in progress, will be a fun way to share about the good, mediocre, and nausea-worthy stuff we find on the shelves at TJ's. Nathan made this sound better up top.
Anyways, enough about that. Let's talk about fake meat product.
If you know anything about me, you know that I like food. And I like my food to taste like what it actually is - a steak to taste like a steak, coffee to taste like coffee, beer to taste like beer, etc. Sandy, on the other hand, is a little different. She likes her coffee to taste like caramel apples (this is what her choice of creamer tells me) and she loves to use black beans to make brownies (which I don't really get ... I just pretend they're actual brownies and go with it). She also loves fake meat. No, not like Spam. Like Morningstar Farms soy chicken products and "chicken" at Whole Foods and stuff like that. She's not vegetarian (she doesn't like vegetables enough to be), but she just loves the fake meat. I've tried it, and honestly, for me, if you want something that tastes like a piece of chicken, have it be the actual bird. It's nasty enough what they do to a chicken to turn it into a box of McNuggets, and I don't want to think of the additional steps of nastiness required to turn a handful of tasty-in-their-own-right beans into that.Anyways, I guess it was her affinity for all things soy that led us to the original purchase of Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo. It sounded interesting to her, and I guess for the $1.99 and her happiness, we put it in the cart. We got home, put it in the freezer (it does freeze well) and a few nights later, decided it was time to try. I did not have high hopes. First off, the very name is a lie if you know any Spanish. Soy Chorizo = "I am sausage".* No, you're beans, not delectably ground up little piggies. Then the way it is packaged is somewhat of a lie. It's tubular shaped, and comes in plastic casing, which originally lead me to believe this was a grillable-type of chorizo. So I go out, put it in on the grill (anything is better grilled), and once it gets even somewhat hot, it starts crumbling into a mess. Not good. I take the pieces I can salvage and not knowing what else to do, come back inside, put in a frying pan, and start cooking it. I explain this to Sandy, we re-figure out our dinner plans, and decide to make a go of it. Not knowing what else to do, I think we ended up tossing in some black beans and rice once the chorizo was crumbled completely and beginning to brown. We also had some salsa to stir in along with some cheese, and either tortillas or tortilla chips. Finally, it was time to take the first bite ...
For a soy-based meat product, it's really good. Scratch that. It's just really good, period. It's spicy, but not overly. The chorizo when cooked also has just a little of the requisite gristle so it's hard to remember that it's not actual meat. When made with rice, beans, and other stuff (our favorite way to have it), it really seems to hold it all together without dominating the other tastes. I think it'd be a pretty good meat substitute for anything ground meat would be needed for in a spicier dish, like chili, tacos, or hotter pasta sauces. It's not anything you can shape or form into a patty or loaf, so burgers and the like are out, but it tastes better mixed into things as opposed to standing on its own anyways.
This has become a "must buy" nearly every time we shop at TJ's - Sandy and I always ask each other how much milk we have left, how many eggs, and if we still have any soy chorizo in the freezer. It's almost become that much of a staple - I'd say we eat it probably at least every other week. We heartily recommend trying it out just as described above - with black beans, rice, your favorite salsa, cheese, and tortillas. Sandy calls it our "everything we love in a bowl meal", which I think sums it up pretty well.
I think Nathan did the star rating thing. I'll use the same methodology, except instead of stars I'll use golden spoons. I give it a rock solid 4.5 golden spoons (it's tough to get 5), Sandy's busy so I can't ask her but I think she'd give it a 5, so 9.5 golden spoons out of 10.
*It occurred to me after writing this sentence that it might not have been a lie after all. If TJ's wanted me to read into the Spanish meaning of the product name, they probably would have marketed it under Trader Jose's, not Trader Joe's. We call it "I am sausage" anyways because it sounds funnier, and it's so good, I'm not going to argue with it.