I love the appearance of an immaculate dinner. Notice how I said appearance?
While I’d love to spend hours shopping for perfect ingredients and whipping up a meal with professional finesse, I lack the time, patience, and talent. Luckily, I learned that besides having a friendly atmosphere, Trader Joe’s (lovingly known as TJ’s to me and many others) has a customer-friendly food selection. What do I mean by customer-friendly? I mean food you can actually cook and buy with minimal skill and a modest budget. Here’s one of my favorite TJ’s meals.
Brisket Roast With Tortellini, Champagne Vinaigrette Salad, & Oatmeal Stout
TJ’s makes amazing spinach tortellini that’s around $2 a pack. Cook it in boiling water for 8 minutes. Or, just wait until the tortellini is floating at the top and taste test. Don’t burn yourself, though. That would make me feel bad. Strain the water out and throw the tortellini into your serving bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil on top, sprinkle a dash of salt, and voila! Pasta-tively delightful.
I’d like to preface this recipe by saying that I don’t consider it cheating, I consider it a life hack. Trader Joe’s makes a fully cooked brisket roast. All you need to do is stick it in a dish, cover it in foil, pop it in the oven at 350º and cook for about 18-25 minutes. It’s preseasoned with delicious spices and comes out soft, tender, and au jus. Why don’t I feel guilty for how easy it is? Because it tastes homemade, not like banquet food. And it’s also about $13. Everyone will be fooled and commend you on your slow-roasting brisket capabilities. When it’s finished, remove the meat, wait a few minutes, then slice and serve. If you’re disappointed with the results, kindly hand the brisket over to me.
Buy a salad mix of your liking (a 12 oz bag of mixed greens is around $2), some TJ’s Champagne Vinaigrette (around $3), toss, and enjoy. It’s actually that simple. You don’t even need salad tongs to mix it up: just fluff around the greens with a spoon and fork. The Champagne Vinaigrette is crucial. It’s bittersweet and refreshing, just like actual Champagne. I picked it up by accident and have never gone home with another dressing.
A good stout has the thick texture and chocolatey taste to stand up to our steak, but isn’t too viscous for our lighter side dishes. Guess who sells stout? That’s right. TJ’s. Is there anything TJ’s can’t do? Break my heart, I guess. A six pack is about $7.
By the way, did you tally up how much this meal will cost you? Less than $30. While I love going out to eat, a full meal like this can get pretty pricey. Even at a no-frills barbecue place, a brisket plate for one can cost $18. A meal similar to this one might be triple the price at a restaurant. This TJ’s extravaganza can be split amongst three people, or you can cook for one and opt to have leftovers for days.