pork chop barrel spending at TJ

Thursday, armed with a gift card, Max and I trekked to 14th street and 3rd avenue to check out Trader Joe’s. We definitely arrived before 3pm, but the store was as busy as any SoHo boutique on the weekend! Now, I don’t like crowds much, but I’ve been eager to have a shopping experience at Trader Joe’s, considering the constant raves. Certainly, there were some real upsides to shopping at Trader Joe’s:

1) We had a $25 gift card.

2) They had fresh edamame (soy beans).

3) We found a French-cut rack of lamb for about $11/lb.

4) Beer was ≈ $6/six pack.

We were not thrilled by some other aspects:

1) It was extremely difficult to move around the store, as there were too many people and the register lines ran into aisles.

2) The produce was not particularly inexpensive and look wilted and unappealing.

3) The staff seemed pretty uninformed about their products, although they were eager to tell us of their generous return policy.

Overall, If I were in a Trader Joe’s neighborhood I would go back for the lamb alone (from New Zealand, meaning no antibiotics), which was very tasty. However, I was a bit disappointed by produce and crowd control. And also the lack of a bulk-food option which, for both me and Max, is Whole Foods’ saving grace.

Our bill was around $55 before we applied our gift card. We normally spend around $40 at Whole Foods, though the one time I bought lamb there our total was over $70.

After all that shopping and walking, though, we were pretty hungry, and decided to cook our pork chops as an early dinner. Pork is actually something that Max grew up with, but that I didn’t really. My father was the main cook in my family, and except for bacon and sausages, he didn’t eat much pork–and even the bacon is a fairly recent addition to his diet. I suppose this must be due in part to his (mostly) kosher upbringing, but not being kosher ourselves, I was distraught learning that I had missed out on bacon for years! Luckily I have done some serious work to catch up–my college roommates and I went through entire packages of bacon in a sitting.

It turn out I had also been missing out on pork chops! I’d tried them before in various school cafeterias, but the first time I bit into a really tender and juicy pork chop, I was amazed. I had never realized that pork didn’t have to be dry and chewy!

We actually made all three, as you can see, but there wasn’t a morsel left over. Pork chops are somewhat versatile, but getting a good sear is key.

Seared/Fried Pork Chops

3 chops, PATTED DRY with paper towels

3/4 cup panko/bread crumbs

seasonings (we used a tsp each of garlic salt, paprika, pepper and oregano)

3 tbsp high heat oil such as safflower or canola

Step 1) heat oil in a large stainless steel pan over high heat

Step 2) combine panko and seasonings so they are evenly distributed in a shallow dish.

Step 3) press chops into the panko mixture on each side.

Step 4) add chops to the pan once it’s hot enough. The oil should be slightly below smoking point. Cook about 4 minutes a side, they are done if the meat inside is white and the juices run clear.

We had these with roasted yellow squash, which is not pictured. The squash was good, but unphotogenic–we ran out of the AMAZING Reynolds Release Non-Stick Aluminum Foil so we had to scrape at our vegetables a little bit. If you’ve never bought non-stick aluminum foil before, try it out! It combines the absolute joy you will feel when you do not have to scrub anything with the absolute ease of removing food from any glass, ceramic, or steel surface.

Max threw our pork chops in the oven with the roasting vegetables for a few minutes to make sure they were cooked all the way through and to sync them with the squash, but this was probably unnecessary–the chops turned out juicy but a little less tender than usual. As I said, however, we ate every bite!

How often do you all eat pork products? Do you prefer a baking-only method–or do you find that grilling or baking chops dries them out?

We didn’t eat ours with applesauce on the side (I’ve been a bit lazy about whipping a batch up) but I was wondering what else people pair pork with. Comment away!

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