Everybody (except maybe germophobes) loves a buffet and potlucks.
There’s nothing like lining up and filling your plate with roast beef, egg rolls, broccoli casserole, French fries & gravy, and two or three taquitos.
But it’s not a very cohesive meal. The only thing it says it that you probably eat too many carbs, and OMG, would a green salad kill you?
It’s the culinary equivalent of pajamas and a tiara.
You could go with a little black dress in the form of a single dish meal; soup, salad or Cap’n Crunch. But honestly, as much as I love an LBD, humans need variety.
That is why, in chef-driven restaurants, the plates are carefully curated for gestalt. The kitchen has worked hard and experimented, and each plate is designed with an eye to cohesive, collaberative, texture, taste, and aroma.
The dinner I made the other night was designed so the flavors repeated and echoed each other, like a well-styled outfit in lush fabrics. Recently I was visiting Trader Joe’s and noticed in the freezer section they carry this fire-roasted corn with all the flavors of elote, the delicious Mexican street corn.
At home I had a new bag of orzo and some pork chops. Then I remembered I had two Joe’s jars, and decided to make some Tex/Mex, a perfectly styled designer outfit for dinner.
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1 cup orzo
1 bag Trader Joe’s Mexican-Style Roasted Corn
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup chives, green onions, or Chinese chives, sliced thinly
Make orzo according to package instructions—make sure the cooking water is very salty. Reserve 1 cup pasta water and set aside.
Make corn according to instructions on package. When finished, pour cooked pasta into pan with corn. Gently stir until everything’s mixed and coated. Pour in the pasta cooking water until the sauce is silky and not dry looking.
Serve in skillet garnished with chives and the cheese packet from the corn. Serves 4.
Sandy Mexican Pork Chops
*I call these sandy because after baking the crumbs take on a sandy texture—not like the beach, but like a buttery, crumbly shortbread cookie. If you like your spice with a side of heat, add some cayanne into the flour or hot sauce into the buttermilk to taste. If you put it into the crumbs it will burn.
4 boneless pork loin chops, about ¾ inch thick
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons Trader Joe’s chile lime seasoning blend
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups fat-free buttermilk
About 60 Captain’s Wafers crackers (1 ½ sleeves), ground to fine crumbs in food processor
2 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagle Sesame seasoning blend
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Place crushed crackers and everything bagel seasoning in a 9X13 pan in a 350° oven. Toast until golden—10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and pour into a shallow dish.
Preheat oven to 425°. Put 1 tablespoon oil in bottom of the same pan you used to toast the cracker crumbs.
Coat the meat with a three-part dredge:
In a large plastic bag, mix flour, chile lime, and salt. Set aside.
Pour buttermilk in a shallow dish.
Line up bag and the pans with buttermilk and crumbs in a culinary assembly line.
One at a time, coat meat in flour, then buttermilk, then crumbs. As you finish, set in oiled pan. Drizzle coated chops with remaining oil.
Bake for ten minutes, spin pan 180°, and bake ten more. When the internal temp is between 140° and 145°, remove from oven and let sit, lightly covered with foil, for five minutes.