Thanks to Lucas Kwan Peterson of the L.A. Times, we have something new to argue about—so you can stop with all your fightin’ words about how we wouldn’t know good pie if it hit us in the face. This week, the Times ran a new installment in its excellent food power rankings series, one that is sure to make emotions run high: The official Trader Joe’s frozen food power rankings.
The two axes on this scale—Taste and Laziness—speak to the very core of all that we love about Trader Joe’s. I can’t imagine most people shop there for staples such as paper towels and pet food, but it hardly matters; this store has a cultlike following precisely because shopping there feels like a fun treat. The tomatoes might suck, but that’s no matter because there are 10 different and fun ready-made salsas you can buy instead! And frozen foods inspire the most giddiness among Trader Joe’s fans, because they’re a gateway to all the foods that feel too sophisticated for us to try making from scratch at home. You can still wow guests with store-bought mini quiches; in fact, now those mini quiches will inspire the most excited reactions from those who can identify a superior TJ’s product when they see one.
So, where did everything fall on the Times’ empirical rankings? Encouragingly, one of Trader Joe’s longest-running frozen food offerings also continues to be one of its strongest: the Maître Pierre Tarte d’Alsace. Peterson says, “[It] will make you feel like you’re a kid in eastern France, getting annexed all over again... The flaky crust combines impeccably with the delicate onions, nutty cheese and sweet-smoky ham.” And all you really have to do is pop it in the oven.
Other frozen entrees are just as easy to bake, but don’t reap the same rewards, which dings them in the rankings. For example, the pizza margherita isn’t worth it, according to Peterson: “While there’s only a seven-minute bake time, you end up with a stiff crust covered in a pasty sauce and plasticky discs of cheese that don’t melt properly.” I can attest to the plasticky quality of the cheese, having made this pizza innumerable times throughout high school. Why? Because of its short bake time, of course. Teens are impatient.
The whole list is well worth a read, and might we just say that while Trader Joe’s frozen Honey Walnut Shrimp does not earn high marks, our recipe for the homemade version is both simple and simply irresistible.