July 30, 2010

Trader Joe's Chicken-less Stuffed Cutlet

A few months back, I did this review, for Trader Joe's Chicken-less Chicken Strips. These were incredibly gross. Jason commented about a stuffed cutlet product that is made from the same stuff. He describes them as, "a violation, abomination, and unnecessary disruption to an otherwise pleasant day". With such high praise, how could I pass them up? I'm nothing if not thorough.

Before I get into my own experience, we need to explore the other end of the hyperbolic spectrum. Let's hear what the product packaging has to say about this item.

Trader Joe's Chicken-less Stuffed Cutlets feature the same great tasting "chicken-less" chicken found in our Chicken-less Strips. They're stuffed with black beans, corn and jalapeƱo peppers in a spicy (but not too spicy) tomato sauce. A little rice, maybe a salad… dinner's on the table in less then five minutes!

Ooh… that's all they have to say about it? Usually you can count on the package to really hype up the product. They can't even get excited about building a meal out of it. Such ambivalence.

So with terror in my heart, I busted this package open. This is some weird stuff. Two meat-ish blobs, and two pockets of sauce, all separated and vacuum sealed. The directions indicated that the microwave was the best option for preparing these, and who am I to argue? If I'm going to have to put these in my mouth, I guess I'd better give them the best possible chance, thus hopefully avoiding some random commenter telling me I did it wrong and that's why it tasted so gross. I followed the directions exactly. No way would I have to redo this one.

Okay… "pierce bag" - even the sauce? Won't that result in sauce pouring out all over the place? Better put it on a plate. Oh - "place bag on dish" - they're way ahead of me. "Heat on high 2 minutes". Okay - done. Now I have four super-hot steamy pouches. (I was planning on torturing my wife with this as well, so I prepared both cutlets in one go.) I removed the first cutlet from the packaging as well as I could, spilling some unidentified juice from the pouch all over the plate in the process. The tomato sauce did, in fact, ooze out all over the plate, so I scraped that up and smeared it on top of the cutlet. This did not look anything like the picture on the front of the box. I considered taking a picture, but decided against it. You're welcome. Then, before preparing the second cutlet, I decided to give it a taste. If it was completely inedible, I'd save myself the effort.

I cut into it with a fork, which took considerably more effort than I was expecting. This chicken-less chicken was TOUGH! Super springy, if that makes sense. I succeeded, eventually, in carving off a bite, and popped it into my mouth. The texture made more sense to my teeth than it did to my fork, but it still wasn't great. You could maybe replicate that texture if you had some really tough, overcooked chicken, but I don't think I've ever messed up chicken that badly. The flavor, however, was very similar to how I remember the Chicken-less Chicken Strips. In other words - totally gross. However, I didn't get much filling or sauce with that first bite. So, I went in again. I prepared a forkful with a bunch of filling and a bunch of sauce (which, by the way, tasted very good on its own), and reluctantly put it in my mouth. Much to my surprise, with enough other stuff, the flavor of the chicken-less chicken was mostly muted. Not gone, but muted. However, there was not enough filling or sauce to maintain that ratio all the way through the cutlet.

While picking at the rest of my (mercifully tiny) cutlet, I tried the filling on its own, just to see what it was like. Unfortunately, it had absorbed too much of the chicken-less chicken flavor to be good alone. Plus, the beans in it were super mushy, the corn was flavorless, and I couldn't taste the alleged jalapeƱos, which was fine with me. The sauce was great. I wouldn't call it a spicy sauce, though, even with my very weak spice tolerance.

Sorry, Trader Joe's - that's another lackluster performance with your name on it. Try again!

The experience:
Texture - super tough and springy cutlet portion, mushy filling
Flavor - cutlet - ew; filling - blah and ew; sauce - delicious!

And yes, I did make my wife eat her cutlet. Because I didn't finish mine, I gave her all my extra sauce. I'm such a good wife!

Final grade for this attempt: D


  1. I'd be so generous as to give these a hearty D+. I can't even begin to compare the texture to any actual food - it was so springy that my mouth was completely boggled.

    It's not springy in the way that a piece of meat fat is springy, but springy in the way that a maybe one of those rubber squishy balls is springy. Just plain weird.

    Perhaps due to the topping and the other ingredients, the flavor was not as bad as the (ugh, horror) Chicken-less Chicken Strips. No food has ever made me want to cry as much as those things did.

  2. Don't you understand? When the food scientists scientifically determine just how heated up your packaged food product should be, you must not deviate. The precision demanded is, in fact, more critical than when preparing something from scratch, like a baked good! Anonymous from the internet obviously knows that of which it speaks.

    You know, contrary to pretty much all of your experience with inaccurate heating instructions, as chronicled in this blog.

  3. Hey - I didn't spend thousands of dollars on culinary school just to follow some lousy directions! I do what I want! :)

  4. I think it's soylent green. I just heated them last night and one of them threw up in my microwave.

    1. Soylent Green is not vegan...