Wednesday, April 19, 2006
TJ's Taste Test, Part 9 Of Many: Trader Giotto's Cacciatore Simmer Sauce
I gave Joe another chance.
But I should have known better. Penne pasta and sliced chicken breast cooked in a little heating dish at the Trader Joe's sample stand would just not be that good. But I gave it a chance because it surely smelled good as my cart and I turned the corner coming out of the frozen section. So I left my cart off to the side and walked up to the nice lady who handed me a small paper cup into which she had just scooped some of that tomatoey pasta concoction. I saw the stack of jars on the counter: "Hmm, Trader Giotto's Cacciatore Simmer Sauce, eh?" I pranced back to my cart excited to try my sample, and as I pushed along started taking small bites. It was a complete watery mess, tasting as if someone had just boiled the chicken in the sauce and then dumped a bunch of slimy penne into it. There was no depth, no dimension, and undeniably, I walked out of Trader Joe's that day with a cart full of hummus and chips and dip and salad dressings and cheeses and wine but sans Cacciatore Simmer Sauce.
If there's one thing I can recognize in people, places and things though, it's potential. And on another recent trip to TJ's, I realized that I may not have given our little jar of simmer sauce enough of a chance to prove itself. This time, I did walk out of Trader Joe's with a cart full of hummus and chips and dip and salad dressings and cheeses and wine and yes, a jar of Trader Giotto's Cacciatore Simmer Sauce.
The first thing I knew to do on this simmer sauce makeover was to actually brown the meat, (duh) so in went my chicken pieces into my trusty Le Creuset Dutch oven. I took the chicken out after a few minutes, and as the usual demented thought of "How sick do you think I would get if I took a bite out of that chicken right now?" ran through my head, I deglazed my pot with chicken stock, scraping up all the yummy crispy browned bits. I returned the chicken (which I did not take a bite of by the way) into the pot, poured the jar of deep orange red simmer sauce in, added a little salt & pepper and let simmer until the chicken was tender.
For the final reveal, I spooned the some chicken and sauce over a bed of lingune, garnished with a parsley sprig, and violà! You could hardly recognize him! The smokiness and saltiness from the browned chicken bits actually enhanced the celery and olives that were in this tomato based sauce, and the fat off the chicken skin lent the sauce some body. With a little faith (and some proper braising), I turned this ugly duckling into somewhat of a swan.
Pick up your own jar of Extreme Makover DG Edition at your local Trader Joe's for only $2.99.