TJ’s (fresh) SALMON BURGERS


“Made with Norwegian farm raised salmon” Ingredients include – Salmon, parmesan cheese, salt, panko breadcrumbs

Trader Joe’s SALMON BURGERS are in the fresh fish refrigerated section. They come packaged on a plastic tray with plastic wrap around them. They’re pretty soft and removing them from the package was a little tricky without breaking them. I ended up carefully cutting around the plastic wrapping with a sharp knife, till they were free. They kind of wanted to fall apart on me just trying to get them out, and I ended up sliding a spatula under each one to lift it out. So be warned, they want to fall apart on you. Frankly if this was my recipe, I would have put an egg plus some more binder (bread crumbs / panko) in the mixture – hmm, that may not be a bad idea, I may do exactly that next time and re-shape them.) I am guessing TJ’s wants you to see they are mostly fresh salmon with little binder, however in this type of “burger” made with ground fish, binders do keep things together.

I cooked these pan fried, in a tablespoon of butter first dusting them with some panko breadcrumbs all over before sautéing them. They are a bit under seasoned so I would give them a hit of salt and pepper. I could not taste Parmesan cheese though it’s listed as an ingredient probably as a binder.

“Cook 4-5 minutes, flip and cook another 4 minutes or to desired doneness.”

We did serve them as burgers on toasted hamburger buns and they were pretty good. I put some Tzaziki sauce on them but realized what I should have used: TJ’s Tartar Sauce – Of course that would match with these! I will get some for when I have these again. These were pretty good as burger on a bun but they might be equally good without bread just served on their own with some sides (rice, potatoes, veggies…?) and some lemon. They do need a bit of some sauce to liven them up, and next time I will try them with tartar sauce which should match perfectly with these salmon burgers. And don’t forget fresh lemon which will perk these up. Maybe a pinch of hot sauce too.

Two salmon patties cost $6.29 (just over $3 each) I would buy these again.

SHOPPING suggestion: Salmon burgers, buns, tartar sauce, lemons, lettuce.

TJ’s Smoked Ahi Tuna


Trader Joe’s Sesame Crusted Smoked Ahi Tuna

I am crazy for most any smoked fish. Some nice smoked salmon on a bagel with a shmear of cream cheese is my idea of Heaven, or at least a heavenly Sunday breakfast. I also love Ahi Tuna, so when I saw this new product, Smoked Ahi Tuna it immediately said to me, “give this a try”.

TJ’s Sesame Crusted Smoked Ahi Tuna is very, very lightly smoked. As in barely smoked. Unlike most smoked salmon, where you open up the package and really get a smoked fish aroma this is so light that its a mere hint. So to be honest, while I found TJ’s smoked ahi tuna to be kind of tasty it’s not anything like smoked salmon or most any smoked fish I’ve had. Maybe people who don’t love smoked fish might like this as it’s not strong, its light. It has a light pink color and looks rather pretty. There are some white thread-like areas (more on this later*). It was cut a bit unevenly so it was a little thick in some places and thin in others. I found the thinner cut tuna tasted better than thicker areas. Cutting smoked fish by hand is an art.

What I didn’t like at all about this product were white thread-like areas, some of which when you ate them were tough and inedible. Like sinew.,,, do tuna have sinew? I guess they do! You can see the white thread like areas in the package. I carefully cut the densest of the white areas away before serving, which was a pain. These tough white areas seem like a lack of quality of the tuna and its preparation. These *white thread sinews are tough and inedible. Not good!

Anyway I served it by putting the smoked Ahi Tuna on top of halves of TJ’s Red Chile scalloped crackers (LOVE THESE!) spread with softened cream cheese mixed with a pinch of greek yogurt and lemon, and topped it all off with fresh dill. This actually did make a nice combination and a nice appetizer for us. Still our guests and I couldn’t help thinking it would have been better made with smoked salmon. So would I buy this again? Frankly I doubt it as it was not terribly special, was not great quality and I think the smoked salmon TJ sells is better for the same price. However if are not big on smoked fish and/or want to try something different for all I know you just might like this as it’s barely smoked fish. A package is $6.

I would not buy this again myself.

RANT

TJ Wild Large Argentinian Red Shrimp


“Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp are caught off the southern coast of Argentina. They have a sweet lobster like flavor and texture. Grill, barbecue or sauté. Serve with pasta, on salads or as an entrée…”

RAVE

Trader Joe’s frozen Wild Raw Red Argentinian Shrimp are tasty and practical.

I now buy these frozen shrimp at Trader Joe’s regularly as once I tried them I found them to be sweet, tasty and good value. They are big and meaty and have a sweet “lobster-y” flavor plus are wild caught, not farmed. Argentinian / Patagonian Red Shrimp are caught in the icy waters off Argentina’s coast. They are cleaned then flash frozen individually so easy to use. They are decently sized shrimp (20/25 count aka Large). Are Patagonian Red Shrimp “the sweetest shrimp in the world”? Even if some marketer came up with that line, they actually do taste kind of sweet and yes even “lobster-y”.

(If you are interested in learning more here’s detailed info about “Patagonian Red Shrimp”)

If I’m not using the whole bag I simply take out as many shrimp as I need and put the bag back closed with a twisty, then double bag that inside a Ziplock freezer bag. Use these Red Shrimp any way that you would normally use any shrimp. So first things first, best ways to defrost them. First I would suggest the traditional overnight thaw in the fridge in a covered bowl. Just plan ahead. If you have less time, some other options: Put them in a ziplock bag, submerge the bag in a bowl weighting it down under a plate, and run a light stream of cold water over it. They will be defrosted in about 15-20 minutes. I have also simply put some shrimp in a bowl and covered them with an inch of cold water, stirring them every 5 minutes or so, which also works and takes maybe 20-30 mins. I would not cook them right from frozen as they will surely shrink a lot and lose a lot of juice, nor would I nuke them to defrost them.

Cooking: Whatever cooking method you use, be sure not to overcook them. These shrimp do cook quickly. If you are say using a sauce, you can simmer the (defrosted) shrimp slowly in the sauce at the very end cooking them maybe 2-3 minutes (turning them over once). Patagonian Red Shrimp actually cook faster than other shrimp. They will be done quickly, in maybe 2 minutes. As soon as they are no longer translucent and look firmed up they are done, or at least should be removed at that point and then added back to your dish at the end. Not over cooking them will keep them tender, juicy and plump the way you want them. If you overcook shrimp they become tougher/chewier and shrink and curl up. TIP: Don’t throw out any liquid after defrosting, use it as stock.

They are of course terrific simply sauteed with olive oil and lots of garlic, scampi style. You can blot them with a paper towel, optionally sprinkle them with a little seasoned flour and sauté them in oil and butter. One trick I saw on MilkStreet recently was to grill shrimp on one side only, take them out of the pan then finish them in the dish for 30 seconds at the end. This is a Great idea! These shrimp are of course great grilled or sautéed and used in a pasta dish, or any recipe. Put them on a skewer and broil or grill them. They are equally great gently poached 3 minutes, which is a good way to make them for cold cooked shrimp or on top of salads. TIP: marinate 15 min in lots of TJ’s CUBAN SPICE BLEND, great with these. Or any spices of your choosing. Ajika also is terrific as is TJ’s Peri-Peri Sauce.

You’ll probably like these shrimp if you try them. I find them super convenient to have in the freezer. TJ’s sells Wild Red Shrimp (1 lb. bag) for $9.99 (UPDATE : TJ recently raised the price not long after I posted this; they are now $10.99 – Feb 2021).

More ideas for dishes below.

I made a nice Thai Shrimp Curry with veggies and TJ’s Thai Red Curry sauce and added the shrimp at the very last 2 minutes (a no-recipe recipe follows below).

THAI STYLE SHRIMP CURRYSauté some onions, garlic, and chopped ginger in oil for 5 minutes. Throw in chopped carrots, celery, potatoes (optional add ins: mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, scallions) …sauté everything for 5 more minutes, then add 1/4-1/2 cup liquid (water or broth*) simmer for 10 minutes, toss in a jar of TJ Thai Red Curry sauce, simmer about 10 more minutes till all veggies are tender. The last 2 minutes add shrimp and cook gently in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Serve the curry with jasmine rice on the side. Add chopped scallions on top.

Another dish: Ramen? Yes. I used these shrimp for (“Roy Choi style”) instant ramen with a slice of cheese and butter. Sounds crazy but it works, see video below). For this dish which was a dinner, I made a veggie stock instead of using the included packet of seasoning* and added some fresh mushrooms. I added the shrimp at the very end of cooking, and only cooked them about a minute or two. You can see they look juicy from not overcooking.

TIP: That little flavor packet included with instant ramen is loaded with Sodium (like 50% of daily recommended level)? Too much Sodium is bad for you, so better to use your own stock or low sodium stock and maybe just add a bit of the flavor packet. Worst case, use only half the packet and if it tastes too flat, add something to flavor it up without adding much sodium (a dash of low sodium soy sauce or a few drops of Nam Pla (fish sauce).

ROY CHOI’S INSTANT RAMEN WITH CHEESE

There are so many ways you might use shrimp, so here’s one more idea: How about Shrimp Rolls (like a lobster roll)? These shrimp are “lobster-y” so would be perfect in a a shrimp roll. Gently poach them then put some on some lightly toasted buttered Brioche bread or aloha buns, (cut up shrimp, a little mayo, some Old Bay seasoning or dried dill) You can pretend it’s a lobster roll; Well its the next best thing.

Another idea? Vietnamese style rice paper shrimp rolls (search Asian markets for the rice wrappers) https://justasdelish.com/vietnamese-shrimp-rolls-peanut-hoisin-sauce/

Want one more idea? Fried rice with shrimp is fantastic.

Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls with Peanut Hoisin Sauce (Gỏi Cuốn with Nước Lèo)

TJ Soy Ginger Marinated WILD COD FILLETS


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I picked up a package of Trader Joe’s “Wild Soy Ginger Marinated Cod Fillets” in the Frozen section at TJ’s to try. I was quite satisfied, this dish turned out to be really  good. This marinated cod costs about $7/lb. – very much on the lower price end for almost any fish these days, and this is wild caught cod from the Atlantic, so another good find at TJs.

This cod is  tasty, and easy-peasy to make. I followed instructions on the package about defrosting them overnight in the fridge. An overnight thaw in the fridge is always the best method for defrosting as thawing slowly is best to preserve the original quality. So just remember you need to think about this the day/night before if at all possible. If after an overnight thaw, you find its not completely defrosted when you are ready to cook you can put it in the sink in a pot and run a stream of cold water over the unopened package for 5-15 minutes till it feels completely defrosted. I didn’t try the method on the package where they say you can defrost in a bowl of warm water, in fact I would completely say never use warm water, its too fast and damages cell structure. If  you really need to do a “quick defrost” again run a stream of cold water on it till defrosted (again, “emergency only” method). A fish monger told me to do it with cold running water.

On the package they suggest 3 methods to cook the cod – in a skillet, bake it or microwave it. Me, I decided I would cook the miso cod by broiling the fish and glazing them with the marinade. Broiling is a typical Japanese method of cooking. I took the fillets out of the package with tongs careful to reserve all the marinade for later use. I placed the drained defrosted fillets in a black cast iron pan (my favorite cooking utensil), dotted them with a little butter and put the pan under a very hot (pre-heated) broiler. The fillets were not thick. One was a little bit thicker. So I cooked the fillets for about 3 minutes then took the pan out of the oven so I could pour over that reserved marinade over the fillets. Aha! The reserved marinade will make you a very nice soy miso glaze. So I immediately put the pan back under the broiler to finish for about just another minute or two, keeping a close eye on the fish and the glaze which was all bubbly and browning up. As you can see the glaze browns up beautifully, thickens, to make a nice sauce for the fish, and obviously keeps the fish moist and not dried out. You can even put another little bit of butter in the pan and hit the fish with freshly ground pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. I forgot to mention I threw in some frozen shelled Edame (soy beans) around the fish to cook with it. The edamame were a perfect match with the fish, along with some some rice. There’s a Japanese meal for you.

We really enjoyed this. Sometimes cod fish can be a bit boring but this miso / soy marinade treatment makes this product very good. You can hit it if you like with even more freshly grated ginger (I generally do).

To sum up I found TJ’s Soy Ginger Marinated Wild Cod Fillets to be super convenient, easy to make, and really tasty. I would buy it again, and in fact have a few times since I first tried this. This is becoming a Go-To item for me at TJ now and I usually have a package in our freezer.

RAVE

 

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TJ’s AHI TUNA


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“The secret to cooking Ahi Tuna is not to overcook it”

“Ahi” is the Hawaiian word for Yellowfin Tuna. AHI TUNA STEAKS are sold in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. As the package states, “Wild Caught, Spain”, means it was fished from Spanish waters of the Atlantic.

How To Cook: A slow defrost overnight or longer in the fridge is the best method. Slow defrosting is best = but in an “emergency” you can try putting the package in a shallow dish and using the running cold water method, put it under the faucet with a slow stream of cold water. I suggest you Do Not nuke it to defrost it. The package states you should “remove from package before defrosting”. Huh? I’m not quite sure why… does anyone have a clue why? Anyway I defrost it in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours if I can. Once the fish is defrosted I marinate it for a half hour to an hour. As far as marinades go, I generally make a typical Asian/Japanese style marinade: Soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, fresh ground black pepper, a pinch of honey or brown sugar, plus a bit of some oil, either olive oil or better still a teaspoon of TJ’s dark roasted sesame oil. You can add some type of acid if you like: a tiny amount of cider vinegar, lemon juice, or sake if you have it. You should serve it with some citrus, fresh Lemon or Lime.

Cooking Ahi Tuna: It is crucial that you don’t overcook tuna as it can dry out easily. Tuna is very easily overcooked so be careful with your cooking time. Personally I think AHI is best cooked in the Japanese “Tataki-style” way which is just searing the outside on all sides and leaving the center barely cooked, a bit pink. I generally cook it in a black cast iron pan over med-high heat with a little neutral oil, searing the outside for 60-90 seconds on one side then turning with tongs to cook the other sides for a minute. You can use the tongs on the sides but again be careful not to overcook your fish. After you do it once or twice you will get the hang of cooking this way. When done, take the fish out of the pan, and let it rest for a few minutes before you slice it. Which you will do against the grain like a steak. Be sure to save the pan juices and any juice that runs out on the cutting board to pour over your fish.

You can deglaze the pan with sake, rice vinegar, or a tablespoon of water, or some extra marinade that you saved at the beginning. I found that if you marinated the fish and use that marinade to deglaze the pan there is protein that coagulates when you cook it, so it glops up a little (I just thin it with soy and some water, it doesn’t bother me too much,  it makes it thicker thats all). If that gloppy stuff bothers you, don’t use the marinade, make a fresh sauce to serve with the fish. Here’s some ideas for sauces….

“Butter Shoyu” (Soy Butter Sauce) Put a fat dollop of butter in the pan along with a little soy sauce, which are a terrific combination. Mix it well and and pour over the Ahi. Serve with slices of fresh lemon or lime.

PONZU: Another classic Japanese sauce. Combine Soy sauce and fresh Lemon Juice. Do not cook this, just mix together. A bit of grated lemon rind would be a gourmet touch.

As in the photo of my finished Ahi, it should end up seared on the outside and pink in the center, just how pink is up to you. I like mine like it is in the thickest part, the center (just this side of raw) while my wife likes it as it is cooked on the ends (medium) which I think of as overcooked. As a final touch, I sprinkled some sesame seeds on top, sliced it against the grain, and put it on a bed of arugula, pouring the pan juices over the top. Ahi Tuna is really delicious and I am sure your family will also love this very steak-y fish (which they normally know from a can).

You could even try it as “Poke” I guess (ceviche style). I am willing to eat it this way but my (Japanese) wife won’t let me make this as poke as she says this is not “sashimi grade tuna” (true) which costs three times as much, selling for about $25/lb instead of this at $8/lb. So at 8 bucks a pound this is a another good deal from Mr. Trader Joe. Ahi Tuna is one of my favorite fishes that TJ’s carries, and I highly recommend trying it if you never have before. If you have any leftovers, it is delicious served cold the next day, maybe on a bed of rice or a salad.

ASIAN MARINADE: 2-3 tbs soy sauce; 1″ peeled fresh ginger, grated; fresh ground black pepper, a little honey or brown sugar, teaspoon of sesame oil (or olive oil) plus lemon or lime juice for a marinade (you can make a bit more and save some to serve on the side). Marinate in the fridge (on fully defrosted fish) for 30-60 minutes turning it once. Cook as desired.

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Having said how great this fish is please let’s not eat TOO much as this species is on the “near threatened” list. We eat AHI tuna no more than once a month. Though this says the Atlantic Yellowfin is sustainably harvested.