Wow, Trader Joe you magnificent bastard. It seems any time I have reason to pout over how Trader Joe’s is, when you get right down to it, no different from any store trying to trick you into buying what you don’t need, they release a product that makes me cheer with delight at the sheer, bloody nuttiness of the thing. Trader Joe’s Beurre Meuniere popcorn is that lemon zested, herb-rubbed popcorn that you didn’t ask for and you don’t actually need, but which enlivens the world regardless.
Let’s begin by exploring what exactly the hell a beurre meuniere popcorn is. A word of warning out the gate – this is going to get complicated, so hold on tight.
The Miller’s Wife
To cook something, as the French say, a la meuniere means to do so in the manner of “The Miller’s Wife”. What it really means is that you’re going to be adding lemon, thyme and parsley to a brown butter sauce and cooking with it. In one of those awesome quirks as etymology, somehow, at some point, a Frenchman conjoined the concept of a simple, tasty preparation with the idea of a miller’s wife and the two have been fused forever more. This is very different from the typical American word association with “A miller’s wife” which is “Wha?” (Unless, of course, you’re an English major, in which case you’re probably reminded of an act of brutal, sexual humor so unspeakable it could only have been dreamed up by Chaucer.)
Where things start to get crazy is that the act of preparing thins a la meuniere is almost completely limited to fish. And not even a lot of types of fish, basically just sole and trout. Trader Joe’s decied to instead apply it to popcorn. Normally I feel like I can tease out the psychology behind TJ’s moves, but this one is totally opaque to me. Evidently someone with some clout in the organization was eating a nice piece of white fish and said, “You know what this would taste good as? Popcorn.”
Now at this point, I know what you’re thinking: “There’s a brown butter now?!”
I, too, became elated when I heard tell of this tasty sounding beurre, but in truth there is little to tell. A butter is browned simply by letting it melt on the stove for a goodly time. The melted butter separates into its constituent parts – the lighter clarified butter that floats to the top and the heavy butter solids that settle down. The solids then brown as they heat and there you have it, brown butter. It is to this that the lemon, thyme and parsley are added followed by, in this case, the popcorn.
Ambitious, but worth it?
So this is obviously a very interesting thing. In fact, as far as my research shows, no one has ever, as in ever, made a popcorn a la meunierre before, which means this isn’t just madness, but an unprecedented madness. In my book, that’s something to be proud of. But what does it taste like?
Basically just popcorn with lemon juice on it. The herbs make a very timid appearance here, adding a fiat undertone to the much stronger zing of the lemon and the even stronger, lingering starchy taste of popcorn. As for the brown butter, sadly I was totally unable to locate even a hint of a difference from popcorn produced with regular oil. If you’re having trouble imagining the taste, consider that you’ve almost certainly had fish prepared this way, just replace the taste of tender trout with crunchy kernels of corn.
Is this a taste you’re going to like? Maybe? This product is so idiosyncratic that it’s hard to pass judgment on. I will say that it’s not an immediate palate pleaser. After a handful of the stuff I had no trouble setting the bag down for the night. The taste is challenging and more than a little acidic, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is certainly nowhere near as strong a contender for your calorie budget as the salty, sweet or cheesy kinds. This is not a snack to try and make kids happy with, though it might make for an interesting cocktail party addition or a cultured accompaniment to a foreign language film.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, $1.99 isn’t too much for a totally novel taste experience.
Would I Buy It Again: No, for a bag of popcorn it just isn’t that enjoyable.
Final Synopsis: Most men say “Why?”, Trader Joe’s says, “Why not?” (With regard to manufacturing zesty, herbal popcorn.)