Thanksgiving is coming fast upon us, or is already here, or (depending on what day you’re reading this) has already long passed by. In any case, it seemed like the perfect time to review some of Trader Joe’s prospective Thanksgiving side dishes – in this case, Trader Joe’s Corn Pudding.
Now, in America the word “pudding” is pretty strictly applied. If it’s not a sweet, creamy desert – usually made by Jello – then it isn’t pudding. But as facts would have it, pudding has a much broader meaning on the global scale. For instance, in the historic sense pudding has almost never been sweet, let alone a desert. The word itself is thought to come from the French word boudin, meaning a small sausage, more or less the furthest thing possible from the modern American notion of pudding.
For centuries, “pudding” meant a savory meat dish of some sort, mixed with grain or suet, then boiled or steamed to make it set. This delicious sounding treat even became the standard main course for the British navy over the 1700 and 1800’s, and would go on to blossom into the weird, often disturbing, world of British puddings from there. The wobbly little universe of British puddings is best not looked at too close, lest what we see within plunges us into Lovecraftian-style madness, but it has resulted is such delights as blood sausage, steak-and-kidney pudding and, of course, the noble haggis.
Don’t worry, folks, I’ll stop there. I bring these puddings up not because Trader Joe’s is bold/insane enough to market British puddings to Americans, but to give context to an otherwise strangely named product. Trader Joe’s Corn Pudding is, as you might guess by now, not the least bit sweet nor even, really, particularly creamy. Although the packaging promises you “yellow and white corn baked in a creamy corn puree”, creaminess is certainly not the number one characteristic of this side dish. Cheese is promised as well, in the form of both melted Mozzarella and Parmesan, but despite this fact the dish doesn’t qualify as particularly cheesy either. What it is, most of all, is corny.
I certainly don’t mean that in the down-home, gee-whiz kind of way. This pudding is wall-to-wall corn
kernels, bound together by a mixture of cream, eggs, milk and, yes, some cheese. However, this binding is by no means what you’ll taste in the dish. From bite to bite what you’ll get is big, whole kernels of soft, sweet corn.
Now by this point, what with all the pudding bashing and all, you might think I’m not a fan of this pudding. That, however, is not the case. This corn pudding is what it is, and it does that thing well. If you need a heavy, savory, corn based side dish, Trader Joe’s Corn Pudding will be that for you. After 25 minutes in the oven it comes out golden brown and rich with the taste of golden yellow corn kernels. In particular, it has an enjoyably gentle corn taste that is softened by the very mild cheese and egg mixture. The pudding nature, and the oven baking, results in a more mellow taste than roasted or steamed corn kernels, which can tend to overpower other dishes with their smell or taste.
The result is a very capable side dish that won’t outshine the turkey or butt heads with the mash potatoes. It brings corn to the table, and gives it an extra level of texture and flavor that makes it a valuable addition to your feast, even if you’re already serving steamed corn at the table. Will it be everyone’s favorite? Certainly not – it’s too mild and one-note for that. Will there be some left in the serving dish at the end of dinner – I would imagine so, but it will also have made it on to everybody’s plate as a little bit of tasty filler. And that, really, is more or less what a supporting side dish is supposed to do.
In short, pick this up if you need an idea for another Thanksgiving side dish. It won’t offend, and it delivers a pretty tasty corn dish without much fuss.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, if you’re out of ideas for another side dish.
Would I Buy It Again: I might get it again next year.
Final Synopsis: A savory and mild corn casserole.