Cravings Blog

Delicious TV dinners: yes, they’re possible

Ribs, mac and cheese and collard greens are an option if you want to go for Joey Yost’s TV dinners.
Ribs, mac and cheese and collard greens are an option if you want to go for Joey Yost’s TV dinners.

When you hear the words “TV dinner,” you’re probably thinking of thin, breaded chicken breasts accompanied by bland mac and cheese. Chef and restaurant owner Joey Yost is out to change that.

When he reopened Village Idiot Pizzeria as Sea Smoke Smokehouse and Market last year, Yost told me about his plans to reinvent the TV dinner. He said his dinners would have hearty portions of meat he smokes himself. The sides would be his own mac and cheese, collard greens and rice and beans. Most importantly, he said, instead of microwave cooking, the TV dinners would be heated in the oven.

I liked his idea from the get go. But life happens and I sort of forgot about it. Recently he reminded me about his TV dinners via Twitter, so I stopped in and bought two. Like most busy professionals, it’s rare that I don’t want to cave into the desire to stop and grab a Pub sub or a burrito on the way home.

One had pulled pork, pinto beans and rice and collard greens. The other had ribs, mac and cheese and collards. It’s hard for me to turn down anything that involves collard greens. Since moving here two years ago and cooking up bunches of collard greens grown right here in Manatee County, I’ve fallen in love with the tough, leafy greens. And Yost does them perfectly.

I was pretty pleased with the whole experience. I, too, dislike what microwaving does to the taste of food. Obviously sometimes you can’t avoid it, but generally I don’t think it’s a good way to cook food. It heats the food unevenly, which certainly affects taste. I’m kind of a stickler when it comes to meal planning and I found myself looking forward to these TV dinner nights. All day I floated on the “I don’t have to cook tonight!” cloud.

I did chores while waiting the roughly half an hour for the food to heat up. I followed the directions exactly as prescribed on the lid. The ribs dinner was perfectly heated. I took the lid off and let it sit for a few minutes before tucking into it. The pulled pork dinner was great, too, but the rice and beans were still a little frozen when I pulled it out of the oven. So I just stirred them and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. After that, it was all gravy. (Well, not exactly, but you get what I’m saying)

Overall, I think Yost successfully accomplished his goal of recreating what’s become a staple in a lot of American households. Even though lots of TV dinners may leave you feeling still hungry at the end of your meal, Yost’s are a different story. The food is so stick-to-your-bones that you can’t possibly be left hungry. In fact, the only thing I was left with was a strong desire to take a nap. That’s how you know it’s good food.

For more information, visit Sea Smoke at 11904 Cortez Road W. or call 941-896-4857.

Janelle O’Dea: 941-745-7095, @jayohday