Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What not to eat for dinner

Every once in a while, when they send me a coupon for free delivery, I order groceries from Safeway online and have them brought to my front door. It is a significant convenience, as living here in a condo our parking is underground and it is quite a schlep to bring stuff up. In fact, we have a couple of folding, rolling baskets that we keep around for the chore.

On this latest order Safeway was also offering me a free meal – some new frozen dinner that you merely needed to cook for ten minutes and serve. I haven’t tried frozen meals in quite a long time, so I wondered if there had been any improvements in quality, through new production or storage technology. So I ordered the “chicken and Portobello mushrooms fettucine with alfredo sauce.” Gave that a try last night. I will save you the trouble!

I prepared it according to instructions – dump everything into a skillet and cook covered on medium for five minutes, stir and separate the pasta, and cook for another five minutes until the sauce boils for one minute. The time wasn’t enough, more like 20 minutes, but that was no big deal. The pasta even had a nice texture, so looks like progress on that front. But I thought the sauce was under-seasoned so added salt and some shredded fresh basil and dished it up.

Now for the good, the bad, and the ugly: the pasta had a good texture, it was cut thick enough to stand up to the freezing. The chicken was nondescript. The sauce was still anemic, so we grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano over it. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig! That was the bad. The ugly? Well, the portobello mushroom pieces were gritty. There were tomato pieces, too, and the freezing had caused the meat of the tomato to disintegrate, and what was left were some really tough pieces of tomato skin.

The moral? It really only takes a few minutes more to cook some pasta while you sauté a chicken breast and mushroom pieces and finish it with a little cream, cheese, and chopped tomato. In 30 minutes you can have a very good meal, instead of a high-sodium, high-fat shadow of a good meal.

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