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The last time we reviewed something from Saffron Road Food was almost eight months ago, and it was a disaster. Nifty packaging led us to try their Korean Style Tacos, which were beyond awful. What a disappointment from a company whose other offerings, from chicken broth to Macaroni and Cheese, have so often been really good.
We kept an eye out for signs that they were returning to what we here at Dr. Gourmet consider their core competency: frozen meals. Today we have two new items from their foray into Mexican cuisine: Beef Chile Colorado and Achiote Roasted Chicken.
The instructions on these are a little confusing. Generally it's cook, peel back the plastic film on top, stir, replace film, cook some more, allow to stand, eat. Right? (Wow, can you tell we've tested a lot of frozen foods?) These two meals instruct you to cook, stir, and then cook some more. Do you replace the film or not? We opted to replace the film and would advise that you do the same.
I'll tell you right now that if you like spicy food you should go buy this Beef Chile Colorado (240 calories, 480mg sodium, 4g fiber). This is very thinly sliced beef that looks much like skirt steak and has that same deep, beefy flavor in a moderately spicy guajillo chile pepper sauce. This package is labeled "Medium Heat" and they mean it - the spice lingers on the tongue with a nice zing. The beef and sauce is served over basmati rice that fortunately does not suffer overly much from the microwaving, retaining its separate grains without becoming either too dry or too mushy.
Alongside they chose to serve this with zucchini and sliced red and yellow bell peppers. While the peppers are a bit overcooked, mostly disappearing into the sauce, the zucchini still retain a modest crunch and their sweet flavor, a welcome counterpoint to the spiciness of the sauce. The black beans are the only slightly sour note: they're a little dry (firm, but not crunchy) and perhaps a little more subtly spiced than I'd like. All in all, I've had worse meals at Mexican restaurants and paid far more for them.
It took us a little while to warm up to the Achiote Roasted Chicken (270 calories, 480mg sodium, 4g fiber). Although this is also marked "Medium Heat," it's much less spicy than the beef dish, and there's not nearly as much sauce. This means that when the sauce is mixed into the rice and the chicken, the whole becomes a little dry. The chicken also tends to break up as you stir the meal, resulting in tiny bits of chicken throughout rather than the more noticeable chunks (actually slices) of beef. That said, the savory sauce really brings out the chicken's flavor (and you thought chicken had no flavor!).
This comes with the same rice as the beef dish and the same beans, right down to the firm-and-chewy-but-slightly-dry texture. And this is the same zucchini, but this time it appears alongside roasted corn. Take a bite of the savory rice and chicken with the sweet zucchini and corn and you'll see why this meal really works. We didn't like it quite as much as the beef, but this is another winner from Saffron Road. These meals are priced at $5.50 each, but you'll spend more (and eat more in the way of calories with LOTS more sodium) at the local Mexican restaurant, even if it's Chipotle.
First posted: February 20, 2015