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I'm determined to find some good frozen meals that contain seafood. In my quest, and in the continuing spirit of "We eat it, so you don't have to," we have three shrimp meals to review today.
You may recall that we've reviewed some frozen meals from Michelina's here in the past, and they've gotten uniformly bad reviews, whether they were from their Authentico line or their Lean Gourmet line. Still, sometimes the frozen meal companies get it right, so when I spotted two shrimp and pasta dishes I decided to give them another chance.
I started with Michelina's Lean Gourmet Shrimp with Pasta and Vegetables. Cooking this product requires three steps: an initial 3+ minutes in the microwave with just a corner vented, then open the entire lid and stir the pasta and the topping separately. Then cook the meal in its paper box another minute or so, then allow to sit in the microwave for a minute or two, then stir the pasta and the topping together and eat.
Telling you all this might seem odd. But I mention it because it's a little more complicated than your usual frozen meal - and the instructions are printed on the underside of the package. So unless you've really read the instructions carefully beforehand, after each step you have to pick up this very hot box and hold it up above your head so that you can find out what the next step is.
My web designer would call that "poor usability."
Once I did all this with the Shrimp with Pasta and Vegetables I noted that just out of the microwave the meal smells strongly of iodine. The good news is that the smell dissipates after a minute or two. The broccoli in the dish is well cooked and still crunchy and the small penne pasta (white flour as usual) are not too gummy. But the shrimp are rubbery and the sauce, while not gooey, is still bland, bland, bland. Overall, not bad. Just not good.
Their Shrimp Scampi was rather similar, although fortunately the iodine smell was absent. Again, the vegetables (this time matchsticked carrots) were cooked appropriately while the shrimp were rather rubbery and tasteless. What should be a butter-garlic sauce was butter scented but really had no flavor at all, while the pasta (this time linguine) went all the way to mushy. I really like scampi and you would think that a butter and garlic sauce would be pretty easy to do well - I kept tasting it, thinking that it had to get better, but it never did. Avoid this one.
Finally, Lean Cuisine's Shrimp Alfredo seemed really promising. It notes on the package that the shrimp are flash frozen and will become pink after cooking. I could see that the shrimp in this package were completely uncooked, which is good: it's more likely that they will not end up overcooked. Lean Cuisine is thinking! The bad news is that the shrimp ended up overcooked anyway, although I will admit that our test kitchen's microwave is very powerful. While we routinely adjust cooking times in light of that fact, it's still possible that in another microwave they might come out just right.
That said, even well-cooked shrimp couldn't save this dish. The broccoli and the pasta were mushy and the Alfredo sauce was a travesty. You all know that Alfredo sauce should be: nice and creamy and thick. Not this stuff. Watery, watery, watery. I let the freshly-microwaved dish sit uncovered for a time in hopes that the water might evaporate and improve the consistency of the sauce (which had little flavor anyway), but no luck. Lean Cuisine is really trying, but this meal still needs work. Leave it in the freezer.
Reviewed: April 24, 2009