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In November of last year we discovered that Martha Stewart had gotten into the frozen convenience food business with frozen meals intended to serve one: Chicken Cacciatore and Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs.
Unfortunately, at the outset the products had two major issues that had nothing to do with their flavor or quality. First, we paid $7.00 per package. At that price point this is comparable to ordering take-out. Second, neither of the dishes was actually designed to be complete meals: both advised the consumer to serve the dish with potatoes or egg noodles as a starch.
But hope springs eternal at the Dr. Gourmet Convenience Food Review Center, so here we are with two more dishes from Martha's Kitchen.
The first today is the Beef Pot Roast, which is billed as including "Olives, Dates, and Orange". As with our previous Martha Stewart Kitchen meals, this directs the consumer to "Serve with potatoes (mashed or boiled and buttered) or couscous."
Once again, not a complete dish.
Following the microave cooking directions, as written, left us with an island of frozen meat and gravy in the middle of the dish, so we ended up cooking this an additional 2 minutes to bring it to a reasonable temperature.
On the plus side there are substantial chunks of parsnips and carrots. They're just barely al dente, so we felt they could stand to be cooked a little more, but that's a matter of taste. The slivered black olives added a piquant tartness that we'll keep in mind for recipe development in the future.
On the negative side, the chunks of beef - more reasonably described as very thinly sliced chunks of the cheapest beef available - are chewy, gristly, and dry.
Sure, stew isn't made from the most tender or flavorful cut of meat: that's why it's cooked in a stew. And certainly we don't expect frozen meals to taste like home made... but our panel spent what they felt was too much time picking dry, flavorless beef strings out of their teeth. And the advertised orange? We couldn't see it or taste it.
The Chicken & Mushrooms was especially disappointing. Martha says you should serve this "with potatoes (mashed or roasted), crusty French bread, or other grains you have on hand to soak up the delectable wine sauce."
Yes, "sauce" is the most accurate description of this dish. It's "sauce with some solid bits" - "not chicken with sauce".
So let's see. This is basically a topping that has 190 calories, 760 milligrams of sodium (!!!), and less than 1 gram of fiber. Mind you, for both of these dishes we paid $7.99 each - a significant increase over our last tasting, when they were $6.99.
Take a look at what you actually receive:
Our panel described it as "a dog's breakfast." Then they stirred it up. The verdict: "The dog barfed up its breakfast."
Sure, the sauce has a thin red wine and chicken flavor with the shine and mouthfeel of cornstarch. But the actual chicken in this dish is "basically teeny-tiny bits" that are "more like cat food" than human food. (Okay, maybe the cat... never mind.)
There were no pearl onions in the dish that we could find despite their appearance on the label, and the bits of mushrooms were rubbery.
Pay $7.99 for these single serving meals AND make a side dish or two to go with it? If you have to make sides to go with these "convenience meals" you might as well save money and make the whole dish.
Chuck steak is what's most often used for stews and at our local grocery it's about $9.50 per pound (easily enough to make 4 servings of stew). Boneless, skinless chicken thigh is about $7.00 per pound. And that's just for the meat portion of these dishes - never mind any other ingredients. Make your own Beef Stew or Coq au Vin, save money, and eat better. But don't waste your money on these meals.
Posted: June 31, 2022