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After visiting the land of barbecue sauces last week, today we return to our usual frozen foods, this time with two offerings from Lean Cuisine: Chicken Pecan, described as "roasted chicken in a maple bourbon sauce with white & wild rice, pecans, sweet potatoes, apples & cranberries;" and Grilled Chicken Primavera, "grilled white meat chicken with asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes & whole wheat pasta in a creamy garlic sauce." (I have to wonder why the descriptions on the box are getting longer and longer in these meals.)
Our tasters looked dubiously at the packaging for the Chicken Pecan. "I hope it's not too sweet," one remarked as we passed the box around the table. Surprisingly, it's not. The maple bourbon sauce, which might have been overpoweringly gooey and sticky-sweet, is actually nicely tempered by the bourbon and balsamic vinegar. You can even taste the (fairly moist) chicken through the sauce.
The rice, on the other hand, has a strong orange juice flavor that nearly drowns out the scattered chunks of sweet potato. The dried cranberries and apples add their own note of sweetness, but despite the way it might sound, this is still a fairly savory side dish. As usual, the rice - both white and wild - is overdone, and I would have liked to see a much higher ratio of wild to white rice. This might be 10% wild to 90% rice, and I suspect that might be a generous estimate.
One taster suggested that we mix the whole thing together. "It's what's on the box," they said. Fair enough: mix the whole dish together and this is right on the edge of too sweet. A little less orange juice in the rice, fewer dried apples or cranberries, and this might remain solidly on the savory side. This engendered a fair amount of discussion about whether it should get a thumbs up or down, until another taster pointed out that this meal is a lot like the traditional Thanksgiving dinner: if you like to mix up your turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes with pecan glaze, and cranberry sauce, all into one bite, this is definitely for you. If not.... 320 calories, 560 milligrams of sodium, and 3 grams of fiber.
On to the Grilled Chicken Primavera, which has 220 calories, 580 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of fiber. The word "primavera" means "spring" in Italian, and pasta dishes with this name are meant focus on the vegetables. This definitely lives up to the name: easily two-thirds of the meal is the vegetables. And those vegetables, both broccoli and asparagus, are quite good, with a nice al dente crunch. The down side of this meal is the pasta: as I mentioned, the vegetables are most of this dish, leaving the rest divided between the chicken and the pasta. There might be an ounce of the vermicelli, which is overcooked enough to break apart when you stir the dish. The chicken tends to be on the dry side despite the sauce, which is what one taster described as "nearly good."
Well, "nearly good" is all that this is: it's a thin, garlic-scented sauce which has the consistency and color of thinned milk. The flavor isn't bad... it's just not really there much at all. This could be a really good dish with more pasta (the whole meal is only 220 calories, so another 1/4 ounce of pasta wouldn't add many calories, not to mention another gram of fiber) and a thicker, more strongly flavored sauce. It looks good. It should be good. You want it to be good. But it isn't, quite. Thumbs down: it's just disappointing.