Sunday, December 05, 2021

Meal Three was a success

On Thursday, I made the third meal from the meal kits I’m trying, one called “Chicken Parma”, and it was a success. It wasn’t as fiddly as the first two, but I also mixed it up a bit so that could be part of why I liked it more.

The instructions called for taking the free-range chicken breast and “cut through horizontally to make 4 schnitzels.” I had no idea what “horizontally” meant in this context—horizontal as it was on the bird when it was alive?! I’d seen chicken schnitzels in the supermarket, so I guessed they meant lengthwise.

Next, I was supposed to put them “between two sheets of cling film and flatten with a rolling pin to about 5mm thick." I didn’t trust my cling film not to rip (it’s not very good), so I used baking paper instead, which survived the assault. I knew from experience that I needed to fairly gently whack the chicken (which was covered with baking paper, of course) until it was at the right thickness, which doesn’t take long to do.

The chicken breast was quite large (though it was the weight specified in the instructions), so I ended up with more than four pieces. Because of that, I increased the amount of Panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese for the coating. I also added a little garlic powder and a bit of dried basil. The coating method in the instructions is what I’ve (successfully) done in the past, so I didn’t change that (dip in flour, them dip in an egg beaten with a little water, then dip into the breadcrumb mix).

I fried them to brown them before putting them in the bottom of a roasting pan (I didn’t have a lasagna pan) and covered them with the provided jar of sauce. This was a big bit of luck: The instructions said the sauce was "Heinz® Seriously Good™ Spicy Tomato and Chilli Pasta Sauce,” which I think I would’ve hated. I’m not a fan of hot and spicy food generally, and, to me, this dish is meant to be a mild blend of subtle flavours, all of which could easily be overwhelmed if the sauce was too “hot & spicy” (as I’d define that…). Fortunately, the pasta sauce that was actually sent to me was the “Tomato and Roasted Garlic” version, which I’ve actually bought in the past.

There was an oddity (in my opinion) with this meal: I was to cut the provided potatoes into medallions (or, “rounds”, as the instructions called them), and drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper over them. Instead, I tossed them in a bowl with the oil and seasoning so they’d be coated (because I was to turn them over halfway through cooking, I felt this was a better method). When they were done, they weren't as crispy as they’d be if I’d fried them on the stove—they weren’t terrible, or anything, just not as nice as they could’ve been.

The whole thing struck me as odd because the handful of times I’ve been served a similar meal (or made it myself), I can’t remember it ever being served with potatoes like that. I did it anyway, though.

The other change I made was that it was supposed to be served “with a side of mesclun”, which was provided. It looked a bit too wilted to me, and, anyway, I’m not a huge fan—it kind of reminds me of weeds, and sometimes one of the leaves will get stuck at the back of my throat, which is rather unpleasant. Mesclun is a blend of salad leaves that originated in France, and for reasons I don’t understand, it’s often served as a side in cafes in New Zealand. Instead, I used some iceberg lettuce I had in the fridge, with a name-brand salad dressing drizzled on it (by that point I couldn’t be bothered making my own).

Making the meal required a fry pan, a roasting pan, and a baking sheet, plus bowls and plates used in prep, which once again was quite a bit more than I usually use when cooking for myself. Because of that, I’ve also been running the dishwasher more frequently than I normally do. It took nearly two hours to make, including cooking time.

The meal was really nice, though modified from what they sent. I was too busy on Friday to have the leftovers, so I had them for lunch yesterday—and I fried the potatoes to make them crispy, something Nigel and I used to do whenever we had leftover roasted potatoes. It was a nice lunch.

I’ll definitely make this dish again—which isn’t a surprise at all since I’ve made it before. Even though the instructions said to use Mesclun and included the odd (to me…) roasted potato rounds, I’d still give this meal a 5 out of 5. I wouldn’t have chosen to make the potatoes or to have Mesclun, but neither was it “horrible” that they were included. If the sauce in the instructions had really been supplied, though, I think the meal might’ve ended up with me giving it maybe 3 out 5 (possibly lower).

There’s one more meal to make, and I’ll probably make it tonight. I already know I’ll be making changes to that, too. I’ve learned that doing that when we want or need to is a good way to make these meal kits work. But is it worth the effort? I’ll give my opinion on that in my final post in this mini-series.

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Roger Owen Green said...

I've never seen the word schnitzels before. I've head of a wiener schnitzel, but not the plural.
But I'm SO distressed: you don't have a lasagna pan?! SMH

Arthur Schenck said...

I think "schnitzels", plural, may be a local slang thing (a schnitzel is basically just meat pounded thin; my mother made pork schnitzel when I was a kid).

I actually do have a lasagna pan, but it's glass and the maximum recommended temp for such glass bakeware is 425F, which is 218c. I was to set the oven to 200c, but I don't know how accurate the temperature gauge is, so I didn't want to risk it (especially because the pain has definitely been around awhile…).

Having said all that, I plan on getting a rectangular steel roasting pan in a size that would be a good for lasagna—if I ever make it. The reality is, I've never made lasagna from scratch, anyway.