Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hello Fresh, Attempt #2 AND #3 - Chipotle-Rubbed Chicken Salad AND Caramelized-Pineapple Burgers (It's a LONG post.)

Alright. So last week we learned about the Hello Fresh Roasted Pork. Because I don't want to stretch this out too long, tonight, we'll look at both the Chipotle-Rubbed Chicken Salad with Pico de Gallo and Avocado, and the Caramelized-Pineapple Burgers with Monterey Jack Cheese and Red Cabbage Slaw.

First, the Chipotle-Rubbed Chicken Salad with Pico de Gallo and Avocado:

I had more trepidation about this one from the get-go, because it included more truly fresh ingredients - lettuce, scallions, lime, avocado, jalapeno, and grape tomatoes. But opening the box it all looked pretty solid. Well... The romaine lettuce was a little bruised, but I just trimmed that off and moved forward.

Oddly enough, the onion was the piece that was most bruised. I had to hack off a certain amount of it to get to non-mushy.

This time, I made sure to read the entire recipe before beginning.

Again, the recipe was rated as a Level 1, so I figured it should be pretty straightforward - and based on the description of it being a "burrito bowl" I pretty much knew what I was aiming for.

I started out with the basic prep, which is listed as a 10-minute process. Thirty minutes later, I was ready to turn on the heat on the stove. So, unless they consider using the lime juice to dress some of the pico de gallo, they were way off on the timing on this one.

Here's how the meal played out:

First, I did a full mise en place and combined most of it to make the pico de gallo.

Marinated the chicken. 
Marinating chicken is not pretty. Sorry.
Cooked things.
I apparently didn't take a picture of this with the beans in it - or a separate picture of the chicken cooking.
And put it all together.
Christopher isn't a fan of black beans, so his plate had salad on the side, while mine was all jumbled together.
How did it go?

Well, the 10 minutes of prep took 30 minutes (as I mentioned), and the full meal took a little over an hour.

Most of the produce was in good shape (except for that onion mush), but the avocado was pretty much rock hard and flavorless. As someone who eats avocados fairly often, I know how hard it can be to get avocados at the right level of freshness. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to put together a ton of boxes of food and have all of the avocados arrive fresh after multiple days in a box. Even so - I think we ate one slice of avocado between the two of us. Blech.

The strangest thing in the entire recipe was the non-use of the canned chipotle peppers. We used 2 teaspoons of the adobo sauce that they were in, but I pulled Christopher in to make him read over the recipe multiple times to make sure I wasn't just missing where the peppers were supposed to go in. They weren't supposed to be used - and were never mentioned in the recipe. Apparently, they were just supposed to be thrown out. How weird is that? (We finely chopped one of them and added it to both the chicken and the beans.)

The chicken and salad had good flavor, and the beans - when eaten with the salad - were fine, but the beans were bland on their own. (We actually threw out the beans instead of keeping them as leftovers.)

Our final box for the week held ingredients for Caramelized-Pineapple Burgers with Monterey Jack Cheese and Red Cabbage Slaw.

Okay. I admit that, right out of the box - or right on the box, actually - I had a bit of a problem with this one. Why is "Caramelized-Pineapple" hyphenated? I'm really not sure about whether or not I like that. (I'm working up an editing-related post about hyphens and dashes. I suspect this will make an appearance there, as well.)

Another Level 1, 30-minute recipe, this one actually seemed like I could tackle it in 30 minutes.

There wasn't a ton of stuff in the box to mess with, and the piece of prep that took the longest was peeling and grating the carrots.

Oddly enough, the recipe only lists a single carrot, but I had gotten 3 carrots. Not a huge deal, so I peeled them and got ready to add to the pre-shredded cabbage, but realized that I'd have a carrot slaw with red cabbage, instead of the other way around, if I used it all. So I only used one carrot. (I do kind of wonder, though, why they sent pre-shredded cabbage, but not pre-shredded carrot...)

The one sticking point in this recipe was making the onion and pineapple "jam." I gotta admit that this was a procedure I've never dealt with, and although it was supposed to take "2-3 minutes" it probably took at least 10, and I never got the sugars to caramelize. It pretty much went in and out of the pan looking the same way:
The recipe then calls for this to be taken off the heat and put into a "large bowl" - while we're only making the slaw (below) in a "medium bowl." Umm... Did anyone look to see how little pineapple comes with this? Who needs a large bowl?

I know I've talked about how it might be nice to have amounts to work from for some of the produce (to avoid the shallot situation), and this is a good example of why. In the pico de gallo (above), the onion was a good 3 inches in diameter, at least. The onion, here, was only about 2 inches in diameter. And I wonder whether this made a difference when I made the pineapple jam stuff. 

As you might have guessed, as the pineapple was (or wasn't) caramelizing, I whipped up the slaw (in a medium bowl).

The burgers cooked up well, though instead of heating the oven to 400 to toast the buns, we simply popped them in the toaster oven. (That was probably my one serious digression from the instructions this week.)

In the end, we ended up with two attractive plates of food (you can tell them apart because my burger has everything stacked on it, while Christopher's has the toppings on the side). 

Here's a better view of one of the mugs:

This was probably the most successful of the three meals this week (though it still took me a solid 45 minutes, due to the extended caramelizing time), with the pork a close second. This one comes in over the top, though, due to the smaller amount of clean-up:

So... At the end of week one, how am I feeling about Hello Fresh?

I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle on it. I think that - if you're someone who doesn't have time to shop on your own it could be amazing.

I liked some of the new ideas - the balsamic fig glaze on the pork was a new (and replicate-able) idea for me, as was the red cabbage slaw.

I'm looking forward to next week with three new recipes, though. I'm going to let myself cook "normally" - letting my instincts guide some of the decision making - and hope that will shave some time off, as well as keeping me from getting frustrated.

I'll keep you posted!

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