I confess. I’ve been waiting for months – with a sense of dread – for the new frozen offerings by Ina Garten to show up in my grocer’s freezer. Despite her laid back demeanor, she’s a shrewd business woman, so I wasn’t surprised last year when I heard she was coming out with a line of frozen dinners; just a little disappointed.
For me, Garten conjures up French favorites carefully prepared in her fabulous kitchen, not another food personality-branded frozen meal from a wrinkled plastic bag. So, when I finally spotted those red-and-pink striped bags, I had to try one out. I side-stepped the pasta dinners and went for the most ambitious – beef stew bourguignon. I’m French so, growing up, boeuf bourguignon was my Dinty Moore. I can spot an impostor from 20 paces.
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So, did Barefoot Contessa frozen beef stew bourguignon pass la moutarde? Here’s my review.
Barefoot Contessa beef stew bourguignon, about $7.99 for a 22-ounce bag that serves two, at select grocery stores, including Walmart.
First look: Barefoot Contessa Sauté Dinners for Two come in nine flavors, including garlic-and-ginger chicken, jambalaya, creamy chicken stew and tequila-lime chicken.
Each serving of beef bourguignon contains 270 calories, 10 grams of total fat, 4 of which are saturated, 45 milligrams cholesterol and a whopping 1,350 milligrams of sodium.
The main components of the meal include sauce, vegetables (carrots, mushrooms and onions) and seasoned beef. Specific ingredients in the sauce include water, onions, Burgundy, beef base, pre-cooked bacon, unsalted butter, mushroom base, flour, soybean oil, salt and sugar.
The beef includes modified food starch, and the whole meal contains some milk, soy and wheat.
Here’s what’s inside the bag:
Sauce, chopped parsley and veggies and meat.
The directions are straightforward.
Place the bag of sauce in a bowl of hot water.
Place the meat and vegetables in a pan, then add 1/4 cup of water or wine. I used water since wine already is present in the sauce.
Cover and cook over medium heat for about four minutes.
Then add the slightly thawed sauce to the mixture.
Cook for about six minutes more.
And you’ve now got a pot of beef bourguignon.
Stir in the packet of parsley, which will bring to mind frozen spinach.
Good news: Portions are generous, and the calorie count is pretty low. The bite-sized cubes of beef were well flavored and tender. You could easily taste wine and a little bacon in the sauce for the first few bites.
Quick and easy to prepare.
Finished product looks just like the photo on the package.
Bad news: Can someone please explain to me how a vegetable can simultaneously feel squishy and firm? Maybe I’m just not familiar with frozen carrots, but these were not edible. Odd texture and didn’t taste the way a carrot should — no matter the dish.
And, let’s discuss these fish eyes, shall we?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to eat pearl onion stems. In fact, I hate pearl onions, so if I have to look at them, I’d rather they not look back.
They don’t look any better in the finished dish, either.
I have to admit that the mushrooms were a bit mushy, too.
The sauce was smooth, but it had a heavy black pepper finish. I didn’t mind it too much, but it really went to battle with the wine and beef. After three or four bites, pepper dominated. And, I adore pepper of all types, but it’s not the flavor you’re going for with beef bourguignon.
Last words: I suspect that Julia Child is going to stomp on the Barefoot Contessa’s toes for this frozen fiasco when they meet up in that great kitchen in the sky.