On the strength of Birds Eye's first "Bake to Perfection" product, back in February, I vowed to try every other entry in this impressive new range and, finally, here's another.
At first glance, it didn't look like something I'd be particularly keen on - I'm a late convert to the charms of the humble tomato, thanks to a terrible incident from my school days (don't ask... it was horrific... just imagine your own least favourite school dinner memory, and empathise), and still tend to avoid them where I can, or just pretend they're not there when I can't.
But this is Birds Eye, long-standing purveyors of fine foodstuffs, so I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. And, let's face it, it's good to try something once in a while that you're reasonably sure you aren't going to like because, y'know, life can surprise you sometimes.
But enough cod-philosophy (see what I did there? Cod? Food-related pun? No? Oh well...), and on to the main event.
BtP Succulent Chicken Fillets with a Tomato & Basil Sauce. They come in packs of two, and they take 30 minutes to cook in the oven. It's basically a chicken fillet with a tomato and basil 'butter' squeezed on top, and the idea is that the 'butter' melts and cooks through the meat "to infuse flavour". I observed with the salmon product that it doesn't necessarily soak in quite the way it's supposed to, but that the end result is nevertheless excellent, and the same is true here... only more so.
The 'butter' essentially kept its exact shape from frozen to cooked, though some oils, etc were released into the foil bag. When serving, if you want the finished product to look anything like the photo on the packaging, you're going to have to spend some time spreading the sauce around.
Once you cut into the meat, it becomes very obvious that none of the butter/sauce has penetrated into the meat (despite these being skinless fillets), and I'd have to say that, were I to attempt something like this from scratch, I'd tend to score the meat several times to help the process along.
That said, the oils that were released from the 'butter' were soaked up readily enough once the meat was cut, and they certainly added to the flavour... but it's the sauce proper that really makes this product. Whichever kind of tomato they've used - the ingredients only specify "Tomato Powder" and "Tomato Paste" - it's been prepared exactly right for my tastebuds. It's a full, rich, sharp flavour balanced with a healthy dose of basil. I'm not entirely sure there's quite enough of the sauce, but that's just my preference. "Slather it all over, then add a bit more" is my philosophy.
In so many situations.
But I digress.
The chicken certainly lives up to its description as 'succulent' - moist without being waterlogged - and, despite this being a frozen product, the plain meat actually tasted pretty good, even without much assistance from the sauce.
As a break from the standard, predictable and, let's face it, dull 'potato and veg' accompaniment, I decided to serve this up with some Uncle Ben's Express rice, in the Savoury Chicken flavour. There was method in this madness, in that I knew the rice could be mixed in with whatever remained of the sauce, soaking it up and absorbing its flavour, and I'm pleased to report that the rice complemented the chicken perfectly.
And, as with the Salmon product, this has inspired me to perhaps try something along these lines from scratch... The ingredients list butter, basil, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in the sauce, so I figure it wouldn't be too difficult to come up with something with tomato purée and garlic butter as a base...
Watch this space...