A husband and wife team want to help you get good food on the table during the harried school year. They cook it and send it frozen through the mail. All you have to do is boil water.
It’s 7 p.m. Work was grueling and you’re exhausted. But the kids are hungry and swarming the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator, maybe you remember your own mother’s dinners, homemade and delicious. Is there any way to do that in a half an hour? Husband and wife team Jayce and Erik Hall of Plymouth are answering “yes.”
Co-founders of a new company, Comfort Cuisine, the Halls will send you frozen, vacuum-packed, family-oriented food that you can reheat in a pot of simmering water.
“It just makes today’s crazy life so much easier,” said Jayce Hall. “It’s having a professional chef in your home for reasonable price.”
Comfort Cuisine’s meals range from $20.99 to $29.98 for four servings. Shipping charges are not included and can run from $14.95 to $29.95.
On a recent afternoon at the company’s kitchen and packaging area in Sandwich, chef Erik Hall slipped sauteed chicken breasts into plastic bags with a large spoonful of picatta sauce.
“I’m amazed myself by some of the things we can put out of here,” he said. Comfort Cuisine’s menu includes old standbys like Southwestern chili and meatloaf, but also shrimp scampi and grilled Asian salmon filet.
A nearby pantry holds only primary ingredients: canned tomatoes, olive oil and soy sauce. The Halls don’t use preservatives; they depend on vacuum packing to keep flavors fresh.
“If you buy stuff in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store, it doesn’t taste good,” Erik Hall said. “That’s what makes us different.”
National companies like Home Bistro, Family Chef and Dinewise offer similar meal-by-mail services. Erik Hall said he has not been impressed by their quality.
Hall got his start in food as a busboy at Bobby Hackett’s in Pembroke, a long-standing and loved but now-defunct restaurant. A former country club chef, he said his transition has been about finding ways to avoid the perennial sin of frozen food: mushiness.
“People keep asking for chicken parmesan,” he said. “It’s not on the menu because it’s hard for it not to get soggy.”
Does buying food through the mail sound weird? It did to us, so we asked the Halls for a sample of the items on their menu.
Our package arrived the next day via UPS in a Styrofoamcq -- trademark cooler. The food was still frozen rock hard in individual portion-sized bags and accompanied by freebie chocolate chip cookies.
Here’s how we found some of the samples:
Jayce said one of the best sellers is the chicken picatta and it’s easy to see why. The meat was tender and the sauce was so aromatic and rich that it was hard to put it in the category of “frozen food.”
Macaroni and cheese is my number one No. 1 comfort food, and the Comfort Cuisine version did not let me down. Made with a spiral pasta cooked to the perfect squishy side of al dente and a mixture of cheddar and Swiss cheese, it far outstripped the box varieties.
The mashed potatoes, prepared with Yukon gold potatoes and half and half, were delicious. Taste-wise, it ranked several notches above the next-easiest mashed potato option: boxed mashed potatoes. The boil-in- a-bag mashed were just the right texture – creamy but not overly so – and tasted exactly like the kind Mom used to make.
The roasted vegetables and roasted beets re-heated nicely to what appeared to be their original glory. The vegetables, while garlic- infused, were nothing more or less than wholesome tasty food. The beets, however, fall on the gourmet side with a delicious orange- transfused sauce.
The risotto was creamy and tasty. It was made of short-grain Arborio rice, onions, garlic, chicken stock, white wine and parmesan cheese, among other seasonings.
The chicken, broccoli and penne was smothered with just the right amount of flavorful chicken stock and white wine sauce. The chicken moist, the broccoli not over- cooked and the pasta al dente. And the complimentary chocolate chip cookies? They were to-die-for.
For more information about Comfort Cuisine, check out www.comfortcuisineinc.com.
Clara Long of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) can be reached at email@example.com.