Reviews and Such Food

Pan-Seared Pork, Quick Irish Stew

On Wednesday I posted about my first efforts with Hello Fresh meal planning service. Over the last couple of days I’ve cooked the other two meals and so I’ve got some thoughts to share about them as well. I started with the Pan-seared Pork Chops for my Thursday supper, and then made the Quick Irish Stew for my Friday lunch.

Giving an idea of some of the ingredeints
This is the broccoli, flour, and gravy concentrate.

Pan-Seared Pork Chops:

panseared pork
panseared pork

I found this recipe to be the most involved of the recipes I received. Although there weren’t a lot of ingredients, the timing of this recipe made it a challenge to put them all together.

The pork chops come sealed in four individual packs which means that you don’t have to cook them all up at once. They are even nicely wrapped for putting in the freezer(I didn’t). The potatoes are quite sizable. None of the four were huge, but they were all on the medium-large size.

potatoes and other ingredients to be pan-seared
Potatoes, Shallots, and rosemary

I was quite impressed by the freshness of the broccoli. One trick I learned when working in the grocery business is: That when you want to make produce appear fresh, you trim off the discoloured bits on the bottom. It also works to help keep them fresh, because when the butt end of a stalk is trimmed and stuck in water, it is easier for the plant to absorb more water which helps to keep it fresh.  There was a little bit of yellowing on the bottom of these stalks but by and large they were quite fresh.

broccoli ready for the oven, then added to pan-seared pork
There is a good portion of broccoli in the package. It filled this 9X13 pan quite fully.

The shallots on the other hand were quite large, and the flavour was quite strong.
One of the elements I found challenging with this recipe, is that it requires a good bit of organization to get things right. Hello Fresh does a good job with all their recipes in writing them out in such a way that you can fairly easily follow them. However on this one, I got a little confused with what was supposed to be done, in which order.

Pan-seared pork chops at rest
The Pan-seared chops are on the plate and resting, just waiting to have the foil over them to keep them warm.

I tend to be a bit of a disorganized cook and that hurt me a little bit in the end. For one thing, the pork ended up being slightly beyond pink in the middle, but it still wasn’t too dry. On the other hand, the Broccoli probably ended up in the oven for four or five minutes longer than it should have and in the end was a little over cooked. Fortunately for the initial meal that wasn’t too bad, but I think I will notice it on the leftovers.

Quick Irish Stew

This is the last of the three recipes I tried. I have a longer video for this one, but unfortunately there aren’t a lot of pictures of the actual ingredients that go into the dish. After doing the Pan-Seared Pork Chops and finding them to be quite challenging as far the steps of the recipe are concerned, I found the Quick Irish Stew to be easier.

Bag containing Irish Stew
The Bag containing the Quick Irish Stew ingredients was the first one out of the box, but the last one to be cooked.

I started off by prepping all the ingredients. Then I tossed the potatoes in a bit of olive oil along with some salt and pepper and stuck them in the oven at 450 degrees F. The recipe called for them to cook for 23-28 minutes before taking them out. This was the longest time given for any single ingredient in any of the three recipes and allowed me more time to put the recipe together in a more relaxed fashion.

I mentioned in the video and it does bear repeating here that this meal is the only one that doesn’t really seem to give four good servings. For one thing, the ground beef is 500g, while both the Chicken Tenders and the Pork Chops are 680g. That’s a substantial difference. Plus there are only 300g of potatoes in the stew package compared with the 920g of russets with the Pork Chops.

The same holds true for the amount of vegetables as well. 227g mirepoix vs 454g Broccoli, and 454g Baby Bok Choy. Perhaps, if I had worked my way through all the five available choices I would have ended up with three that were much closer together in size, but it does seem some choices are lighter than other.

Crostini just out of the oven
The Crostini came out nice and crispy around the edges and soft and chewy in the middle.

The stew cooked up really well. The one thing I didn’t particularly enjoy was that it didn’t seem to really thicken up as much as I would like. I really like my stews to be thick and this one didn’t quite make it(I even added some corn starch on top of the flour that came with the recipe. The flavours though, were as good as in the other two. I found the small bottle of sherry vinegar sort of amusing when I opened the package but it gave a nice vinegary edge to the gravy.

Hello Fresh Recipe Cards:

One of the strengths of the Hello Fresh system is the recipe cards. They not only give you detailed instructions on how to prepare the food, but they let you know in advance what you need. At the top of the left hand column there is what is called the Bust Out section which tells you what equipment you’ll need, along with any ingredients that aren’t included in the kit (typically butter, salt, pepper, and oil).

Telling you what equipment and ingredients you need.
The Bust Out box from a Hello Fresh Menu.

Then there is an ingredient list below that. This allows you to check off what is supposed to be in the recipe with what is actually in the bag. I had all the proper ingredients for each of my dishes.

Making sure that you got your whole order
Making sure that you got what you should have got.

Finally, on the bottom left there is a list of potential allergens. There are 11 types of allergens listed, and in the ingredient list and the Bust Out section there is a coloured number beside ingredients that suggests how ingredients might create for a potential allergy alert.

Pan Seared Pork: Warning people of possible allergens
Hello Fresh provides cooks with the information necessary to avoid allergic reactions.

Hello Fresh Heads Up

While I really like Hello Fresh, there are a few things that are worth being aware of before you jump in and order. If you look at the Bust Out box, you’ll see that there are several items needed for each recipe. So, if you should have yourself a fairly well equipped kitchen you should be all right. I’m okay with improvising when it comes to tools and equipment, but you may not fell that way.

Second, you need to know whether or not you like bold flavours. This is not to suggest that any of the meals are particularly spicy. However, because they use so many fresh ingredients, the flavours tend to be come through strongly. On the plus side, because they package so many of the sauce ingredients in small packages you can add them one at a time and stop before you add them all.

Third, there is an emphasis on being organized if you want to get full benefit out of the meals. For example, the Pan-Seared Pork Chops gave preparation time as 10 minutes, but it took a fair bit longer than that.

The cost for each meal is about $10.83 if you order three meals for a family of four. It drops to $10.21 if you order four meals for a family. If you order the smaller Pronto-Sized it’s about $13.33 for three meals, or $12.50 if you order four. I found that as a single person that three meals gives you the opportunity to eat with some variety. So what you get is a meal that would be a little bit more than most fast food meals(don’t forget that Hello Fresh includes taxes, and there is no need for a tip).

The meals are designed in such a way that it is easy to split them up and store them for future eating. On the organization question, the recipes are good, and you could use a half day to prepare all three recipes and then store them and pull them out whenever you need to.

Given my part-time employment situation, I’m not sure how often I’ll use this site, but it definitely a site I recommend that people give a try. If I haven’t answered all of your questions please feel free to leave them in the comments.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.