Part I: Keckler, Bertolli, And The Zone Defense
Let's get something straight; I enjoy frozen meals. In fact, there are some I flat-out love, crave, hanker and yearn for. You want some instances? Well, my freezer has to have at least four Tina's burritos (green chile only), I bewail the inaccessibility of Byerly's Beer Cheese Soup, Trader Joe's stocks some of the best siu mai I've ever had, and I've still never hit upon a restaurant macaroni and cheese that even comes close to the creaminess and flavor of Stouffer's. Believe me, I've looked.
I tell you this so you know I didn't walk into this taste-test with any palate-blocking snobbery. In fact, after being inundated with the friggin' IQF PDF EMP ING process on most recent episode of Top Chef, I was so fascinated by the concept of these Bertolli skillet meals that I knew I had to experiment with them for myself. Oh, but I had no illusions of recreating a Bertolli frozen meal from scratch as the cheftestants were made to do -- no way. I just wanted to see the pasta nests and sauce blocks for myself, how they cooked up, if they were even edible. Having availed myself of a good selection of these bags that would showcase different pastas, proteins, and sauces, I started skilleting.
Side note: I find it rather singular that, unlike on both versions of The Apprentice, part of the win was not to have Bertolli snatch up the winning creation and use it as a new flavor for their line. It's like they knew the cheftestants would rather lose than have their recipes used to make frozen dinners. Frankly, I'm willing to bet that all of the cheftestants' offerings were far tastier and much better for you than anything Bertolli puts out in this line.