Monday, February 18, 2013

Dinner by Chef Sean Mowell, via Munchery

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my first full meal from Munchery.  I enjoyed that dish, and I've been watching the menus since, eager to try out another dish.  I can't get over how awesome this service is - quality dishes, prepared by great chefs, delivered to my home, designed from the start to be reheated, for totally reasonable prices.  It fits my lifestyle perfectly.

I was very excited when I saw a dish listed by Chef Sean Mowell (previously of La Folie, AQ, Gitane, among others).  For Valentine's day, he was making a dish inspired by Chef Heston Blumenthal (3-Michelin starred chef/owner of The Fat Duck).  I was even more excited after Emil ordered it one night, and raved about it.  Emil is not one to give a false seal of approval, and I was actually quite surprised he tried Munchery again, as he didn't like the first meal he ordered through it.

I was intrigued by the basic description of the dish, "Heston Blumenthal's World-Famous Chocolate and Cauliflower Risotto", so I used a Munchery feature to send a message to the chef to ask more about it.  He responded, detailing the ingredients he was using, the cooking process, etc.  It was clear that he was excited to offer the dish, and was working hard to make this high end restaurant quality dish come out well when reheated at home.  This is such a key part of Munchery for me; it isn't just reheating leftovers.  The meals, when done prepared, are designed from the start to be finished by you at home.  It makes a huge difference.  I also love that Munchery allows me to interact with the chefs!

Since I've reviewed and explained the service itself before, I'll skip those details this time, and only review the individual dish.  You can read about all my Munchery experiences here.  If you'd like to try it out yourself, you can use my invite link, and get $20 off your first order!  Enjoy!
Packaging.
Like last time, the meal came with a photo of the chef, a description of the dish, and reheating instructions on the outside.
6 Individual Containers!
I opened the box to reveal 6 different containers.  Woah.  I was a bit overwhelmed, but I took this as a very good sign.  I do wish that Munchery had a way to designate the level of re-heating skill required, as it would allow me to rule out any that come pre-mixed and just want to be stuck in the microwave for 3 minutes.  I'm sure there are plenty of Munchery users who want that, but I am certainly not one of them.

To make the risotto itself, I had to combine the contents of three of the containers.  The largest container was the risotto base, made with shallots, cauliflower stock, parmesan cheese, Chardonnay, grated 80% dark chocolate, and of course, the Carnaroli rice.  The next container contained assorted roasted cauliflower florets.  And another container had a cauliflower cream sauce, made with the same base as the cauliflower stock, but also cream.  I was instructed to mix these ingredients together in a saucepan to reheat them.  Once it was up to temperature, right before serving, I folded in the container of mascarpone cream.

Yes, this was a bit more work than throwing it all in the microwave, but it allowed it to come out really well, finished just as it would be done at a fine dining restaurant.  Perhaps too fancy for most, but I thought it was great how everything was separated.

There were also two other containers, one containing radicchio and a chunk of citrus, the other a dressing.  Strangely, there were no instructions on what to do with these components, but I was pretty sure they were supposed to be served as a side salad.  I read a review from another customer who instead mixed it all into the risotto.  I think I did it right?
Heston Blumenthal's World-Famous Chocolate and Cauliflower Risotto.  $11.99 (early-bird price).
I almost did not want to include this photo, since the dish really did not look photogenic at all!  When I served a portion to Ojan, he looked up and made a face.

Luckily, it tasted far better than it looked.

The most impressive part of the dish was the texture of the rice.  It was slightly al dente, with the perfect level of chew to it.  I partially attribute it to the use of Carnaroli rather than the more common Arborio, but also, the chef just cooked it perfectly.  Really well done.

The flavor developed in the risotto was incredibly complex, a balance of sweetness from the cauliflower and earthiness from the chocolate.  I expected to taste more chocolate, but when I think about it, I probably wouldn't have wanted it more chocolatey, as this was a savory main dish after all.  My one complaint is that it wasn't as creamy as I would have wanted, even when I mixed in all of the cauliflower cream.  I ended up adding some additional milk to it when I reheated the rest the next day, and I enjoyed it more when it was creamier.

I appreciated the chunks of roasted cauliflower, as they added something more interesting texturally than just a big bowl of rice.  About half the florets were browned, and the other half looked more like they were steamed instead.  I think they were probably all roasted, but I'm not sure why they were so different.

My favorite element was the mascarpone.   As it melted in, it added an incredible richness and creaminess.  It went so well with the cauliflower.  It made the dish.

The side salad was a good pairing, the crispy, fresh, bitter radicchio contrasting nicely with the creamy, sweeter risotto.  The dressing also elevated the risotto, the acidity cutting the richness of the risotto.

This was a clearly well thought out, complex dish, with a high level of execution.  Great job chef!  I can't wait to see what else he offers.

The price was $11.99 since I purchased it in advance, $12.99 normally (and, they ended up doing a last minute Flash Sale for only $6.49, which is totally insane!  I guess this dish, while it attracted Emil and I, did not appeal to the masses?  Such a shame.)  Even full price, was a great price for a huge serving.  Ojan and I both had some the first day we ordered it, and then I had some the next day as well.  Emil mentioned that when he had it, he was only able to finish half of it.  While I appreciate the high value, I think this would have been a better offered as a side, in a smaller portion.
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