P.F. Chang's at Home with Frozen Dinners for Two
Restaurant-to-table concepts are sweeping America!
Photos by Christina Uticone
P.F. Chang's is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. When I head home to New York and hit my favorite mall, my girlfriends and I almost always choose P.F. Chang's for our post-shopping lunch and wine session. I usually order the chicken lettuce wraps and garlic noodles; add a few glasses of wine, and a couple of hours of fresh Finger Lakes gossip, and I'm in heaven.
The food at P.F. Chang's is a salty bomb of deliciousness; semi-fast food in a nice setting, plus a decent wine list. I've walked by the "P.F. Chang's for Two" items in the frozen food case for a long time, thinking them a little pricey for frozen fare (and preferring to reserve it for Girls' Day Out) at $7 to $8 each. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I gave in to temptation -- and the price tag -- and brought home two items from the frozen case: Pork and Leek Dumplings and General Chang's Chicken.
With a pile of Christmas gifts to wrap, I thought these would be the perfect things to whip up for a mid-afternoon snack -- with a glass of wine, of course.
Josh watched football while I got moving on the dumplings. The instructions call for adding the dumplings to a pan, turning on the heat (medium-high) and then adding water and oil, cooking while covered for the first six to eight minutes. After the dumplings had steamed through, I uncovered the pan and turned the dumplings until they had browned on each side. In the meantime, the "special dipping sauce" included in the package was warmed through by dipping the packet into hot water.
As far as frozen dumplings go, these were good. Not great, but keep in mind we just embarked on our own dumpling experiment that was extremely successful. The dipping sauce was a pretty straightforward soy sauce -- sweetened, a bit syrupy -- that enhanced the pork flavor in the dumplings. I wish they had a bit more filling, but that's only because the filling was pretty tasty. There are less expensive brands of dumplings in the international frozen food cases at both H-E-B and Kroger, so personal taste will dictate whether you feel these are worth the price.
Next we dug into the General Chang's Chicken, a spicy chicken-and-broccoli dish with red peppers and a sweet chile sauce. The cooking instructions recommended stovetop, which took about ten minutes from cold pan to fully-heated entrée. From a texture standpoint this dish was less successful, because the battered chicken -- which, in the restaurant, would be a bit crunchy -- was quite mushy, making the batter aspect of the chicken kind of superfluous. It would have been much nicer to simply have chunks of skinless chicken.
Overall the flavor was good, if not as spicy as I had hoped, and the broccoli cooked to a nicely crisp-tender texture that surprised me considering it was cooked on the stovetop and in the sweet chile sauce. The mushy battered chicken was a bit of a deal-breaker, though, and the broccoli was definitely the best part.
I was happy enough that I would try a few more items from the line. Although I find them to be expensive compared to other options in the frozen case, I think they do a decent job at approximating the restaurant flavors that inspired them.
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