2008-08-21

Annie's Homegrown "Bunny Pasta with Yummy Cheese"

Brand: Annie's Homegrown
Flavour: Bunny Pasta with Yummy Cheese
Format: cardboard box
Packets: one
Identifiables: bunny head pasta, cheese powder
Sodium: 1.33 grams

I didn't feel like eating ramen today. I was up for pasta – pasta with a sauce on it. I scanned the shelves. Nong Shim, Paldo, Ottogi... Annie's? A friendly-looking rabbit stared back at me from a box the colour of a MySpace page. The opportunity to chow down on hundreds of disembodied semolina rabbit heads was too sweet to pass up. Today would be a day for mac n' cheese.

First, I have to say that the classic macaroni-and-cheese format is so incredibly passé, yet somehow it survives. The grey cardboard box, proportioned nearly like the monolith from 2001 (note: not really), must be torn open to get at the contents... or, as this particular box suggested, the bunny tail must be firmly poked. Um... yeah. Box open and contents laid bare, I found innumerable shrunken approximations of a lapine visage, rendered lovingly in organic pasta. Also, there was a rather large and stiff packet which did nothing to hint at its contents. I could guess, however.

I started six cups (Imperial measurements? Startling) of water to boil and proceeded to the rest of the directions. Cook pasta for twelve to fifteen minutes? More than four and I start to think something has gone wrong! Use a separate measuring cup to prepare sauce? Blasphemy! I knew I was out of my element, but I would not give up so easily. I poured the pasta into the pot. For a few moments, I watched a torrent of wheaty bunny heads swirl around in what I could only imagine would be rabbit-pasta ecstasy. Then I turned to the sauce-making.

A quarter-cup of organic whole milk went into a measuring cup. When I opened the cheese packet, I caught a whiff of a familiar odor known to all instant food fanatics as "too-cheesy-to-be-true". The white powder went into the measuring cup and I slowly blended the two with a chopstick. (Hey, old habits die hard.) That left me... ten more minutes to wait for the bunny heads to soften up.

At that point, I began to wonder if somehow I'd gone too far and lost myself in the cause of instant noodle review. Then, I had a vision of my friends and loved ones smiling at me and saying, "Cheer up, Keet. We always knew you were nuts anyhow." That comforted me as the minutes ticked away.

Once the twelve minutes had elapsed, I drained the pasta using the tried-and-true method of holding chopsticks over the lip of the pot and pouring. The trouble was that the pasta ended up retaining some of the excess water in the little crevices that bunny heads tend to have. Undeterred, I poured the sauce in, stirred, and snapped a photo of the pale, sodden bowlful of cheesy rabbit bits. That is indeed a spoon in the bowl; these tiny things would be gathered neither by chopsticks, nor by fork.

The taste? Honestly, cheese-like but uninspiring. The pasta wasn't cooked quite enough (twelve minutes should have utterly destroyed it!), and the sauce was thin and powdery. Naturally, there was no heat to it whatsoever. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anywhere near inspiring. Disappointed, I decided to anoint the rabbity mass with a little peppered BaconSalt to get a bit more of the flavour going. Mmm, now that's American!

Sorry, "rabbit of approval". I'll have to give you some pretty low marks, you and your pasta brethren. Bunnies should be tastier!

Numbers: packaging 2, preparation 1, heat 1, flavour 2, overall 2

Music: Andy McKee - Art of Motion - Keys to the Hovercar

6 comments:

Boss Goji said...

I've actually had the shells and cheese version of this product, and I personally found it absolutely delicious, being a bit of a gourmand when it comes to powder-based cheese goods. Frankly, I find it utterly depressing that I can't get these where I live, as I'd gladly eat these every single day of my life, if I could.

Jessie Tracer / Electric Keet said...

Boss Goji:
To be utterly fair, I think I botched this batch by not thoroughly draining it... but to be utterly fair, it's not even remotely ramen. I have a box of the aforementioned shells on the shelf, and I may try that later on.

Anonymous said...

Cheese powder sauce that does not involve butter? Yes, that will be very thin...

Steve said...

I'm going to have to agree with B.G. here. Normally Annie's is a cut above the average boxed mac-n-cheese brands, and I'm surprised by your negative experience. First of all, the lack of butter or butter-equivalent ingredients in your preparation frightens and disturbs me - I'm not familiar with this particular 'species' of Annie's. Did you omit it due to dietary constraints, or was it not on the instructions at all? - as that would be a major contributing factor to a thin cheese sauce. Another possible explanation for thin sauce could be improper drainage; While the chopsticks method works for most standard strand pastas, more complex shapes usually require the use of a colander and vigorous shaking.

As for the undercooked pasta, I'd like to mention that loose-boxed noodles are - at least in my experience - uncooked as opposed to dehydrated. While I'm wary of attributing anything to user error, you were actually cooking when you poured the pasta into the pot, and cooking in general is a more interactive and demanding process than your typical packaged ramen. Unless you're used to the peculiarities of your chosen cooking medium, simply turning a blind eye after adding your ingredients to heat is never going to turn out well. Sample early, sample often, and err on side of "slightly firm" when you decide to drain your pasta.

If you're up for re-reviewing this product, in addition to cooking the pasta slightly longer I'd suggest adding two or three tablespoons of unsalted butter or butter-equivalent and a half cup or so of whole milk before adding the cheese powder. Don't be afraid if the sauce looks thin at this point, though! Turn the heat up as high as you feel comfortable with, and stir that pot until you reach a desired thickness, add any seasonings you might desire (My preferred modifications are a half tablespoon or so of ground black pepper, a teaspoon or less of red pepper flake, and paprika to tint), and only then do you serve and consume.

Jessie Tracer / Electric Keet said...

Steve:
You talk too much.
Also, the standard instructions indicate no butter (and they even say to use low-fat milk!) I figured that'd be kinda lame, but I'm kind of bound by the rules of engagement to prepare the stuff as directed. If I were going for a meal that I'd want to eat again, I'd use the butter, I'd cook the pasta slightly more (twelve minutes didn't do it, amazingly) and I'd probably be much more thorough in draining the pasta. I may do a second review later on, but really, the instructions on the package should result in a decent flavour. I don't give any of the other instant noodles that much margin of error.

Bret said...

"bunnies should be tastier", eh?
What's your buni think of that line? ;D