You'd think that I would have learned my lesson after eating that Banquet Enchilada Combo Meal back in July. You'd be wrong. There is something about bizarrely faux-Mexican frozen meals that compels me to try them. And so, my microwave recently hosted a matched set of Banquet Mexican Style meals: the Chicken Enchilada Meal and the Beef Enchilada Meal. And, while the enchiladas and tamales were not nearly as plump or attractive as those shown on the box covers, I must admit that they weren't all that bad - and certainly worth every cent of the whopping one dollar each that I paid for them.
The Chicken Enchilada Meal leaves out the rather nasty refried beans that I've encountered in other Banquet Mexican-Style meals, providing a double-sized portion of Banquet's standard Mexican-Style Rice instead. As usual, the rice grains are firm and cooked perfectly, sprinkled with finely chopped red and green bell pepper, and fairly swimming in a loose tomatoey sauce. Since I hate overcooked rice, I can tolerate this and it even kind of grows on you after awhile.
The chicken enchilada was almost identical to the one in the previous combo meal: A wet, mushy chicken paste with lots of thready chicken meat fibers rolled up in a thick wet corn tortilla. There is a pleasant but mild spiciness which I suspect comes from the ketchupy sauce that seems to be all over the enchilada and the serving pan.
Meanwhile, the Beef Enchilada Meal goes the other way with the side dishes: It leaves out the mediocre but tolerable Mexican-style rice and offers up a double portion of the refried beans, which unfortunately are wildly inconsistent in quality from one meal to the next. I've had decent, firm-but-thoroughly-cooked beans, and I've had nasty, soupy "refried bean sludge." Please, ConAgra: work on the quality control on the beans. (Tip: if you ignore the heating instructions that tell you to stir the beans halfway through the microwaving, your beans will be better. Yes, I admit that I've eaten enough of these meals to have discovered that hint.)
The enchilada, as expected, was also the same as before: a thin portion of meatlike granules folded into a thick, wet corn tortilla. There was the same ketchupy-sweet "enchilada sauce" as in the Chicken Meal, providing a touch of spice and a bit of flavor.
The big surprise in both meals, however, were the tasty tamales, especially considering their mysterious composition and rather off-putting look. There's a spicy, crumbly yet moist center part seemingly made up of corn flour, TVP, and really cheap beef surrounded by a thin film of cornmeal. I was fairly amazed by just how good they tasted! Corn, spices, beef, and even that kind of questionable sauce all lent flavor notes which combined into a delicious taste - truly the high point of these frozen meals and - regrettably - also the smallest components. Yeah, I'm a sucker for a cheap tamale.
So: Are these gourmet dining? Not by a long shot. Are they acceptable dollar lunches? Yeah, I think so. I'd buy them again.