As luck would have it, in the middle of my miniature kitchen renovation, my landlord decided to start doing work on the rest of our apartments. Add the stress of moot court and the ensuing deep-set depression of first semester grades, and you’ve got a recipe for no recipes. Specifically, a lack of desire to cook so deep that it makes Lean Cuisine meals look like a suicide hotline. Thankfully, Blue Apron, a food delivery and cooking service, stepped in to soothe the soul-crushing workload of ten hours and a brief before my first round of job interviews.
Blue Apron develops recipes, and sends the ingredients for three two-serving meals for $60 before shipping, or $10 per serving. When I say ‘all the ingredients,’ I really do mean it. There will be no substituting bell peppers for hot sauce here, not that any of us has ever done that, nor will you have to endure a full 45-minute conversation with your neighbor for a half-cup of coconut sugar. It’s all here. The ingredients are perfectly portioned, so you’re also bereft of the very special anxiety that can only come from buying nine baby bok choi when you only needed one. Yes, the same anxiety that made your therapist laugh. I made the three recipes this week and had excellent results.
When making these, I wanted to analyze the ingredients as if I’d never really cooked before, from the viewpoint of a person who had some, but not many cooking supplies, and knew how to do basic things but lacked expert knowledge. In this respect, I found the directions easy and concise for budding chefs. They were laid out step-by-step and allowed for excellent time budgeting. My first recipe was Thai shrimp soup, accompanied by the sounds of drilling window guards into my walls, for the children I don’t have. Very festive. I don’t often cook with coconut milk, and I’m not partial to soup, but this recipe might just have turned me around. This was the best recipe of the group, namely because it just didn’t shriek ‘soup’ to me. With plenty of fresh shrimp, a spicy, creamy sauce, and rice, it really featured the protein versus the broth around it. It made four massive portions- I’d be hard pressed to understand how two people could physically eat the entire bowl. This recipe took 48 minutes and 35 seconds from start to finish, and used eight dishes- one knife, two pots, two dishes, two forks, and a cutting board. This was the tastiest and easiest recipe.The recipe I was most looking forward to was, unfortunately, the least successful. The top round steak fajitas, made with Pat LaFrieda beef and fresh avocado, were difficult to execute well. The directions for the steak were murky- cooking it to the desired temperature, then having to cook it again and risk overdoing it, was an odd choice. The avocado was rock hard, and at the risk of waiting too long and suffering spoilage, I substituted my own in. The freshness of the peppers, onions, and steak was rendered monolithic by the fajita spice blend which, though tasty, coated each piece and took away the natural flavors of the meat and veggies. The spices never coalesced into a coherent sauce and had a grainy, pasty texture. The guacamole recipe was fresh, but bland and would have benefited from another acidic element or a sliced jalapeno. This recipe was the fastest, but took more active cooking than the first, and took 34 minutes and 23 seconds from start to finish, with a total of nine dishes- two pans, one knife, three plates, one cutting board, one spatula, and a bowl.I made the meatloaf this afternoon- this was the only recipe that was missing an ingredient, the celery, but it was a small enough amount that I could do without. Turkey meatloaf with herbes de provence, and roasted potatoes and baby spinach salad on the side seemed comforting for a rainy, gross day. The meatloaf was easy to make, but the flavors were ultimately discordant. Herbes de provence might work well with a homemade, more acidic and fruity ketchup, but with standard Heinz, it tasted bitter. The roasted potatoes were chiefly unseasoned, and while cooked perfectly, were bland. I enjoyed the lively flavors of the spinach salad. This took about 1hr, 8 minutes, from start to finish and used seven items- one pan, a pot, a cutting board, two spatulas, a knife, and one plate.
Recipe redux: with one additional ingredient, change the leftovers into something new! For the fajitas, add a bit of cheddar cheese. Slice the tortillas into chips and bake them. Top the chips with leftover sour cream, guacamole, peppers, and steak and melt the cheese on top for instant nachos. For the soup, add an egg. Reduce the stock to a thick, creamy sauce and fry the egg on high, scrambling it in with the leftover rice and scallions. Mix in the shrimp and fry until golden brown and cooked, and ladle the sauce on top. For the meatloaf, add two slices of bread. Grill slices of the meatloaf and spread the spinach mixture atop the bread. Sandwich together- lunch!There are many things to love about Blue Apron. Not having to do grocery lists or shopping this week took a great load off my chest during such a stressful week, and the diversity of ingredients took me out of my meat/taco/cocktail comfort zone. However, some of the inconsistencies of the recipes might be frustrating to new chefs. Still, it’s definitely a service I’d gift to someone in a new area, or a recent college graduate. (Hint, hint.)