When it comes to food, I like to be in control. I like to be the one picking out groceries and I like to be the one cooking. But honestly, grocery shopping can be a pain sometimes.
Inspired by the discount offer of two free meals for first time users of Blue Apron (Blue Apron has also been sponsoring some of the podcasts I listen to lately), I decided to try out the services. With my discount offer, I paid about $40 for three meals intended to serve two people (regular price of about $60).
Blue Apron is a food delivery service that takes care of the grocery shopping, allowing customers to enjoy and focus on the cooking experience. After noting dietary preferences, Blue Apron ships three pre-shopped and pre-portioned meals on a week-by-week basis. The food gets carefully portioned and packaged and is shipped in a refrigerated box.
I wanted to keep an open mind, so I did not check off any dietary preferences to see what they would send me. The week before my delivery, Blue Apron sent me an email with the ingredients and recipes I would be receiving:
- Pan-Seared Salmon with Arugula, Candy Stripe Beets & Horseradish Sour Cream
- Greek-Style Braised Chicken Thighs with Fingerling Potatoes
- Caramelized Pork & Congee with Crispy Shallots & Black Garlic
Each meal is slated to take an average of 35 minutes to prepare. While no nutrition information is provided for individual recipes, Blue Apron notes that each meal contains between 500 and 700 calories per serving.
Below I discuss the meals I received and cooked, showing pictures and providing individual feedback for each recipe.
Pan-Seared Salmon with Arugula, Candy Stripe Beets & Horseradish Sour Cream
I cooked the fish on my first night. It was great! I really liked that there was fresh horseradish root to grate into the sour cream. That made a big difference on flavor.
I boiled the beet at the same time I cooked the farro. One could say I made “dirty farro.”
Shallots got chopped and soaked in vinegar to cut their acidity. Then they got mixed with thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts, beet, and snipped chives. I almost never use chives, and this recipe reminded me how much I enjoy them.
The fish cooked very quickly, just a few minutes in a pan, seared on each side. I could have eaten my entire portion with dinner, but I chose to save some of the fish to eat for lunch the following day with the extra farro and arugula I had leftover.
This was my lunch the next day. Still a good portion of food. I added a few lentils leftover from another night’s dinner, too.
Greek-Style Braised Chicken Thighs with Fingerling Potatoes
Another great meal. I think the potatoes were the star. Fingerlings are so good. They got par-boiled and then thrown into a skillet with tomatoes, olives, pre-made chicken demi-glaze, and garlic and finished with a little butter (I did not use all of the butter that was given to me. The dish was rich enough with half the amount of butter).
A crunchy cucumber, cilantro, and feta salad with lemon added a nice contrast. The recipe said to de-seed the cucumber with a spoon. I usually feel guilty “wasting” cucumber seeds, but doing this really helped keep everything nice and crisp.
Caramelized Pork & Congee with Crispy Shallots & Black Garlic
This recipe was created by Chef Mei Lin of Bravo’s Top Chef. Blue Apron is currently having a photo contest and giveaway related to this recipe. Cross your fingers that I win 🙂
The congee involved toasting and simmering short grain sushi rice with a lot of water to make it porridge-like. I love any kind of porridge-like food, so this was a hit in my book.
Coconut palm sugar got caramelized in a pan with black garlic and black vinegar, my first time using all of those ingredients! The ground pork tasted so good when tossed with the savory-sweet caramel. Crispy shallots added a nice texture to the plated meal.
I appreciated the detail of this recipe, but I wanted more vegetable in my meal, so I quickly sautéed some broccoli rabe to satisfy my cravings.
I enjoyed all three of my Blue Apron meals! The quality of the food was very good, the recipes were creative and took me outside my usual cooking routine, and they were all fun to prepare. The meals felt gourmet yet balanced and relatively healthy. Even with two of us eating the recipes for dinner, we would usually have some leftovers for one of us to eat for lunch the next day.
I enjoyed all of the pre-portioned small bunches of herbs. I often feel wasteful buying a huge bunch of herbs at the market when I only need a little bit for a recipe (one day, my own garden should solve that problem).
Blue Apron also has a great social media presence. Blue Apron partnered with Top Chef for the caramelized pork congee recipe and created the hashtag #BATopChef. I was very impressed with all of the people tagging their versions of the pork congee, and after scrolling through some of the comments, I saw that Blue Apron customers started to talk to each other, offering tips and hints and chatting about the recipes. What a great way to get people talking about food.
My overall critiques: While the ingredients were fresh, clean, and of high quality, they were not all organic or locally sourced. I understand that this would put a big cost restraint on the system, but when I purchase meat and fish especially, I tend to be super picky.
There was also a lot of packaging involved, which I realize is necessary for food safety reasons (keeping perishables cold, keeping ingredients separated and pre-portioned…). Blue Apron discusses how to recycle the packaging on the website, and notes that the company is constantly trying to reduce the environmental impact of the packaging.
When ordering from Blue Apron, one needs to know how to cook or should want to learn how to cook and be willing to take some time to do so. The recipes tended to require a few pots and pans, and they had multiple steps. Since I am comfortable in my kitchen, I was able to make a few recipe shortcuts (see “dirty farro” above) to make things flow smoothly.
This week it’s back to my mainly vegetarian throw-together dinners. I admit, I miss having my meals shopped for and planned.
Have you tried Blue Apron? What was your experience?