In our house, we’ve divided up what might be called the food duties. I’m the savory cook and Donna the pastry chef. It’s not like we sat down early on in our relationship and threw the dice, I’m just not interested baking cakes, making cookies, rolling out pastry for a fruit pie, whereas Donna is. She on the other hand would way prefer someone else do the meats, the veg, the salads.
Of course, over the months and years, I’ve got into a rut. Every now and then, I’ll read up on a recipe or see something in a cookery show and ring the changes as it were, but usually I select from a rotation of “recipes” (and I use the word loosely) to cook for our evening meal.
A few months back one of Donna’s friends was talking about a new service she and her her husband were trying out: Blue Apron. This is a home cooking service: they design the recipes with some interesting (and perhaps unknown) ingredients that take about 30-40 minutes to prepare and cook, provide you with the ingredients, pre-measured and counted, and deliver them in a big old box once a week. For a couple like us, it costs $60 a week for three meals, so about $20 a meal, which is roughly what I would spend anyway for us both.
We thought about it, and then after a week of particularly unimaginative meals, I pulled the trigger and ordered it.
The next Friday, the box arrived. Oh man, what a treasure trove! When they say they provide all the ingredients, pre-measured, they really mean it. There were little bags with just the right amount of grated Parmesan cheese, little tubs with (4 tablespoons of) butter and (2 tablespoons of) tomato paste, cute little plastic bottles of red wine vinegar. The meat and the fish were in vacuum packed bags, the vegetables and salads loose in the box. And there at the bottom of the box these two big ice packs (between which the meat and fish were sandwiched). The whole lot was in this silvery, bubble-pack bag, which was itself in the box. Considering this had been travelling two days (they use 2-day delivery from California), the ice packs were still rock solid and the whole box ice cold inside. The only things they expect you to do is provide is salt and pepper and olive oil, and of course put everything in the fridge as soon as possible.
The recipes are printed in full color on card stock (and by being so, basically encouraging you to file them ready for the next time you want to revisit a particular meal). On the first side is a picture of the final dish with a bit of blurb (“[the steaks] pair effortlessly with beautiful purple potatoes and piquant scallions” goes one description), together with a list of the ingredients. On the other side is a six-panel description of the recipe and how to make the dish.
The first step in each recipe is basically the same instruction: prepare the ingredients. Me? Prepare the ingredients before starting to cook? What? I’m a toss it in the pan kind of cook and if I need something I prepare it then and there just before adding it to the pan. Nope, time to grow up and have everything ready in advance in little dishes. (And, yes, after a month of these recipes, I’ve started to do this on those evenings I don’t have a Blue Apron dish to cook.) Similarly, the last panel is all about how to Finish and plate your dish. “Plate” as a verb? OK, I’ll roll with it.
We’re now on our fifth box, so it’s time to ask, was it (is it?) worth it? Overall, I’d have to say, yes. We’ve had some enjoyable tasty meals from Blue Apron, meals that we’d have again (and that I’d be willing to buy the ingredients for and prepare from scratch). There have been a few chef-induced disasters along the way – thankfully not many – of which my Chicken Milanese will go down as the ultimate WTF. (It’s breaded chicken breasts, but after the required cooking time, it was overdone on the outside and still pink in the middle. So I sliced them in two horizontally to cook them some more but the breading went soggy and Donna was very sympathetic when I sobbed during the plating of the resulting gooey mess.) There have been a couple of recipes admittedly that we just didn’t like particularly, but that’s fine too: at least we’re trying new things. The afore-mentioned purple potatoes? Lovely. My rice/beef stuffed poblano peppers? To die for. The squid-ink linguine was tasty, but I felt there was too much of it. And so on.
So, if you’re thinking about trying it, go for it. You can cancel at any time with a week’s notice (ditto, if you’re going away on vacation just let them know a week in advance to skip the delivery while you’re away). I think it’s well worth it for a couple: it gets you to cook and try something different and sometimes that’s all the encouragement you need.