Thursday, February 27, 2014

Blue Apron

It's well documented that I don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Well, actually I do spend time in the kitchen, but almost none of it is spent cooking. I visit with my Beta fish- Sam #who knows at this point, and re-heating pre-prepared foods (prepared by other people such as the fine folks at the Trader Joe's plant).

I've made things. I make a ridiculously fantastic brisket, a noodle kugel, turkey meatloaf, some crock pot meat meals, and Purdue "chicken in a bag", but I'm not sure I can count that one because again, it's more like re-heating. It IS raw but it's already seasoned, and by golly, its already IN A BAG, that it cooks IN, so I'm not even making a mess. I can also bake, and one of things I do bake is made from scratch. But that's pretty much it. I've made some other things but stuff that I also don't really consider cooking. Like my version of chicken tacos. It's just browning ground chicken and adding marinara to the chicken because I don't want to try any kind of taco sauce. Don't judge me. Marinara & mozzarella are my go-to's for just about anything and everything. When in doubt just Jersey-Parmesan it.

I wish I wasn't but I'm SO picky. I generally like standard American fare or Italian-American. And that's where my food adventure ends. I order the same thing every time I go out to eat- grilled salmon with some kind of starch and vegetable. Every now and then a risotto side or polenta will get thrown in with salmon depending on the restaurant.

I have a group of friends from an online message board who have been talking & raving about Blue Apron for months now. The thought of getting a box of unprepared food delivered to my home with ALL* the ingredients seemed interesting. One of them gave me a free week to try it out (Thanks Adria!) How hard could it be?


Blue Apron came. It was a lovely padded box with ice packs in it. All the bits and pieces were in there- spices, veggies, plants- whatever. Most of it things I've never seen in they're raw, natural, birthed state. A tree of mint, a flower of garlic all humps attached,  kumquats, a half head of escarole (wtf IS that?), bulbs of Brussles sprouts, a stalk of lemongrass, freekeh, and so on. Luckily there were instructions and some pictures. Everything is labeled but still. I quickly checked what I needed for the fish meal and threw the rest in the fridge.

This is where it gets a little hairy. Blue Apron is not REALLY for the totally novice. The recipe cards SAY the prep time for these meals should be 35 minutes. Not on your life. Granted, I was doing a play by play on Facebook with my Blue Apron loving friends group who just wanted to enjoy my cooking journey but that didn't take up much time. AND I NEEDED THEIR HELP. Desperately. I started this whole thing at around 6p and finished at 7:39p.

First of all, I must not have read the fine print because there ARE a few things you're expected to have already- like salt, pepper and olive oil. I understand the majority of people have these items. But when I say I don't cook, I really don't cook. If I am, it's really not so much cooking as blending things already made. For example, in my turkey meatloaf, I use a cup of marinara from a jar. Whatever spices are in that marinara are my spices. Or I use a prepackaged meatloaf seasoning mix by McCormick. My brisket only has five ingredients- brisket, Kikkoman Lite soy sauce, lemon pepper, paprika, and onions. So it's not like I have a lot of spicing just laying around for a rainy day. I only have olive oil because my friend Lindsay made a quinoa salad I loved and copy every now and again. I don't even know if olive oil goes bad! But that's another topic....

Brussels sprouts, kumquats, Garlic baby teeth
I didn't have pepper, which was needed for the Tilapia meal they sent. But I did have lemon pepper for brisket so I used that. It said to "mince garlic". Granted, I could look this up, but I just cut it. I showed a picture to my friends who all pretty much capital lettered me- "MAKE IT SMALLER!!". Apparently minced garlic is not supposed to be the size of baby teeth. It also seemed to have a tail, one of the garlic humps, which just made me laugh inappropriately. A little garlic penis, if you will.

 I was instructed to make lime zest out of a lime rind I had to take off myself. It said to "mince" also. Well...I don't think I did it correctly and it would've been helpful for me to be able to see what lime zest is supposed to look like. Maybe a YouTube tutorial for each meal would be more helpful. I don't own a grater, which someone suggested I zest with.

There was just a lot of multitasking to be done. I'm cooking freekeh and it was almost done when I read ahead and realized I was supposed to be cooking the glaze concurrently. Then I went to toast my nuts and I left them there too long so they started to burn. I got them off the flame quickly but it could've really gone awry.

I also forgot to put oil in the pan before throwing the fish in so I had to find a spatula thing to get them before they started cooking. Then, I didn't put the garlic in a pan before the Brussels sprouts so I had to throw it all in together and hope for the best.

It ended up being good. Really good. I called B in to eat quickly before it got cold. He was impressed with the meal. He said it looked and tasted like a gourmet restaurant meal. But, I looked like the Nutty Professor, and the kitchen looked like Mr White and Jesse's RV Meth lab. Just call me Heisenberg of Blue Apron. Well, not yet. Right now I think I'm Todd. Again, another conversation but we just watched five of the last eight Breaking Bad in the past two days and honestly, it's all I can think about. Anyway, I enjoyed freekeh way more than I thought I would.

Disaster kitchen

Pros: If you want to make something different, cool, interesting, new, etc, this is GREAT. If you want to impress a spouse or a significant other- awesome. The price is pretty good for gourmet style meals for two people for three days of a week. Especially when you're dealing with some really off the beaten path ingredients. I would NEVER even know where to FIND some of this stuff.

Con: If you don't know ANYTHING about cooking and you don't have friends to help you step by step, you could really be in over your head. If you don't have stuff like a grater (thanks Kay), garlic press (thanks Sam, Julie, etc), chef's knife (thanks Tiffany), it can definitely add to the challenge.

I don't know if I would just take it out of the box at 6p again and try to start cooking that night, I think if you don't know what you're doing, it might behoove you to take it all out, put it away and then read the recipes in full to get familiar with what you're going to be doing. I basically sprung it on myself like a pop quiz for a final grade.

B said - "I guess we won't be eating those pot stickers for awhile.". Yeah no. I'm not quite ready for another cooking undertaking. Give me like a week.

This meal was the "Kumquat Lime Glazed Tilapia with Brussels Sprouts and Almond Freekeh". Also with that I received: Center Cut Pork Chops with Carmelized Onions & Blue Cheese Grits                                  Chicken Pot Stickers with Baby Tatsoi

Half eaten meal when I realized I needed a photo

*You should have salt, black pepper, olive oil at home prior to receiving an order

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