Friday, September 23, 2016

Blue Apron - Intro and Basque-style Cod

With the second Hello Fresh box off to recycling, we cracked open our first box from Blue Apron last Friday. Right from the outset, you kind of get the feeling that Blue Apron is not playing any games. This is... well... not "serious" business, but it will not be mistaken for being cute or silly.

The "Enjoy!" on the inside of the lid is about as close to playful as they get.

Basically, when you get the box and open it, you get the feeling that this is Hello Fresh's older brother, who probably rolls his eyes each time Hello Fresh uses a smiley face or a "use me first" sticker.

There is no "everything separated out into Tetris-able boxes going on, here. Apparently the folks at Blue Apron have a lot more faith in their customers' abilities to sort things for themselves, because here's what you get in the box:

The "coupon" on the right is actually an offer for wines to pair with your meals. (Honestly, I didn't look too closely at the offer, since we were only planning to do Blue Apron for a week.)

I sorted through everything, pairing things against the recipe cards, to make sure that I had everything. Once out of the box, it started to make a little more sense:

The brown paper bags contain all of the small items (they call them "knick knacks") for each of the recipes. These are things like small bags of almonds, small vegetables, or small bottles of vinegar. I would not have almost misplaced my vegetable stock last week if it had been in one of these bags.

There were meats, too, but they were at the bottom of the box, under the cardboard divider (as they had been with Hello Fresh), again, with a note that reminded us we were not playing:

We stacked everything away in the fridge, and launched into the "Basque-Style Cod with Sweet Pepper-Tomato Sauce & Freekeh." (No, I didn't have any idea what freekeh was when I read that, either.)

Right away, looking at the recipes, you can see that you - as a cook - are being asked to do/know more than with Hello Fresh. There aren't any explanations about allergens - and although approximate calorie counts are listed, there's no mention of anything else (like carbs, fat, etc.). I was pleased to notice that the recipes actually all listed different prep and cooking times, which made me think that maybe I had a better shot at getting things done in the "right" amount of time than I had with Hello Fresh. 

Although we did get separate onions and multiple other packs of herbs for each recipe, Blue Apron only sent one bulb of garlic to be used throughout the week. I liked that you're kind of expected to use what you need and save the rest.

I was a little worried that this bottle (which doesn't have a safety seal - though the "safety" part didn't bother me) - might have leaked. But I had the right amount of vinegar.

Here's a strange thing. Although I have been pretty meticulously photographing each of the steps along the way for the past two weeks, I seem to have missed pretty much all of the prep steps in this recipe. On the other hand, the steps looked pretty much like they are shown on the recipe card. And the meals (one deconstructed, one layered) looked mostly like the cover picture. 

We ended up with a lot more of the pepper-tomato sauce, though - enough that even with the massive amount on the plates we still put a good cup of it in the fridge to possibly use later (along with leftover freekeh and relish).

Of note: The almond/parsley/garlic "relish" that went on the fish was incredible and very unexpected. I've also not cooked with cod very much (aside from when I was a kid and my grandmother would make fish and chips), and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to work with. 

One area where Blue Apron seems about on par with Hello Fresh is in the dish department. As someone who does a lot of one-pot meals during the week, I'm still getting used to having enough dirty dishes and pans that I need to use two photos to get them all in.

Oh - The freekeh was really good. Kind of nutty and with a texture that was somewhere between crunchy and couscous. I'd definitely try that (and the relish) again in the future. 

My first impression of Blue Apron is positive. Possibly not as user-friendly for a beginning cook as Hello Fresh is, but certainly more satisfying for someone like me who already has experience in the kitchen. Stay tuned for a look at the rest of the week's meals. 

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