Friday, September 30, 2016

Blue Apron - Pork Chops and Seared Chicken (not in the same dish)

The second and third meals from Blue Apron were equally as impressive as the Cod. We had Seared Chicken & Caramelized Vegetables with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Mashed Potatoes followed by Pork Chops & Spicy Chow Chow with Sweet Potato Salad.

The first thing you might notice from this is that the folks at Blue Apron really like to use the ampersand instead of the word "and." The next thing you might notice is that they really like multi-dish meals. I should clarify that they like lots of side dishes, as opposed to liking to make you clean a lot of dishes (no more than Hello Fresh, at least).

Let's look, first, at the chicken de la semaine:

I'll admit that, when I was opening everything, I was a little nervous about the fact that there was a massive fennel bulb in the package. I'm just not a big fan of anything in the licorice family, so that was a bit of a worry for me. 

The big white and green thing in the lower right is the fennel bulb - twice as big as each of the potatoes.
Luckily, I realized there was still an onion in the fridge, because I thought I'd lost it.
The fear I had with my first round of ingredients - where I thought that possibly the vinegar had opened in its "Knick knack" bag - did come true in this batch. The small bottle of vinegar had lost about half of its liquid - into the bag and box. It was a bit of a soggy mess, but I had vinegar in the cupboard, so I was able to move forward.

I don't have a lot of pictures of the prep on this meal. In part because caramelizing onions and fennel simply means you leave them in a pan for ages. And mashed potatoes start with simply boiling the heck out of chopped potatoes. I also don't have a lot of pictures because the cherry tomatoes exploded in the oven while roasting (following all their directions) and caused the kitchen to fill with all kinds of smoke:
Yes, I closed the doors to the rest of the house, opened the outer door, and put the fan in the window before taking photos.
Eventually, after the smoke cleared, I put the chicken (which, really, was lightly pan fried, not seared) into the pan with the caramelized veggies for the final few minutes.

When I put it all together, complete with the rescued tomatoes, it looked pretty good:

And, really, the fennel was much tastier than I expected. Most of the harsh licorice flavor disappeared with the caramelizing. I enjoyed it rather a lot.

Clean up wasn't even too bad...

...if you ignore the fact that I had to scrub the oven.

The final meal of the week was pork chops (with chow chow and sweet potato salad).
I'm not from the South, so I only have a passing acquaintance with "chow chow" - but I know enough to know it's a relish. Which I was about to make from scratch.

See all those peppers? And the corn? And the four tomatillos? All those needed to be chopped.
Remember how I had commented that Blue Apron's prep times seemed a bit more realistic than those of Hello Fresh? Let me revise that to stress that they seemed more realistic.

As I started in on the prep for this meal, I quickly realized that my knife skills were not nearly fast enough for me to keep up with their proposed prep times. Eventually, I got to this point:

In all honesty, the brightest prep board I've had in three weeks of these meals.
I'm happy to say that I read all of the directions and knew, in advance, how many pans to use and for what. And, after the chopping and dicing and de-seeding and de-papering was done, it went pretty quickly.
And, as with my cutting board, this was a very colorful stovetop.
No smoke this time, and tons of flavor in the side dishes when all was said and done. 

So... At the end of week one of Blue Apron, I was definitely enjoying the overall process more than with Hello Fresh. It feels a bit more... well... "me." A little more hands-on, which is a strange thing to say since you're making everything from scratch in both versions, but Hello Fresh gave us a can of corn for one recipe, while Blue Apron gave us a cob. It's that kind of thing that separates the two for me.

Now, I really thought that this would be the end of these trial pack posts for a while. But I misread the deadline for cancellation of Blue Apron, and so we ended up with a second week of meals showing up at our door last Friday. The problem (which I've heard that many people encounter) is that this has been a phenomenally busy week. So we stacked  three meals' worth of food on the bottom shelf of our fridge - and used the first one last night (Thursday). Stay tuned to find out how the food did after the delay.

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