Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Blue Apron, Week Two - Salmon & Chicken

We're going to say that we left the meals sit in the fridge for a bit because we wanted to find out what would happen and how long they would last. That sounds better than saying we got totally distracted by real life and couldn't spend the time making these meals during the week they were meant for.

Though, in my defense, if I'd cancelled the service on time this would have been a moot point. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I messed up on the deadline for when I needed to cancel and ended up paying for a second week of Blue Apron at full price. Which, among other things, made me even more determined to cook them all even with the delay.

We started with the Crispy Salmon with Orzo, Green Bean & Cucumber Salad, because it seemed like the most perishable of the proteins - and I really hate to throw out any groceries.
The first thing I did was reach into the fridge (where everything had been stacked for about a week), and sort out the ingredients to take a good look at them: 
You might notice that the garlic bulb has already been partially used - that's because I opted to use the one from the previous week's box.
I have to say that everything was looking pretty good. The salmon didn't smell "fishy" when I opened the hermetically sealed package, the cucumber was still pretty solid, and the lemon hadn't gone "hard," yet; the herbs... well... they were going down the wrong road, but this was entirely my fault for not cooking them sooner.

I noticed as I started to upload things, today, that I have very few photos of this meal being put together. Here's a prep shot:

Sadly, you'll have to take my word for the fact that everything got cooked and mixed together. I boiled things. I sauteed things. I mixed the boiled and sauteed things. And then I pan-fried the salmon. (Feel free to refer to the recipe card, above, to see what that would have looked like).

When all was said and done, in about the quoted amount of time, we had dinner: 

Yes, that is my foot at the bottom of the photo. I do a remarkably large amount of contortionist work when taking kitchen photos in my (relatively poor) attempts to not cast shadows.

In this one, you can actually see that the lemon had started to give up a bit over the course of the week.
Overall, it was a tasty dish. And we learned that you can actually eat the salmon skin (it's apparently where many of the best nutrients reside). Christopher's vote was that the honey-mustard salmon we had from Hello Fresh was more to his liking, which actually made me kind of happy since it meant that we now know more than one way to make salmon. 

There was leftover salad (most of the Blue Apron meals have had leftovers of one kind or another), and I really wanted to like it even though I'm not a huge dill fan. Unfortunately, when I took it out of the fridge the next day the dill had become overpowering. I took one bite and tossed it in the compost. About half an hour later, I tied off the compost bag and took it outside to the Organics Recycling bin, because the dill was just way too overpowering.

Our second meal of the week was Blackened Chicken with Zucchini Rice, Corn & Cherry Tomatoes. 

I won't lie. The thought of "zucchini rice" had me a little nervous. I wasn't sure how I was going to make the one into the other. Luckily, as I read along, I realized that the two ingredients were going to be in the same dish, and it wasn't going to be some kind of weird "rice" made from zucchini.

First step in tonight's dinner prep? Doing the dishes from the night before. (Have I mentioned that we have a 1950s house with a small kitchen with no dishwasher? And that each of these recipes requires pretty much the same dishes and pans each night?)

With clean dishes and knives and cutting board, I once again started with an ingredient check. (Remember - at this point we had had these ingredients in the house for about 9 days.)

Most of it looked pretty good at the outset. The lime had started to get a little hard, and the corn husks had obviously started to dry, but not bad, overall. And the expiration date on the sour cream was still a month or more away.
I've bought green onions in the grocery store and had them look worse the next day than these did after a week. Not sure how they did that, considering that they were in a sealed plastic bag.
The parsley... well... that was showing its age.
Speaking of showing its age: one of my friends commented that she hoped that we had frozen the proteins (we hadn't). I was happy to find this "use or freeze by" timeframe on the packaging. (Editorial clarification: the chicken packaging was showing its age - the friend who commented is not showing her age, I suspect she has a Dorian Gray portrait somewhere.)

I whipped up my mise en place, and was ready to begin the actual cooking - only about 15 minutes later than quoted on the recipe. (Yeah... I don't know who does their prep for them, but my knife skills are obviously really slow in comparison.)

A quick tip for anyone trying to finely chop/mince/pulverize garlic for a recipe where you know that salt is going to be added: 
Put some salt directly on the cutting board and then chop the garlic on top of (or "in") the salt. For starters, it will give you "traction" so that the garlic doesn't slide all over creation. It will also absorb a bunch of the flavorful juice as you go, so that when you add this all to your recipe you'll get more garlic flavor.

Once again, I'm short on the actual cooking photos. But - trust me - boiling things is not all that exciting. One thing I'll mention is that Blue Apron always wants you to do things in "a large pot" or "a medium pan" - but I cooked up the zucchini and rice in a 2-quart sauce pan (which would be considered medium/small in our house) and it turned out fine. If I went for an actual large pot it would have been a 12-quart stock pot. Obviously, we've got some terminological differences of opinion. 

Quick tip number two came in while getting the chicken ready for the pan. You're supposed to pat it dry, then season it on both sides before putting it in the pan with hot oil. As you might notice in this photo, I didn't do that: 

I find it much easier to season the "top" side of whatever I'm working with, first. Then I place that side down in the pan, and season what had been the bottom once it is in the pan. If you do it right away it still sticks to the meat - and you don't lose half of your spices on the board where you were working. 

After the chicken came out of the pan, the recipe said to add more oil "if the pan looked dry" - I opted for this looking a bit dry: 
So I added some oil and cooked up the rest of my corn and tomatoes (this time, since they were cut, I did not have tomatoes explode and smoke all over my kitchen).

One of the best things about this meal is that there was a good amount of heat in the ancho chili powder, which played really well off of the lime crema that was used as a final topping. (If, you know, you remember to bring it to the table before you're halfway through the meal...)

I think I'd have to say that this was one of the most successful meals of the past couple of weeks. The prep took longer than suggested, but the rice was surprisingly good and the corn/tomato relish-type stuff was a nice side (which is still in the fridge). 

Best thing of all? The fact that Blue Apron somehow figured out how to make all of this last in the fridge for a week for those of us with wonky schedules. 

**Heads-up: I've only got one more post about these delivered meals to offer you. Then I'm going to be back to my own devices. Here's my thought: 

If you have a recipe you've always wanted to try, but were afraid of how it might turn out - or if you've had an absolute kitchen fail and want to find out whether it was just you - drop me a line with a link to the recipe and (if it's not too crazy/expensive/disgusting from the outset - I'm looking at you and your recipe card posts, NewMoonPie) I'll see about whipping it up for all to see.

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