I was excited to open up my box of ingredients and recipes from Blue Apron today. I stalked the front door, checking every 5 minutes for the FedEx guy this morning. He dropped off the box around 1, which was perfect as I had just returned home from dropping food critic #1 off at school and had time to go through and double-check to make sure they sent each item. I was pleased to see that everything was packaged nicely and the food all appeared unspoiled and undamaged. So far, so good! Still need to know if it meets the three most crucial criteria in order for me to continue on with a future subscription:
Does it pass the kitchen dummy test? How many ways could this go wrong?
How many dishes am I going to need to wash after this is all done?
And finally, is it good enough to be enjoyed by an extremely picky three-year-old?
The two recipes I received were for a Coconut Chicken and Kale Stew and Salmon Burgers with Hoisin Mayonnaise & Asian Pear-Cabbage Slaw. Excellent! I would totally eat both dishes, but never would attempt to cook them on my own in a hundred years without a serious recipe hand-holding intervention. Initially, I had hoped to cook the stew tonight, but plans changed after the 3-year-old made several attempts to make off with the Asian pear and eat it whole. So salmon burgers with slaw it was!
The box came with an overview letter and two recipe cards. The letter includes a bit of background and history on the featured food items which, as a dork, I appreciated. It’s difficult to describe food beyond “Salmon! Putting the pink in your fish taco!” or “Asian pear: Apple or Pear? Comes from a mythical apple-pear splicing land called Asia.” It also offered me a chance to win a trip to New York for a private cooking lesson with a Top Chef. That would be a disaster for everyone involved, but it would be nice to win a free year of meals, so sign me up, I guess?
Each recipe card contains a brief description of the recipe components, ingredients list, cooking time, and on the reverse side, a six-step pictorial guide. That’s the clincher for a visual person like myself. When I can see the pictures of what it’s supposed to look like in process, as opposed to one professionally photographed after shot, I’m less likely to improvise and inevitably create a flop (ask me about the time I thought it would be a good idea to add yellow mustard to a curry. Actually, don’t…).
Everything was going fine until I reached the fourth sentence.
Step 1 – Preheat the oven to 450. YES!
Line a sheet pan with foil. Thank you for showing a photo of a sheet pan. Really. I could have guessed/Bing’ed but I probably would have gone for the flat, roundish one.
Place the salmon on the foil, skin side down. OK. Note to self, though, peel off piece of salmon-paper before putting in oven.
Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Woah. Slow down, Julia Child! Oil? It came with a jar of sesame oil, but I see that mentioned specifically by name further down in the instructions. So can I use whatever cooking oil I want? I seem to remember reading in the Blue Apron FAQ that they ship all ingredients except olive oil. That’s all I need to have stocked at home. Ok, I’ll get out the olive oil. What’s this here next to it? Oh! It’s the awesome pumpkin seed oil I bought at the farmers market and haven’t had a chance to use yet. Pumpkin seed oil could be good with salmon, why not? *drizzles a dark oil, strongly odored of pumpkin over uncooked fish*
Damnit, Helen! Cooking is not the place to be impulsively creative. Remember why you signed up for this service!
Fortunately I was able to blot most of the pumpkin oil up with a paper towel and re-drizzle with olive oil instead. Must. stick. to. the. recipe.
While putting it all together without any further deviations from standard, human cooking, I took some notes on things I can do differently for future meals. For instance, it will save a lot of time chopping vegetables and mincing garlic in my mini food processor. There were a couple more things I could simplify by looking ahead, like how necessary was it to acquire lime juice by quartering a lime instead of halving it? The only other time I nearly ran into a disaster was at the very end, forming and cooking the salmon patties. When it said pack the patties tightly, it wasn’t kidding. I had to go back and re-form the first one after it fell apart in the pan because salmon was so flaky. Other than that, I’d say the meal prep was an overall success!
I actually wanted to taste my own cooking without the element of surprise in play. Giving it the adult taste test, I thought these burgers were pretty damn delicious! Unfortunately, the other adult is currently sick with Flu and did not have much of an appetite. Bad timing. The potato buns Blue Apron sent were yummy and tasted great toasted. The cole slaw was fine – certainly an improvement from anything I could improvise and better than store bought pre-made.
As for dishes and mess clean-up, I’m giving this recipe 2 out of 3 pancakes. Why pancakes? Because pancakes seem so simple but goddamn do they make a lot of mess. Also, pancakes are just fucking delicious and I think about them often. For me, the smaller and more contained the cooking mess the better. This recipe required a few components and scraping crusty salmon skin off a sheet pan, but overall it was not a Thanksgiving or five-alarm pancake clean-up job.
Now for the real test: how kid-friendly was it?
In full disclosure, I have one awesome, loves to try new things eater, and another horrible nightmare picky eater. Sigh. Right now there are 5 things she won’t pitch a fit over eating. 1. Yogurt 2. Chocolate chips 3. Apples 4. Toast with strawberry jam and 5. Pickles. Food is the battle she has chosen to fight and I wonder if it’s in part due to this being a non-issue for her sister, but anyway, getting her to try anything beyond these five foods is something I will consider a victory.
Awesome-eater: Liked it! At half her burger and decided to save the other half for lunch tomorrow. Enjoyed the hoisin mayo for dipping sauce. Took a couple bites of cole slaw but decided it wasn’t for her.
Picky-eater: I regret to say she turned her nose up and this and didn’t even attempt a single bite when we all sat down to eat together. There were tears and a time-out as another night of food war raged on, but, to be fair she did come back when she was truly hungry and ate half the roll which had some pieces of salmon and mayo still on there. I’m hopeful that by me getting excited about cooking and our whole family trying new foods through this subscription, her attitude will begin to change.
Tomorrow…a new recipe to try! I’ll hopefully have some time to make another write-up. So far, the biggest pro Blue Apron has going is convenience. I loved having food delivered to my front door, portioned in the exact quantities of items needed. There wasn’t any left-over of any ingredient, which more often than not ends up spoiled in my house for lack of a second use. I’m looking forward to trying this again.
Note – I did not receive payment or perks to write this review by Blue Apron or any of it’s affiliates…but I sure would like to! HEEEEEYYY!!