My first encounter with Blue Apron was on Instagram when one of my best friends and her husband moved to Baltimore and immediately started posting pictures of beautiful food with #BlueApron. I thought that they must have found a great restaurant in their new city and was excited to try it on my first visit. Then, I started seeing other people using the hashtag and naively assumed that they must all be traveling through Maryland. Finally, my comical misunderstanding was revealed when–over a dinner out with the girls–another friend began praising Blue Apron for making her a better cook and subsequently explained it to me and even offered me a free trial week.
Part large-scale CSA/part at-home cooking school, this online meal planning and delivery service provides subscribers with a weekly box of fresh (often organic and always mindfully sourced) ingredients accompanied by delicious step-by-step recipes that are perfectly proportioned–down to the pat of butter needed to finish a pan sauce–almost foolproof. The flexible plans can be tailored to meet different dietary preferences (right now the company offers: vegetarian, pescatarian and omnivore), delivery days are prescheduled and serving options for two or family plans for up to four people.
The service says it works from the premise that participants already have olive oil, salt and pepper on hand... but it seems important to pause here and add that a stove and oven are a must as well. Also, some knowledge of basic kitchen lingo and decent knife skills will take you a long way, as these recipes–except for the shopping and portioning– are all assembly required.
For the novice cook, the meals– and the extensive prep involved– may be a bit daunting at first as they go far beyond boiling water. Hopefully, the tasty results are reward enough, but if a newbie needs more incentive to hang in there– perhaps after a mishap or two– it might come from the probability that after a few months of cooking this way, one will acquire new techniques and a cooking literacy that could rival that of a introductory culinary course taught at a local community college.
For the more experienced home cook, the unique service will surely build on basic skills and introduce new flavors to a possibly limited or stale repertoire... at least that is what I am finding to be the most exciting thing about Blue Apron and my husband–though too polite to admit it– seems thankful for the variety.
Our first week’s menu– having opted for the two person omnivore plan– consisted of: Tilapia Meunière, Crispy Chicken Thighs and Lamb & Beef Shawarma– listed here in order of enjoyment– most to least– and interestingly enough, execution difficulty. Just in this first week, I learned how to make homemade kimchi, discovered that I actually like radishes when served in a tangy yogurt sauce and tried a new type of mushroom, the maitake.
Fair warning, the listed cooking times are just that... and do not include the preparation. I found that I spent at least double the duration for all three meals, start to finish. We were also missing an ingredient, luckily it was just the parsley and not a key component for the Tilapia.
So is it worth the $60 price tag? For us I think it is... and it may even end-up saving us a few bucks along the way. I noticed that our grocery bill was about $40 lighter than usual and we didn’t dine out or order delivery during our trial week... easily saving us the other $20 (if not much more) and probably a few hundred calories.
For a girl who’s Christmas ritual is spending the morning eating fig-jam on toast while perusing her new cookbooks and secretly planning out the next year’s meals... the experience of having it all decided for me was a pleasant surprise and I’m already impatiently waiting for the next blue and brown box to arrive on my doorstep!