I recently moved from a three-person house into a studio apartment, which means that for the first time in my life, I have complete and total control over when and how I get to use the kitchen, tiny as it may be.
To celebrate this milestone, I placed an order with Blue Apron for the first time. I’d been curious about it for a while, since it advertises on at least one podcast I regularly listen to. And there was a promotion–new customers could get 50% off their first week’s order, slashing the price from $60/week to $30. (That’s $30 for three meals for two, or six meals for one person.) I thought I’d give it a try, just for one week.
This is the box that came on Friday. Super heavy, with these giant icy gel packs at the bottom weighing down the meat. The produce was indeed fresh, with the exception of the squash, which was getting soft. The most obvious thing that strikes you is the excessive packaging. I’m the type of person who always takes a large tote to a grocery store, so the amount of plastic in here was off-putting. I put as much as I could into the recycling bin.
The order also came with large recipe cards for the three meals I had ordered: sweet and spicy beef, pan-seared steak and oven fries, and salmon and freekeh salad. Here are the ingredients for each meal laid out under their respective recipe card. (I accidentally put the salmon in the steak and fries section.)
Day 1: Sweet and spicy beef
This one took me a long time to make–well over an hour, even though I typically cook much faster, because there were a lot of vegetables to prep and I kept nervously consulting the recipe to make sure I hadn’t missed any steps. I also burned my rice, which had never happened before, because the instructions called for it to be cooked in a saucepan with just a cup of water, and I got the temperature wrong because I was still trying to figure out the settings on my new stovetop. This was when the lightbulb went off: oh, they only said to use a saucepan because most people don’t own rice cookers. I salvaged the unburnt portions of rice and finished cooking them in my trusty steamer.
This was the final result. I used too much oil (bad habit), but it tasted pretty good. I had never used shallots or limes or honey or tiny chili peppers or mint leaves in my cooking before, so it felt like the doors to a whole new world had opened.
Ground beef, squash, sweet peppers, fried shallot rings, and lime wedges with rice. Mint and oregano leaves as garnish.
Day 2: Salmon and freekeh salad
I messed up on this one, too, by slightly burning the salmon. The smoke detector in my apartment went off, and I frantically moved the pan from the stovetop to the ground, pulled over a chair, and climbed on top of it to pound the mute button on the smoke detector. As a result, the salmon was a little stiff and overcooked. The freekeh salad underneath had a surprisingly strong flavor, and the little bowl of dressing on the side was intensely sour and spicy.
Overall not a huge fan of this dish as a whole, but now I know how to cook salmon, and I also want to stock up on some freekeh.
Salmon on a bed of salad (freekeh, baby spinach, sweet peppers, dates, olives, and almonds).
Day 3: Pan-seared steak and oven fries
This was the only recipe that necessitated the use of an oven. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if my oven would be gassy (it was) and also worried that the fumes would once again trigger the smoke detector. So I temporarily disabled the smoke detector by sprinkling water into a gallon ziploc bag and zipping the bag closed around it. This seems to have worked. I also kept a chair underneath the smoke detector, right in the middle of a doorway, to remind myself to remove the bag afterwards.
This was the first time I had ever cooked steak. I got the seasoning right, but was a little off on the timing. The recipe called for 4-5 minutes on each side in a cast iron skillet for a medium rare, but I ended up with a medium to well done. Next time, I’d probably dial down the temperature and take off a minute on each side.
The cherry and corn salad and the aioli (not pictured) were heaven. Again, new worlds.
Steak, oven-baked potatoes, and a cherry, corn and chives salad.
In the end, $60 for six meals just isn’t a good bargain for someone on a budget. I canceled my account right after my first week’s box shipped, largely because I can buy my own groceries for much less, but in the end, I actually really liked Blue Apron. I could see this as a great option for someone who’s too busy to go grocery-shopping and engage in meal planning and who doesn’t give a fuck about money. And also cheapskates like me who sign up for one week and then drop the service like a hot plate. Sorry, Blue Apron. Thank you for putting your recipes online for free, though.