Last week, I finally got to try out Blue Apron, a cooking subscription service you may have heard of lately. It’s similar in many ways to NY-based Plated. For $10 per person, per meal, Blue Apron can deliver the ingredients for three delicious and healthy (500-700 calorie) meals per week. The ingredients and recipes are all portioned for 2 servings and come with a recipe card which have step-by-step photos as well as background on the origins of the dish. Blue Apron assumes that the only things you have in your kitchen are salt, pepper, and olive oil – and they ship you every other ingredient you’ll need. I imagine this would be perfect for young, working professionals that don’t have time to grocery shop. Each week, a set of three meat/fish and veggie recipes are posted on the Blue Apron site, and it’s up to you if you want to subscribe or skip that week. I’ve been waiting patiently a few weeks for a set of three recipes that I wanted to try. Below are recipes for the three Blue Apron dishes I tried last week, followed by my final review of the service.
Day 1: Ethiopian Berbere Chicken Thighs with Green Beans & Parsley-Lime Couscous
- 6 Ounces Green Beans
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Bunch Parsley
- 1 Carrot
- 1 Lime
- 1 Onion
- 4 Chicken Thighs, Bone-In
- 2 Tablespoons Berbere Spice
- 1 Cup Chicken Broth
- 1 Cup Couscous
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- Prep the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Trim the stems off the green beans. Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Roughly chop the parsley leaves. Peel and small dice the carrot. Cut the lime into wedges. Peel and thinly slice the onion.
- Sear the chicken: Season the chicken with salt and pepper and completely coat it in the Berbere spice. In a large pan, heat some olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the chicken thighs, skin-side down. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Add the aromatics: Flip the chicken over and add the onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.
- Braise the chicken: Add the chicken broth and beans and increase the heat to high. Cook 7 to 9 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid is slightly reduced in volume, stirring occasionally.
- Cook the couscous: While the chicken braises, in a small pot, heat 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt to boiling on high. When the water comes to a boil, stir in the couscous and cover. Remove from heat and let stand 5 to 6 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed. Add the juice of half the lime, half of the parsley and the butter. Fluff the finished couscous with a fork until well combined. Season with salt to taste.
- Plate your dish: Divide the couscous, chicken thighs, and vegetables between two plates. Spoon the pan sauce over everything and garnish with the remaining parsley and lime wedges. Enjoy!
Day 2: Shrimp Risotto with Watercress
- 1 Cup Arborio Rice
- 10 Ounces Shrimp
- 1 Large Spanish Onion
- 4 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Cup Vegetable Broth
- ⅓ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Bunch Watercress
About 675 Calories Per Serving
- Prepare the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic. Finely chop the watercress. Peel and small dice the onion.
- Saute the aromatics: In a medium pot, heat some olive oil on high until hot. Add the onion and garlic; cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion starts to soften, stirring frequently. Add the Arborio rice; cook for an additional 2 minutes to slightly toast the rice, stirring.
- Add the liquids: Add the vegetable broth and 1 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the risotto for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase the heat to medium and add 1 cup of water. Slowly simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste as you cook. (If too much liquid has evaporated before the rice is done, you may need to add up to 1 cup of water.)
- Add the shrimp: While the risotto simmers, season the shrimp with a little salt. Once the rice is nearly done, stir in the shrimp. (If the mixture is too thick, add up to another ¼ cup of water.) Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the shrimp are pink and opaque.
- Finish the risotto: If needed, add up to another ¼ cup of water. Stir in the chopped watercress; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until wilted. Add the butter and all but a pinch of the Parmesan cheese; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until thoroughly combined. (Reserve some Parmesan cheese for garnish.)
- Plate your dish: Divide the risotto between 2 plates and garnish with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Day 3: Beef Pad See Ew with Birdseye Chilis
- 8 Ounces Chinese Broccoli
- 8 Ounces Flank Steak
- 2 Birdseye Chilis
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Bunch Mint
- 1-Inch Piece Ginger
- 1 Lime
- 6 Ounces Rice Noodles
- 2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons Mirin
- 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 2 Teaspoons Sesame Oil
About 515 Calories Per Serving
- Prepare your ingredients: Heat a medium pot of water to boiling on high. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Cut the Chinese broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Pick the mint leaves off the stems. Cut the lime into wedges. Thinly slice the beef.
- Cook the noodles: Once the water boils, remove the pot from the heat and completely submerge the noodles in the water. Let stand for 3 to 6 minutes, or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Stir-fry the beef: In a medium pan, heat some olive oil on high until hot. Add the beef and cook 1 minute, or until and somewhat browned but still slightly pink. Add the birdseye chilis, garlic, and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant, stirring frequently.
- Add the Chinese broccoli & sauces: Add the Chinese broccoli. Cook 1 minute, or until bright green and slightly wilted, stirring frequently. Stir in the noodles, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and half the hoisin sauce; cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until the noodles are warmed through and the liquid has reduced slightly in volume.
- Plate your dish: Divide the beef and noodle mixture between 2 plates. Garnish with the mint, lime wedges, and the remaining hoisin sauce. Enjoy!
My Take on Blue Apron
Overall, I was more than impressed with Blue Apron. Because the ingredients were delivered in a freezer box, I didn’t expect such high quality, fresh ingredients. However, the produce, meat, chicken, and shrimp stayed perfectly fresh for the entire week. I loved how the ingredients were individually measured beforehand – I didn’t need to use a measuring cup once! This shortened the cooking time to about 25-30 minutes each night.
Moreover, the recipes themselves were well thought-out and creative. I expected simple recipes with few ingredients that were geared towards those more novice in the kitchen. What I got was 3 complex recipes with nearly a dozen ingredients each that introduced me to new cuisine, spices, and ingredients. I certainly would never had tried Ethiopian Berbere chicken on my own! I will be saving these recipes and will likely revisit them again and again.
The only downside to Blue Apron (for now) is that they cannot accommodate substitutions (for say, allergies) – so you must subscribe to all three available recipes that week (meat/fish or veggie). Hopefully down the line, they’ll allow for mixed subscriptions: for example, one vegetarian dish, one chicken dish, and one fish dish. I can also imagine the ultra-environmentally-conscious crowd disapproving of the wasteful nature of Blue Apron. Since each ingredient is individually packed in tiny Ziploc bags or small bottles – I found myself throwing out a lot of plastic rubbish each night while cooking.
So if you’re considering a Blue Apron subscription, ask yourself these questions: If you’ve ever sought out to follow a recipe which called for one teaspoon or one dash of a foreign ingredient which led you to buy an entire jar – Blue Apron’s pre-measured ingredients are for you. If you tend to eat out during the week but want to start cooking in a convenient way – Blue Apron’s low-priced subscription is for you. If you like to cook but never have time to go to the grocery store or to plan recipes for the week – Blue Apron’s carefully crafted ingredients and recipes delivered to your doorstep might be a good idea.
For now, I’ll opt to stay on Blue Apron “standby”, monitoring the weekly menu items and subscribing if all three appeal to me. If you’ve tried Blue Apron or another cooking subscription, please share your experience below!