Sunday, January 18, 2015

Blue Apron Optional

Guys? Hey, guys? Anyone?? I'm finally back from an extended commercial break! I can't believe that I have been MIA for so long that Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone without a single holiday baking post from moi. (And I shockingly only made one batch of cookies over the entire holiday season.) Speaking of the holidays, after traveling for a majority of the time, coming home to an empty kitchen definitely provided enough temptation to order in, until I remembered that I had a delivery coming from Blue Apron. Sorry, Seamless.

Pre-packaged meal delivery is not necessarily something that I would seek out, but since I was getting my first delivery for free I figured that I might as well check it out. In my box I received the ingredients for three meals for two: pulled chicken tacos, beef bolognese and Thai coconut shrimp soup. The problem is, you have to be in the mood to cook and in the mood to eat specifically what is being delivered to you! Upon my delivery, I unpacked the entire box and then proceeded to eat pita chips and hummus because I really didn't feel like cooking. 

Everything was very well planned and packaged, and all of the ingredients were fresh, but I still felt like there was something lacking. On day two I made the pulled chicken tacos, sort of. I froze one chicken breast, cooked the other according to directions, and then skipped the side salad and made guacamole instead. I used the leftover sauce to make black beans and rice two days later. 

On day four I made the Thai shrimp soup. I followed the directions but added fish sauce because there was an overall lack of saltiness to balance out the hot/sour/sweet flavors. I also preferred to serve it more like a curry served over the rice versus a soup with a little bit of rice added in. It was also generously portioned and I ended up eating it for 3 meals.

On day seven I finally got around to making the beef bolognese. (Fear not! I kept checking the expiration dates so that nothing spoiled.) Again I followed the directions but having made bolognese from scratch before, I knew that it was going to be pretty basic. A little too basic for me. I added white wine and diced tomatoes at the point at which BA would have you serve it, and then proceded to simmer it for another 30 minutes. I think it added an acidity and sauciness that otherwise would have been lacking. This was also a very generous portion. The recipe was meant to serve two, but I have managed to extend it for 4 meals. Oh! I forgot to mention that you were supposed to stir brussels sprouts leaves into the sauce at the end. Umm…ok. Random!

I can see how this concept would work for people who have a problem planning and shopping for meals, but I guess I like to be a little more improvisational. There is very little waste, which as a person cooking for one, I do appreciate. Purchasing an entire bunch of cilantro or head of celery when you only need a tablespoon is super annoying since the unused portion often spoils in the fridge. And having someone else locate lemongrass and coconut palm sugar was pretty rad. 

You are given the ability to skip deliveries and to make basic recipe requests (like meat preferences etc.) so I could see doing this once every month or so, but I think for the most part I'll stick to making my usuals and skip the blue apron.

Quick Beef Bolognese

Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces ground beef
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
8 ounces fresh pappardelle pasta
1/3 cup parmesan cheese

1. In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the garlic, carrot, celery, onion and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally, 2 - 4 minutes, or until softened and fragrant.

2. Add the tomato paste and cook stirring frequently, 2 - 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking the meat apart with a wooden spoon for 4 - 6 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. 

3. Add the wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir to combine, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, heat a medium pot of salted water to boiling on high. Add the pasta and cook for 3 - 4 minutes or until just al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add directly to the sauce. Toss to coat and add the reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Remove from the heat and add half of the cheese. Toss to coat and serve with remaining cheese on the side. Serves 2 - 4.

Coconut Red Curry Shrimp

1/2 cup jasmine rice
Vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 stalks lemongrass (tough outer layers removed; one stalk minced and one stalk cut in half and smashed)
1 scallion, sliced (separate the green and white parts and reserve)
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 (13.5 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons coconut palm sugar
1 lime, zested and quartered
1 tablespoon fish sauce
8 ounces shrimp
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1. In a small pot, heat the rice, 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt to boiling on high. Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 12 - 14 minutes until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic, ginger, minced lemongrass and the white parts of the scallion. Cook, stirring frequently, 1 - 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 - 2 minutes, or until softened.

3. Add the red curry paste, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, 1 - 2 minutes or until fragrant.

4. Add the coconut milk, palm sugar, lime zest, fish sauce, reserved lemongrass pieces and 1 cup of water to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 - 4 minutes or until thoroughly combined. 

5. Season the shrimp with salt and add to the soup. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 - 10 minutes or until opaque and cooked through. Turn off the heat and add half of the cilantro and the juice of two lime wedges. Discard the smashed lemongrass. Serve the curry with the rice and top with the remaining scallions and cilantro and lime wedges. Serves 2 - 4.