Last week, I did something pretty cool. Instead of experimenting with my own recipes, I left the menu in the hands of my trusty friends at Blue Apron. Blue Apron is a service that drops a refrigerated box off at your house every week. Inside the box are all the perfectly proportioned ingredients you’ll need to make three outstanding meals.
In other words, Blue Apron does all the legwork and lets your taste buds travel around the world in a week. What I mean is this: say you want to make homemade ramen. To do so, you’re going to have to track down hoisin sauce, white miso, and beef demi-glace, not to mention fresh ramen noodles. If you’ve ever been to an Asian supermarket, you know that miso paste rarely comes in a size smaller than your skull, so you’d better come up with some more miso enriched meals stat or risk wasting a bunch of the salty stuff. The same goes for just about any interesting ingredient you could imagine. Cooking great food isn’t tough, but keeping your palate guessing is. With Blue Apron, mixing it up is a cinch.
My box arrived on Tuesday, with all the fixin’s for Beef Ramen, Mexican Mole, and Shrimp Etouffee along with recipe cards picturing step-by-step instructions for each. The result: three totally delicious meals that were 100% “pat-on-the-back” worthy.
Night 1: The ramen was spectacular. I’m a huge Asian noodle fan, and ramen is my go-to. However, I’ve always seen it as something I have to go out for. This recipe was packed with umami flavor. All the ingredients of my favorite slurpy bowls were there, and the noodles themselves were fresh and chewy. The steak was a nice substitute for the usual fatty pork, too. All in all, this was a soupy success.
Night 2: Mole is something I never thought I’d actually make, much less order off of a menu. Chocolate and chicken just don’t seem like they were meant to be. But let me tell you, this mole sauce was really rich, in a delicious but not a dessert-y, way. The dark chocolate was mostly bitter, and added an element of depth to the sauce. The lime cilantro rice was a perfect partner, contributing a twist of sour flavor to balance out the bold main.
Night 3: Shrimp Etouffee is going to be a new staple of mine. This sea-kissed stew tastes like New Orleans in all its glory. The Cajun seasoning gives the complex stew a bit of spice, and the fresh shrimp is infused with the flavors imparted by the zillions of chopped veggies in the pot. Yum.
In other words, you should try Blue Apron. It’s perfect for kitchen-phobic people because it makes cooking super easy, and is also great for seasoned chefs looking to try something new. Each box is $60, and comes with three, two-person meals, although, to be honest, we had plenty of leftovers each night. Think of it as $10 a plate for six + gourmet meals that use only the freshest ingredients. Leaves a good taste in your mouth, doesn’t it?
9 ounces flank steak
4 ounces choy sum
4 cloves garlic
2 ounces enoki mushrooms
1 1-inch piece of ginger
3 tablespoons beef demi-glace
3 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/8 cup hoisin sauce
12 ounces fresh ramen noodles
1. Prepare the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Heat a large pot of water to boiling on high. Finely chop the stems of the choy sum into small pieces, then roughly chop the leaves into large bite-sized pieces. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Thinly slice the scallions, separating the white bottoms and green tops. Cut off and discard the root end of the enoki mushrooms.
2. Cook the flank steak: Season the flank steak with salt and pepper on both sides. In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Cook the steak 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until it reaches your desired degree of doneness. (Loosely cover the pot with aluminum foil to help the steak cook faster.) Transfer the steak to a plate, leaving any drippings in the pot. Let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes, loosely covering the plate with aluminum foil to keep warm.
3. Cook the aromatics: To the pot with the steak drippings, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and heat on medium until hot. Add the garlic, ginger and white parts of the scallions, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly softened, stirring frequently. Add the choy sum and season with salt and pepper. Cook 1 to 3 minutes, or until the choy sum is slightly softened and wilted.
4. Add the seasonings: Increase the heat to high. Stir in the enoki mushrooms, beef demi-glace, miso paste, soy sauce and 4 cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer 4 to 5 minutes to develop the flavors.
5. Slice the flank steak: While the soup is boiling, find the lines of muscle (or the grain) of the cooked flank steak and thinly slice the beef against (perpendicular to) the grain. Add any steak juices from the cutting board into the soup. Transfer the sliced steak to a small bowl and toss with the hoisin sauce until well coated.
6. Cook the noodles and plate your dish: To the large pot of boiling water, add the fresh ramen noodles and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until the noodles are tender, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Drain the noodles thoroughly. Stir the cooked noodles into the soup and remove from heat. To plate your dish, divide the soup and noodles between 2 bowls and lay the coated flank steak on top. Garnish with the green parts of the scallions. Enjoy!
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch cilantro
1 ounce dark chocolate
½ cup long grain white rice
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon golden raisins
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon mole spice blend (chili powder, smoked paprika, cinnamon, coriander & cumin)
1. Prepare the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic and shallot. Finely chop the chocolate. Thinly slice the scallions, separating the green tops and white bottoms. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stems; roughly chop the leaves. Peel the lime, avoiding the white pith; mince the peel to make 2 teaspoons of zest. Cut the lime into quarters.
2. Cook the rice: In a small pot, combine the rice, 1 cup of water and a big pinch of salt. Heat to boiling on high, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the finished rice with a fork and stir in the lime zest, juice of 2 lime wedges, half the cilantro and all but a pinch of the green parts of the scallions (reserve the rest for garnish); season with salt and pepper. Leave uncovered and set aside.
3. Cook the chicken: While the rice cooks, season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the chicken and cook 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. (Loosely cover the pot with aluminum foil to help the chicken cook faster.) Transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving any drippings in the pot. Loosely cover the plate with aluminum foil to keep warm.
4. Start the mole sauce: To the pot with the chicken drippings, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and heat on medium until hot. Add the garlic, shallot and white parts of the scallions and cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until caramelized, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently.
5. Finish the mole sauce: Stir the raisins, chopped chocolate, Mole spice blend and 1½ cups of water into the mole sauce and season with a little salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly reduced in volume and the flavors have melded. Add the cooked chicken, including any juices on the plate, and the remaining cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until thoroughly combined and the chicken is heated through.
6. Plate your dish: Divide the rice and chicken between 2 plates. Top the chicken with the mole sauce. Garnish with the remaining lime wedges and green parts of the scallions. Enjoy!
10 ounces peeled, deveined shrimp
3 cloves garlic
1 small bunch parsley
1 green bell pepper
1 stalk celery
1 yellow onion
¾ cup jasmine rice
2 ½ tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 fresh bay leaves
¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning (salt, paprika, garlic, onion, cayenne & black pepper)
1. Prepare the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator to bring to room temperature. Peel and mince the garlic. Thinly slice the scallions on angle, separating the white bottoms and green tops. Pick the parsley leaves off the stems; roughly chop the leaves. Remove and discard the stem, seeds and ribs of the bell pepper; medium dice the bell pepper. Halve the celery stalk lengthwise, then small dice. Peel and small dice the onion.
2. Cook the rice: In a small pot, combine the rice, 1½ cups of water and a big pinch of salt. Heat to boiling on high, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 to 12 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff the finished rice with a fork.
3. Make the roux: While the rice is cooking, in a medium pot, melt the butter on medium-high. Once the butter is completely melted, stir in the flour and mix until well-combined. Cook the roux 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring constantly.
4. Cook the vegetables: Add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper and white parts of the scallions to the roux; cook 2 to 4 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the shrimp: To the pot of vegetables, add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and as much of the Cajun seasoning as you’d like depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. Season with a little salt and pepper and add 1½ cups of water; cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to stew. Gently simmer, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque. Remove from heat and stir in half of the parsley.
6. Plate your dish: Divide the rice between 2 dishes and top with the shrimp stew. Garnish with the green parts of the scallions and remaining parsley.