As was made clear in my post, Radishes, Carrots and Kale, Oh My! I am a foodie fail. In that post I tried a great service called Something GUD, which delivers farm fresh food to your (Boston area) door year around. The only problem was my taste buds were brought up on Cheez-Whiz and instant potatoes and they actually like that stuff. So in addition to not being able to identify a good half of the vegetables I received, I didn’t really have the skills and taste to whip up a dish worthy of their exotic stature. Although I admit I was able to make things more edible as time went on.
Still, it took a bit of convincing for me to try a free trial of Blue Apron, another great company that on the surface solves the problem I had with Something GUD. With Blue Apron you get all the premeasured ingredients to cook a delicious meal that serves two. You pick three meals and they send them to you in a hermetically sealed, properly cooled container that they deliver to your door and you don’t have to even be home. Sounds perfect for a foodie fail like me, right?
You underestimate the power of Cheez-Whiz and Potato Buds.
My main hesitation with the trial was that my son-of-Cheez-Whiz wouldn’t touch any of the food with a 10-foot pole or a six-inch fork. It seemed like too much food for one person, until my friend Joe, who sent me the trial, told me to eat the second one for lunch. Why didn’t I think of that? It’s like the idea of food doesn’t have the proper pathway in my brain. Pathway created, I signed up and chose meals that were the least fancy-sounding, and with the most ingredients I could recognize. It took a while. I could cross off all the seafood/fish dishes—don’t get me started about eating dead sea creatures and food that looks like it did when it was alive. And don’t judge—you’ve got something you won’t eat for a completely ridiculous reason, and I’ll blog about it if I find out. I settled on the steak and miso-roasted vegetable salad with ponzu dipping sauce, whole wheat rigatoni with wild mushrooms and Swiss chard, and pan-roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and maple glazed carrots. I like steak, don’t mind mushrooms, learned not to be afraid of Swiss chard from my Something GUD stint, and I’m not a huge fan of maple, but I figured I could leave that out.
Still I was a bit worried, not having any idea of what miso or ponzu was, but the website described the miso as sweet and the ponzu as mild, and I’m a smidgen more afraid of hot things than weird tasting things, so I committed.
A compact and very heavy box arrived at my door at the specified time. The organization and labeling of the ingredients was obsessive enough even for someone like me. Each meal came with the main dish, the side dish vegetables, and a bag of the seasonings cutely called “Knick Knacks.” I was momentarily calmed by the organized packing and the glossy magazine quality of the photo-rich instruction sheet for each meal. That is until I took a good look at those glossy photos. They showed a lot of different pots and pans being used and all the ingredients sat in perfectly sized dishes like on a cooking show. Hmm.
However, it was fresh and wouldn’t be for long, so there was nothing for it but to cook the damn stuff.
I started with the steak on a Sunday night of a long weekend, because I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to cook this comprehensively on a weekday, even though the instructions promised the cooking time was between 25 to 35 minutes. My preferred method of cooking is to spend 20 minutes during the weekend preparing food for a soup or stew that then cooks for two hours on the stove or for 8 plus hours in the crock pot. Then I eat it all week. I clean up once and my subsequent meals take 1 minute and 30 seconds to heat. But it was Sunday and I was rested, so I plunged in…to cooking show land. The instructions were precise, but for a foodie novice, slightly bewildering. I had to thinly slice the scallions on an angle and keep the white part separate from the green part. Why, I wondered? Will they fight? Have different flavors? And why at an angle, is cutting straight a cooking faux pas? Does it change the flavor of the recipe? Look like a novice cooked it?
I was momentarily distracted with these thoughts, but there was really no time to dwell on what I might be doing wrong. There was much more food that needed chopping and cutting, like the kale and then the sweet potato and turnip. The last two I was instructed to spread in a shallow sheet pan and toss with miso and water. Perhaps others have mastered this technique, but all I could foresee were globs of miso, a quarter of the slices stuck to the floor, and precious little coating. So I dug out another bowl to add to the three that were already keeping the green onion from civil war and holding the chopped kale. I tossed the slices safely in the bowl. Next was making the ponzu dipping sauce, a fairly civilized affair restricted to one bowl, and then it was on to the main attraction, the steak. I started at the words “deglaze the pan” until I realized it merely involved putting a little water in the pan after cooking the steaks and swishing it around. That part was well within my abilities, although the dirty pan added another thing to clean in my already growing pile of bowls. The sheet pan in the oven was also taunting me from the oven with its roasting and browning. Like me, my tiny apartment-sized kitchen counter was way in over its head.
But as I was midway and working up an appetite, I had to stay calm and cook on—the roasted salad needed assembling. I had to scrape the thinly sliced vegetables from the sheet pan and tried not to mind that I left a bunch behind. I started to toss them in with the kale only to realize the bowl I picked wasn’t big enough. I got a bigger bowl, (another thing to clean!) and delivered the white part of the scallions into the mix, having successfully kept it segregated from its green brethren. Next I had to slice the cooked steak against the grain, which I was pretty sure about, and then I assembled the whole thing prettily on a plate. Now sweating, I put the plate in the only empty spot left in my kitchen, took a picture, posted it on Facebook, and thanked Joe for giving me the trial.
Of course it was delicious, and if I can make it, most people can. But as I looked up from the deliciousness, all I could see was state of my kitchen: the stove covered with seriously cooked in pans, the ends of all the vegetables still I the sink waiting for disposaling, and most of the bowls I owned mocking me like a demented Van Trapp family standing out of size order.
I sat on my couch in a stupor as I realized that I would have to do this three more times in a week. I had the next day off, and made the rigatoni dish that night with the same result. An absolutely delicious meal bookended by lots of cooking and cleaning. I lived off the leftovers for two more days, but I bailed on making the chicken dish when I saw “mash the potatoes.” I only cook and mash potatoes on Thanksgiving, for 10 people, no exceptions. I froze the chicken and will use it some other way. Apologies to the “Knick Knack” bag that is going to meet its maker, but not in its intended way.
I felt bad canceling my account with the good people at Blue Apron. God knows they tried, they really did. I told them they were awesome, it was me—I just don’t love food enough to work that hard at it. They offered to just send one meal a week, or some other combination, but it’s just no good. I’m no good. I’m nothing but a foodie fail with a slow cooker habit.
Photo: My steak and miso-roasted vegetable salad with ponzu dipping sauce from Blue Apron.