I Tried Blue Apron's New Menu That Was Created by a Former White House Chef—Here's What I Thought
If you've ever felt uninspired by your usual dinner recipes or the ingredients in your fridge, you're not alone. For many people, coming up with creative, balanced meals every day can feel overwhelming, so signing up for a meal delivery service may be what you need to finally bridge the gap between your healthy eating goals and the nutritious recipes that'll get you there.
Blue Apron, one of the most popular meal delivery services available, is known for providing delicious dinners that help people expand their skills in the kitchen. Now, the brand is teaming up with former White House chef Sam Kass to create a limited-time menu that incorporates fundamental cooking techniques. I recently made each of Kass's new recipes—which included preparing the ingredients, cooking the meals and taste-testing the finished products—to see how they stacked up against other Blue Apron dishes. Here's everything you need to know before trying the special-edition meals for yourself.
About the Partnership
As the Obama administration's former assistant chef and food initiative coordinator, Kass has dedicated much of his career to making healthy eating more accessible to people of all backgrounds. In partnership with Blue Apron's culinary team, Kass created three limited-time menu items that are easy to cook: Apple Cider-Honey Pork Chops, Garlic Shrimp and Pesto Barley, and Oregano Chicken and Olive Pan Sauce.
From September 6 through September 20, you can order two or four servings from Kass's menu every week through your Blue Apron subscription—if you're not a Blue Apron subscriber, it only takes a few minutes to sign up. The meals combine different culinary skills to increase your confidence in the kitchen, including cooking various types of meat, roasting vegetables, and preparing sauces. The three recipes are also customizable: You can choose one of two protein options based on your personal preferences. The meals' prep times are said to range between 35 minutes and 50 minutes, although it took me around 10 to 15 minutes longer to prepare each one.
Blue Apron's Ingredients
All the ingredients needed to make these meals arrived fresh on my doorstep and were packed with ice and insulation to keep them cold until I could put them in the fridge. Smaller items like the crushed red pepper flakes, spice blend and red wine vinegar were grouped together and appropriately labeled. Items like raw meat and vegetables were packaged individually in plastic wrap. I was very impressed by the condition of the ingredients, particularly the produce. Not even the baby spinach for the oregano chicken recipe was soggy or wilted!
Blue Apron sources its ingredients from an extensive network of sustainable farmers across the country. For instance, the shrimp included in the Garlic Shrimp and Pesto Barley dish meets rigorous standards set by Seafood Watch, a nonprofit organization widely recognized as an authority on seafood sustainability. None of the ingredients contain antibiotics, hormones or GMOs.
Cooking the Meals
True to Kass's intentions, making these limited-time dishes offered me the chance to see how even simple cooking skills can translate into delicious meals. My Blue Apron box came with detailed recipes that walked me step by step through each aspect of meal preparation, including rough cook-time estimates, helpful notes about ingredients and customized instructions depending on the meat option I chose.
Out of the three dishes I made, my personal favorite was the Apple Cider-Honey Pork Chops with roasted shishito and mushroom farrotto (or risotto made with farro). Not only did it taste incredible, cooking this meal made me feel like a *real* chef and helped me gain a better understanding of flavor construction. Combining things like shishito peppers and sweet mascarpone cheese had never really occurred to me, but the end result was so delicious that I made a mental note to try other unexpected flavor combinations in future recipes. I've never made anything with farro before, but the instructions gave specific time guidelines to keep me from accidentally under or overcooking it. And while this dish took the longest to prepare (I spent around an hour prepping the ingredients and cooking), I enjoyed not having to rush through each of the steps in order to keep everything on schedule.
I also really loved the Oregano Chicken and Olive Pan Sauce, which came with roasted sweet potatoes, onion and spinach on the side. The recipe involved cooking on multiple surfaces at once—the stovetop, the oven, mixing sauces on the counter—which was a lot to juggle at first. I nearly overcooked the roasted vegetables and felt rushed in seasoning the chicken since both had to be done at the same time. However, the end result was more than worth it. After serving this dish to my friend, she raved about the flavor of the chicken and even took a photo of the recipe so she could replicate it later.
The easiest dish to prepare was the Garlic Shrimp and Pesto Barley, which needed just two pans for the prep stage. While one pan required frequent stirring, the pot of barley could largely be ignored as it cooked, making it very simple to manage. I'll admit, I was a little nervous about cooking seafood on my own and skeptical about how the shrimp would turn out. But the instructions clearly explained how to season, heat and serve the shrimp, so everything ended up tasting incredible. The shrimp was tender and flavorful, and I really enjoyed the texture of the corn and barley with the grape tomatoes.
As an added bonus, Blue Apron is giving subscribers the chance to make one of these dishes alongside Kass during a virtual cooking class on September 14 in support of Partnership For A Healthier America. For more information on the free event, visit Blue Apron's blog.
Blue Apron Pricing and Subscription
When signing up for a Blue Apron subscription, you can choose between three different menus: Signature (which allows for two or four servings), Wellness (two servings only), and Vegetarian (two servings only). While the meals crafted by Sam Kass are only available on the Signature menu, you have the option to switch your preferred menu every week.
Meals in the Signature menu start at $8 per serving, and you can order two or four recipes each week. Blue Apron lets you skip a week, change delivery dates, or cancel your subscription whenever you want. Even though these Kass-crafted dishes are only available through September 20, all Blue Apron meals feature high-quality ingredients and simple cooking instructions to make dinner prep enjoyable, so I encourage you to try it out if you haven't already.