Cooking

Dinner, delivered: Meal kits can save time and food waste

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Photo by Emily Ryan “Blue Apron’s mission is to make incredible home cooking accessible,” says Rani Yadav, senior director of marketing.

By Emily Ryan, The Mercury

“We shortcut customers to the stove by taking care of the tough and stressful parts — the meal planning, grocery shopping and ingredient prepping — and delivering it straight to their home,” explained Rebecca Lewis, HelloFresh’s registered dietitian. “This leaves time for the actual fun part of cooking and more time spent with family and friends.”

It’s a billion-dollar market with a growing number of meal-kit companies competing for a piece of the proverbial pie (pun intended). PeachDish serves “Southern-infused” food. Green Chef offers organic. And Purple Carrot values vegan.

“Many people want to cook, but don’t know where or how to begin,” noted Rani Yadav, senior director of marketing for Blue Apron, which ships more the 8 million meals a month nationwide.

As for its name — “We call our company Blue Apron because chefs around the world wear blue aprons when learning to cook, and the blue apron has become a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking.”

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Photo by Emily Ryan Green Chef features organic ingredients from grass-fed steaks to rainbow chard.

Step-by-step instructions and photos help ensure success.

“You can take the things you learn from there and apply them to your everyday cooking,” said Dave Smith of Glen Mills, a three-year Blue Apron customer. “That’s probably my favorite part.”

Each week a box arrives, featuring meals like roast pork and mashed potato with molasses-stewed collard greens or General Tso’s chicken with sautéed snow peas and jasmine rice.

“I like that they send you ingredients and cuisines that are outside what your normal cooking style is,” he added. “It doesn’t repeat unless you ask for repeats. It’s new, fresh and interesting.”

Interested, but don’t want a subscription? Try Chef’d.

“You might order Memorial Day and then wait until the end of the summer to order again,” described founder and CEO Kyle Ransford. “We’re trying to fit into people’s lives and figure out what kind of help in the kitchen we can provide them.”

Choose easy dinners, gourmet meals or even holiday party boxes, including recipes from celebrity chef Myron Mixon, four-time world barbecue champion. Think pulled pork sandwiches, mama’s coleslaw and mac n’ cheese.

“We’re trying to help people learn a tidbit of Myron’s secrets,” Ransford said.

“Our motto is to cultivate and curate experiences of love through food.”

Roast Pork & Mashed Potato with Molasses-Stewed Collard Greens

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 pork roast

1 carrot

1 Russet potato

½ bunch collard greens

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon pork demi-glace

1 tablespoon molasses

Instructions

Sear and roast the pork. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Pat the pork dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper on all sides. In a medium pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned pork; cook, turning occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Transfer to the prepared sheet pan, leaving any browned bits (or fond) in the pan on the stove. Roast 18 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through. (An instant-read thermometer should register 145 degrees.) Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board; let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Prepare the ingredients. While the pork sears, wash and dry the fresh produce. Heat a small pot of salted water to boiling on high. Large dice the potato. Peel and small dice the carrot. Remove and discard the collard green stems; roughly chop the leaves.

Cook and mash the potato. While the pork roasts, add the potato to the pot of boiling water and cook 14 to 16 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain thoroughly and return to the pot. Off the heat, add the butter; using a fork, mash the mixture to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside in a warm place.

Stew the collard greens. Once the potato has cooked for about 5 minutes, heat the pan of reserved fond on medium-high until hot. (If the pan seems dry, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil.) Add the carrot; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the collard greens, demi-glace, vinegar, molasses and ¼ cup of water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until the collard greens have wilted and the liquid is slightly reduced in volume. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside in a warm place.

Finish and plate your dish. Find the lines of muscle (or grain) of the rested pork; thinly slice crosswise against the grain. Divide the mashed potato, stewed collard greens and sliced pork between two dishes. Top with any remaining sauce from the pan of collard greens. Enjoy!

RECIPE COURTESY OF BLUE APRON

Parmesan-Crusted Chicken with Tangy Balsamic Potato Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts

5 ounces grape tomatoes

12 ounces potatoes

2 cloves garlic

1 sprig thyme

2 scallions

¼ cup panko breadcrumbs

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Strip the thyme leaves off the stem. Mince the garlic. Halve the tomatoes and potatoes. Thinly slice the scallions, keeping the white and green parts separate.

Toss half the garlic in a bowl with the panko, Parmesan, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place chicken breasts on sheet tray and rub on all sides with 1 teaspoon olive oil each; season with salt and pepper. Spread half the panko mixture onto each breast and press into chicken. On the other half of the sheet tray, toss tomatoes with scallion whiles, 1 teaspoon olive oil, remaining garlic, salt and pepper. Place the chicken and tomatoes in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the tomatoes blister.

Meanwhile, add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook 10 to 15 minutes, until easily pierced with a knife. Toss the scallion greens in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. When the potatoes are done, drain and break them up slightly with a fork before tossing them in the balsamic dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

Finish: Serve the chicken and tomatoes with the warm potato salad on the side. Enjoy!

RECIPE COURTESY OF HELLOFRESH

General Tso’s Chicken with Sautéed Snow Peas & Jasmine Rice

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Serves 2

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

¾ cup jasmine rice

4 ounces snow peas

4 cloves garlic

2 scallions

2 tablespoons soy glaze

1 tablespoon sambal oelek

1 tablespoon sesame oil

½ cup cornstarch

¼ cup ketchup

Instructions

Prepare the ingredients. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic. Cut off and discard the root ends of the scallions; thinly slice the white bottoms and cut the green tops into ½-inch pieces, keeping them separate. Snap off and discard the stem ends of the snow peas; pull off and discard the tough string that runs the length of each pod. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and chop into bite-sized pieces; transfer to a bowl.

Cook the rice. In a small pot, combine the rice, a big pinch of salt and 1 1/2 cups of water. Heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 12 to 14 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff the cooked rice with a fork.

Make the sauce. While the rice simmers, in a medium pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat the sesame oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic and white bottoms of the scallions; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant. Turn off the heat. Add the ketchup, soy glaze and as much of the sambal oelek as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. Stir to thoroughly combine; transfer to a large bowl. Rinse and wipe out the pan.

Cook the chicken. While the rice continues to simmer, season the chopped chicken with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Add the cornstarch; toss to thoroughly coat. In the pan used to make the sauce, heat a thin layer of oil on medium-high until hot. Once the oil is hot enough that a piece of chicken sizzles immediately when added to the pan, add the coated chicken (shaking off any excess cornstarch before adding) in a single, even layer. Cook, turning occasionally, 7 to 9 minutes, or until browned on all sides and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; immediately season with salt and pepper. Carefully discard the oil and wipe out the pan.

Finish the chicken. Transfer the cooked chicken to the bowl of sauce; toss to thoroughly coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside in a warm place.

Cook the snow peas and plate your dish. In the pan used to cook the chicken, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the snow peas; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, or until bright green. Divide the cooked rice, finished chicken and cooked snow peas between 2 dishes. Garnish with the green tops of the scallions. Enjoy!

RECIPE COURTESY OF BLUE APRON

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