Columnist Tammy Swift tries Molly Yeh's Blue Apron meal box; will it get a 'Yeh’ or a nay?
Somehow, the transplanted Midwesterner and star of “Girl Meets Farm” has found time to develop a meal-delivery kit. Columnist Tammy Swift tried it — and here’s what she thought.
Welcome to Swift Judgments, a new column in which Business Reporter/Columnist Tammy Swift reviews products to help consumers decide if they'd like to spend their hard-earned money on them. Our first column takes a look at the new, limited-edition Molly Yeh Blue Apron meal box.
Does Molly Yeh ever sleep?
When my editor told me that the clinically adorable Food Network star has now partnered with meal kit-delivery company Blue Apron to produce a limited-edition meal kit, I had to take a sympathy nap in her honor.
How does the busy mom of two young children — married to East Grand Forks farmer Nick Hagen — find time to develop meal kits? Especially on top of running the popular Bernie’s restaurant in East Grand Forks, writing books and cookbooks, starring on Food Network’s "Girl Meets Farm," (how cute is her kitchen?), partnering with potato growers and basically being the hipper, perkier “Pioneer Woman” for the millennial set?
So when a public relations firm sent a press release on Yeh’s new Blue Apron partnership, I had to request a sample box. The kit, which sells for $109.99 and doesn’t require a Blue Apron subscription to order, is available through June 19, or while supplies last.
I’ve tried many different meal-kit delivery services — from complete frozen dinners to plans that provide lots of prep and cooking.
How would Yeh’s Blue Apron box fit in this spectrum of meal-delivery services?
Would it be a big "Yeh" or a resounding nay?
Read on to find out.
Lots of produce — and plastic
As promised, the box arrived four days after I placed my “order.”
Upon opening, I was impressed with the quality of the ingredients and the economy of packing materials.
Foods were kept cool with two large, plastic cooling packs, filled with a water-based gel which is biodegradable and safe to dump down the sink.
The box contained ingredients for four different dishes, which each could serve four people.
All ingredients needed for each dish are pre-measured and packaged separately in a clearly labeled plastic bag. In fact, one of my few gripes with the box was the amount of plastic used to package everything. (Granted, Blue Apron does include prominent directions on how to read recycling symbols so as little packaging winds up in landfills as possible.)
The ingredients showcased Yeh’s flair for seamlessly fusing influences from her Jewish and Chinese background. There were huge challah rolls for the burgers, but also condiments like Middle Eastern tahini, gochujang sauce (a sweet, spicy, funky Korean chili paste), Japanese ponzu sauce (a citrus-based sauce with a tart, tangy vinaigrette-like flavor) and lots of sesame oil.
Produce definitely outweighed protein, although the proteins were high quality: pasture-raised eggs and one package of grass-fed beef.
The box also contained recipe cards with step-by-step illustrations. Yeh also threw in a pamphlet with prep tips, coloring sheets for the kids and recipe for homemade sprinkles — just in case you are the type of mom who sews her own cupcake papers out of humanely harvested hemp.
A rundown on the dishes
This dish combined lo mein noodles, bok choy, scallions and chopped peanuts with a dressing of peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, ponzu sauce, tahini and red pepper flakes.
I don’t normally cook with bok choy, so I was stumped when the instructions simply told me to cut off the root ends and slice the leaves. How much was the root end? Did it mean throwing out all the stems? I had to turn to the Food Network to figure it out.
Sadly, I didn’t love the end result. Although I added the whole packet of red pepper flakes, even this certified German-wegian found the noodles a tad bland. My partner improvised and poured hoisin sauce on his portion; he said it really elevated it.
Crunchy Cabbage Slaw
Red cabbage, shredded carrots and scallions were tossed in a dressing of mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce and rice vinegar, then topped off with sesame seeds (and salt and pepper, to taste).
Although I suspect some of my knuckles wound up in the salad from all that veggie-shredding, this was a clever and tasty twist on old-school slaw.
Ginger-Scallion Burgers with Fried Eggs, Pickled Cucumbers and Hoisin Sauce
The box included ground beef for the burgers, but Yeh also included cooking directions if you opt for turkey or pork. (I used turkey.)
The burgers came with panko breadcrumbs and a packet labeled “East Asian-Style Sauteed Aromatics” — a white paste of ginger, garlic and scallions. The aromatics infused the burger with lots of flavor and perfectly bound the lower-fat turkey burgers together.
As instructed, I toasted the buns by frying them in the “fond” — the leftover oil and caramelized burger bits — just like they do at bona fide burger joints.
The end result was sooo good. Hoisin on top of fried egg atop crunchy fried onions atop pickled cucumbers atop seasoned burger atop toasted challah bread? What a flavorsagna. I didn't even add cheese!
Miso Apple Pie
First off, the pie crust in the kit was the best pie pastry I’ve ever eaten. It was rich, flaky and had a nutty, whole-wheat flavor.
I was less smitten with the idea that miso, a fermented paste with a salty umami flavor, would be added to apple pie.
The crumble topping also veered from traditional, with ingredients like coconut and chopped pistachios.
After making the crumble, I lightly browned the apples in a bubbling mixture of miso, butter, honey and maple syrup.
The finished pie had a nice crunch from the pistachios and umami-wrapped caramel notes.
Although I know it’s considered posh to make desserts less sweet, I honestly thought the pie needed more sugar. The apples weren’t a sweet variety, the crumble contained just ¼ cup sugar and the apple mixture was sweetened with only 2 tablespoons maple syrup and 2 teaspoons honey.
But that crumble and that crust? A slice of heaven.
What I liked:
- This box is all-inclusive. Really. Other meal kits have required reaching into my own pantry for common ingredients. This box truly contains every ingredient you’ll need to make that recipe, with the exceptions of water, salt and pepper.
- The recipes aren't hard. If you can fry a burger or stir dressing into coleslaw, you can make them. Just be ready to do lots of prep work because, even if the recipes aren't hard, there are multiple steps and many ingredients in them.
- The food is healthy. I don't eat enough veggies, partly because I can't think of original ways to prepare them. But some of Yeh's recipes, like her sweet and zesty cabbage slaw, were delicious and can be replicated easily without buying another meal kit.
- The ingredients are high-quality. The produce included was in good shape, unbruised and packed with care.
- The end results are worth it. I was impressed with the fresh, engaging, multi-layered flavor profile.
- I learned stuff! I am going to start pickling more things to add acid and zing to veggies and I will definitely fold the slaw, burgers and pistachio-coconut crumble into my regular rotation.
What I didn’t love:
- It isn't cheap. At nearly $110, this meal box won't fit all budgets. Then again, when you think how it provides a meal for four (especially at today's grocery prices), saves shopping/planning time and could be purchased as an occasional treat, the price tag isn't so bad.
- Holy Dice-O-Matic, Batman! Seriously, after all the chopping, slicing and shredding required, I kicked myself for getting rid of my food processor at that last garage sale. It took me several hours to prepare all four dishes for an evening meal, so this isn't a "full meal in a half-hour" type of meal kit.
- Sooo many dishes. My sink was brimming with dishes by the end of this meal. In the burger recipe alone, I had dirtied three different bowls, a cutting board, a knife, two spoons and a rubber scraper before I'd even reached step two of the directions. Perhaps the key is to practice mise en place, but after I was done, it was more of a mess in place.
Although this meal box wasn't perfect, the people in my household enjoyed it a lot. I give it two thumbs up — skinned knuckles and all.
Learn more at cook.blueapron.com/mollyyeh.