This is it! The first week of a steadfast Blue Apron household trying out Home Chef. This week our recipes have a nice alliteration running across them…
B-b-b-beautiful. These recipes actually all really appeal to me, and with the exception of the pork chop, I’m pretty confident that I can nail these recipes. Pork chops are just hard to get right, man. So much so that I am tempted to break out the sous vide for that guy, but I will resist in the interest of blog-honesty.
A few quick takes on the differences between Blue Apron and Home Chef before we even get into the recipes…
- The box shipped from Chicago yesterday instead of Dallas (Blue Apron norm.) But it was apparently over-nighted, and not sent on Saturday for a Tuesday delivery. So overall less time in transit, BUT clearly none of it is “local.” Edge: Blue Apron. I just like local. :o/
- The pictures of the food are SUPER TIGHT and you can’t even see the whole plate. Cool from a “my white plates don’t matter!” POV but also kinda tough to nail presentation-wise. Edge: Neither.
- The recipe names don’t mention their side dishes/flavors, so you have to dig into the recipe a bit. Useful if you want to know, for example, that the chicken is paired with mushrooms. We just had mushrooms last night so I’m saving that for later this week. Blue Apron recipe titles can get super wordy since they include every single damn component sometimes, but I still like knowing up front what I’m gonna get. Edge: Blue Apron.
- When I unpacked the box, I was delighted to find a little binder and that the recipe cards were three-hole-punched. So as I collect more from Home Chef, I will be building a little cookbook! Very cool, very nice touch. Edge: Home Chef.
- The produce and “accessories” for each meal are pre-wrapped up and packaged together. This made unpacking a breeze (fewer things to put in the fridge) and is easier to “grab and go” when I’m ready to start cooking. Edge: Home Chef.
So without any cooking, it’s a dead heat. Let’s see how the fare fared!
Bone-In Porkchop with Maple Butter
Maaaaaple butttterrrrrr. Two great tastes that taste great together. On pancakes? Yep! Waffles? Sign me up! Pork???? Genius. So obviously, this dish had me at “maple butter.” Once I got into the prep and cook part, however, I continued to be impressed.
Having the broccoli already floret-ed was a nice surprise. I feel like I spent a LOT less time doing chop and prep work than on a typical Blue Apron meal, and I didn’t mind the change. This recipe was super easy to follow and I appreciated the breakout in steps. The maple butter felt fancy but was surprisingly simple to execute.
The only strugglebus I had was with hand-mashing the broccoli. The recipe recommended using an immersion blender, but lol that is that one kitchen device we don’t have. Unless someone has Hulk-like strength, ain’t no way they are mashing broccoli that has only been cooked 4 minutes. So I just threw all the ingredients for the mash into our food processor. About 4 seconds of pulsing was all it took to get that ready, boom.
The bone-in pork chops themselves cooked beautifully! I don’t know what I worried for. Ultimately, this meal was quicker and easier than most Blue Aprons and delivered really solidly on flavor. The maple was super yum, and where it melted over the carrots was an extra treat. Having the thyme in both the butter and carrots was another nice touch. The broccoli mash tasted nice and bright; it just needed a little salt to really shine. All in all, an encouraging start. Bone-in pork chop with maple butter (and carrots and broccoli mash) earns Home Chef its first A from me!
Baja Chile-Lime Fish Cakes
“Fish cakes” may not do much for some people, but we live in a very pro-fish cake house. With this recipe, I noticed a trend where Home Chef has us using our oven more than Blue Apron. (I baked the fish filets first before mixing them with panko etc.) Blue Apron can get a little stressful with multiple pots on the stove sometimes.
But while the fish was in the oven, I was able to knock out all the prep work and make the salad AS THEY PROMISED. It was great. Then while the fish was cooling, I made some black bean brownie batter (WHO IS THIS DOMESTIC GODDESS WHO HAS TAKEN OVER MY BODY?!) and that was pretty awesome as well. The tilapia shredded nicely and the cakes formed up without an issue. I could have used a few more panko crumbs and was surprised to have no egg in these, but they really held together well despite that.
This dish is everything I want once plated. The salad underneath worked as a cool counterpart to the zingy, warm fish cake. Having lime zest and juice in both components really made the plate feel “composed” and “purposeful” beyond what I could do on my own meal-planning.
I think Blue Apron could have over-complicated this and paired the fish cakes with some weird slaw or dumped a sour cream sauce on top, and I really am pleased with Home Chef’s simplicity and restraint. I just really, really loved eating this and felt great afterward since it was so light. Without hesitation, this gets an A+ from me for ease of preparation, deliciousness, and unusualness.
Balsamic & Fig-Glazed Chicken Breast
This recipe felt closest to what Blue Apron would normally give us, except without the carbs/starches. Again, we utilized the oven while the stove was going, so it was another low-stress meal prep. This was also the fastest meal to put together; from pulling stuff out of the fridge to sitting down to the table, it was no more than 30 minutes.
The only negative feedback I have after doing this recipe is that the chicken got a bit over-cooked since it hit the pan twice. I understand the thinking behind this, and it makes sense, but I wish I had cooked it a little less the first time around since the second time (when you are trying to glaze it) is when you want it to stay in the pan longer. But the yummy glaze made up for the slight dryness, and we could overlook the chewier texture.
The mushrooms and green beans were both delicious and it’s a good way to get a lot of nice veggies on a plate. It’s a simple meal but satisfying and a nice light way to end the week. Because of the awkwardness with the sauce, and the general “no big WOW” factor of this meal, we are gonna give it a B but with no hard feelings.
We live in a house divided now. My husband prefers Blue Apron, because it’s trying to make you a better chef and introduce you to new flavors and techniques. I prefer Home Chef because it’s easier and more straight forward, and I feel like I have a higher chance of success with each recipe. I don’t see myself often feeling ~*~INSPIRED~*~ by Home Chef, but they are the types of meals that I like to incorporate in my weekly plans.
On the flip side, Blue Apron dishes are ones that you can really get excited about, and that has merit, too. Since my husband is traditionally (aka, on non-meal delivery weeks) the cook in the house, I can understand why he is drawn to Blue Apron. It is more of a challenge, and for a lot of folks, that’s exactly what they are after. But I find myself charmed by Home Chef’s simple mission: get you eating at home more. These are not overwhelming recipes or ingredients. But they are good and good for you and that’s saying something!
The final note on this comparison has to do with pricing. For the sake of apples to apples, Home Chef is $60 for three meals (for two people) and Blue Apron is $65 for the same amount. The Blue Apron meals feel more expensive across the board, and knowing that the ingredients are ethically sourced makes it an even better value. I mean let’s face it, our last dish from Home Chef this week featured green beans, chicken breast, and mushrooms. For $20. :-/
BUT, it saved me the trouble of having to think “we need green beans, chicken breast, and mushrooms” and figure out the best way to cook them. And go to the store to buy them. You see my point. So even though Home Chef “costs less,” Blue Apron is a much, much better value. But the recipes are harder, so pick your meal delivery “poison” wisely.
Next month we have another round of each so I am curious to see if my initial reactions hold after another box from Home Chef and more delights from Blue Apron.