Brian Anderson has always enjoyed cooking, but making the same meals over and over quickly became boring — and new recipes didn’t help much.
"I found it daunting that I would need a teaspoon of some exotic ingredient I’d never heard of before," he said. Especially when such ingredients find their way to the back of a cabinet, never to be used again.
Anderson’s time in the kitchen has become a lot more adventurous, however, thanks to Blue Apron, a home chef meal service. Every week, groceries and recipes for six meals arrive at his home.
The ingredients are pre-measured and ready to use. "If the recipe calls for a pat of butter, they send a pat of butter," he said. "If you need a teaspoon of vinegar, they send a teaspoon of vinegar."
Anderson, a New Hampshire native who relocated south to earn his masters in journalism at the University of Alabama, spent three years as a reporter for The Anniston Star before accepting a position as the district executive for the Greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
"I preside over the Choccolocco district," he said. "My job functions include fundraising, volunteer recruitment and planning events."
These days, when he leaves work, Anderson heads home to unleash his inner Gordon Ramsey, preparing meals that are just this side of gourmet.
The pre-measured ingredients are the only shortcut Anderson is allowed to take. "If a recipe calls for grated cheese, they send the block of cheese and I have to grate it," he said. "If the recipe calls for a hard-boiled egg, I have to boil the egg. The words ‘mince the garlic’ always solicits a groan from me."
Anderson estimates it takes him about an hour to prepare dinner. "I like to listen to music or play podcasts while I cook," he said. "It’s largely relaxing for me and has certainly widened my palate."
The cost for these culinary masterpieces is $60 a week, which works out to $10 a meal. Anderson freely admits that if he went to a restaurant for dinner, he’d be spending much more than that. "And this has cut out a lot of my grocery bill for the week," he added.
The home-delivery service takes a consumer’s personal preferences into account when selecting meals to ship. Anderson doesn’t eat red meat, so his selections include poultry, seafood and vegetarian dishes.
"Some of my favorite meals are things I would have never thought to try on my own," he said.
That would include the pan-roasted chicken with lacinato kale and purple potato hash. "This was the first meal I got, and it was a winner right from the start," he said. "The star of the dish was the purple potato hash."
Anderson had never cooked purple potatoes before, and even if he had, he wouldn’t have thought to pair them with a Granny Smith apple as the recipe required — "but it worked." he said.
Other meals he especially enjoyed include chicken salad with new potatoes, pickled rhubarb and goat cheese. "It’s probably my favorite," he said.
Then there was the salmon pastrami on rye with red cabbage and green apple slaw, a meal Anderson felt was tailor made for him since it reminded him of a Reuben sandwich, something he greatly misses since giving up red meat.
"Nothing beats a good Reuben," he said. "But replacing the meat with salmon? Delicious!"
For Thanksgiving week, he prepared roasted Cornish game hens with rosemary-baguette stuffing and invited his friend Jenny Stedham to join him for dinner.
It was the first time he had ever cooked for anyone during the holidays. "She didn’t spit out the food or come down with some strange illness," he said. "So I guess it worked out."
Anderson hasn’t embraced every meal shipped to him. He’s not a fan of mushrooms, and one of his vegetarian dishes turned out to be a mushroom pot pie. "I ate half of it," he said. For the most part, however, he has discovered the meals that sound the least appetizing to be "surprisingly good."
Home delivery of groceries doesn’t keep Anderson out of the supermarket completely. "I buy the food I need for breakfast and lunch," he said. "And, of course, beer."
Being a subscriber to Blue Apron allows Anderson the opportunity to send meals to friends and family. "I have yet to hear a complaint," he observed. "It’s definitely a good way to try lots of new things without having to go to a restaurant."
Contact Donna Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org.