Caught on ­surveillance video

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Nick Roumel

My friend Lindsay is an unofficial ambassador for Blue Apron, the meal delivery service (www.blueapron.com). Choose from a variety of meal plans and the number of diners, and a box is delivered to your door with everything you need.

This only fails if you are on vacation when the box is delivered, and you forget to cancel, which is what happened to Lindsay. She kindly offered to let me pick up her box containing the fixings for three meals: Orange and Mirin-Glazed Cod, Beef Tacos and Radish Salsa, and West African Peanut Chicken.

Curious to try it, I eagerly accepted, and told her I would pick the box up shortly after it would be delivered on Wednesday afternoon. Due to circumstances, I wasn’t able to retrieve it until later on Thursday.

Ten minutes later I got an email from Lindsay. It was short home surveillance video, showing me taking the box from her porch, with the caption, “Ha ha, it should still be good!” She added that there was a mini-camera in the box and she would spy on me cooking, and I half-believed her. I have to admit it was a little disconcerting to find myself caught in the act on a home security system.

I really couldn’t wait to try the meals, though. I had read generally good things about Blue Apron, but prepared myself for all sorts of cryogenically preserved items ensconced in layers of plastic.

I was happily surprised to find the opposite. Upon opening the box, I exclaimed, “It’s real food!” There was an orange, lemon, sweet potato and garlic bulb nicely perched, naked as the day they were born. A bunch of broccoli had only a thin plastic wrap. The fish, fowl and meat were also similarly clad, sandwiched between throwaway ice slabs and covered by a thermal blanket. They looked of excellent quality, and the cod even explained a little about where it was (wild) caught, with a description of the habitat and qualities of the fish.

Of special delight were small paper bags filled with what Blue Apron calls “Knick-Knacks,” including what you need to finish your meal. In the case of the cod that was mirin (rice wine), roasted almonds, and crushed red pepper flakes. The chicken bag included peanut butter, ginger and coconut powder. Except for things like olive oil and salt and pepper, everything is included and pre-measured.

Cooking directions are on 8 ½ x 11” full color, two sided cards, with photos of each ingredient, every step, and the finished product (with a suggested wine pairing). Directions are in an easy-to-follow list with boxes you can literally check off. The first category is always to prepare the ingredients so you have them all washed, chopped and at-the-ready (mis en place, for you fancy types). While it is almost foolproof, I would strongly recommend a read-through of the steps before beginning. I don’t think a novice could successfully handle these recipes, which do require a basic understanding of cooking techniques, plus a knack for timing.

The cod was absolutely delicious, and I’m looking forward to trying the other dishes. Meals are designed to be cooked relatively swiftly, and Blue Apron ads show happy young couples preparing them together. Cost for this particular plan is about $10 per serving.

At this point you may think I am a shill for Blue Apron. Well, that’s what I thought Lindsay was. Now she has me sucked into her cult as well. But what’s not to like about receiving packages in the mail, then putting together a fast and tasty meal made from scratch? Not to mention a home movie to save for posterity.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.

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