Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vegas and Lobster Ravioli

So I've been slacking a bit. I was on a roll during my Thanksgiving break, but then it was back to reality. I just spent the weekend in Vegas seeing the Dierks Bentley concert (which was fantastic, even though he didn't take the stage until midnight!). We had some great meals that I'll detail soon. This week I am consumed by my teaching duties and 2 finals in the master's math courses I'm taking. Oy. It will be over very soon. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I will leave you with one quick meal idea that has become somewhat of a staple in our house. It's a Trader Joe's lover's dream. Lobster ravioli with a saffron cream sauce and peas. The ravioli sounds fancy and expensive, but it's only 3 bucks and easily feeds 2-3 people. The saffron at Trader Joe's is the most reasonably priced saffron I've found. The cream from TJ's also deserves a mention. It has a high butterfat content so it's incredibly viscous, a beautiful sight to behold as it exits the bottle.

To make the dish, saute 1 garlic clove, 1/2 a small diced onion (or 1 shallot) in olive oil until softened, add 1/2 cup (or so) of cream, a pinch of saffron, salt & pepper to taste, and simmer for a few minutes until it thickens a bit. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of peas and the cooked ravioli, and stir to coat everything with the sauce. Easy, fast, and tasty.

Okay, back to studying. More to come soon...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Homemade Chicken Stock (for the Soul)

I know, I know. Who wants to spend time making chicken stock when you can buy a perfectly decent stock at almost any grocery store?  Well, suppose you have a chicken carcass lying around. Sorry, that imagery may have been a little too grotesque, but it comes with the territory. We had recently eaten a Costco rotisserie chicken, (which is pretty darn delicious, by the way), so we had all those chicken bones, a measly amount of meat, and a heaping amount of gelatinous post-roast drippings. My husband is not one to let something go to waste, so he immediately got that telling twinkle in his eye: time for stock!

Making stock is perfect when you're hanging out at home in your tube socks like Tom Cruise, and you have a few hours of love to put into a pot. There's something that never ceases to amaze me about starting off with water, a chicken carcass, chopped up veggies, and some seasoning, and ending up with a delicious magical liquid. This stock can be used in all sorts of applications from risotto to sauces to, of course, soup. What's even better is that the stock can be frozen, in any quantity, for months. Just toss it in the fridge to defrost the night before, or use the defrost setting on the microwave.

I think what made this version of stock particularly good is that the Costco chicken was so well seasoned to begin with. All of that salty goodness seeped osmosis-style into the liquid. Now, don't plan on going too far away while the stock cooks. Every 15 minutes or so, you'll need to skim the scum.  The scum is really just proteins that rise to the surface looking like a bubble bath gone wrong.

Here's the Alton Brown recipe to get you started, but the great thing about stock is that you can adapt it to whatever you have on hand.  Ordinary chicken, Christmas duck, Thanksgiving turkey or even a turducken (we've made stock from the first three, but not the latter, so proceed with caution). We didn't have any of the herbs Alton calls for on hand, so we just left them out and still had great results. There are so many other variations: beef, veal, vegetable, lobster, shrimp, but I'll save those for another time.

I promise you won't be sorry if you invest the time to make some stock (sorry about the Wall Street pun, but it was completely intentional).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crumbs Bake Shop

Last weekend I finally had the chance to try Crumbs Bake Shop in Beverly Hills. Yes, I've had Sprinkles cupcakes from both the Newport and Beverly Hills locations. And, yes, I like the cupcakes at Sprinkles. I think they have an amazing vanilla cake that I haven't tasted anything like anywhere else. The color is very white, so I think the recipe may include fewer egg yolks, but I'm getting off topic. I purchased 4 cupcakes total. They kind of tricked me into the 4th one because I had picked out 3, but the box had 4 "cupcake holes" (a technical term), so of course I had to fill it up. Actually, the box itself deserves praise. The smart design meant that there was no cupcake slippage, and no frosting contamination. You know what I'm talking about, when the cream cheese frosting infiltrates the chocolate frosting without permission. 

The Artie Lange

The 4 flavors I picked: Artie Lange, Carrot, Peanut Butter Cup, and Vanilla. The Artie Lange is a unique flavor. This is the Crumbs website description: "The Artie Lange cupcake was created by Artie himself live on the Howard Stern Show in 2008. Vanilla cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting filling, topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting dipped in chocolate fondant and edged with chocolate and vanilla sprinkles. A portion of the proceeds from the Artie Lange cupcake is donated to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital." I wish I could say that I picked this one because of the charity donation, but that would be a lie. My only complaint was that the fondant was more for looks than flavor, in my opinion.

 Peanut Butter Cup

The unstoppable combination of peanut butter frosting and chocolate cake, need I say more?


I enjoyed the carrot cupcake even more than I expected, due in part to the absence of raisins. The cream cheese frosting on it was very moist and there was plenty of it.


Ok, so I have a confession. I froze the vanilla cupcake for another time. It was Thanksgiving week and I didn't want it to get stale, so I froze it. The Crumbs website said I could, so there.

Overall impression: I really enjoyed the cupcakes and thought they were a pretty good value. The vanilla was $2.95 and the others were $3.75, and the cupcakes are huge. They also have a few flavors in mini sizes. Unfortunately, there are no Orange County locations yet. There are other LA locations in Calabasas, Glendale, Larchmont, and Malibu and they will also ship their cupcakes.

Crumbs Bake Shop
9465 Little Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90291
T 310 550 9811