Thursday, 27 June 2013

Stouffer's Bistro Meatballs & Mozzarella Crustini

A thoroughly modern family getting ready to enjoy their Stouffer's Bistro Crustinis. Young and old alike, not to mention even the family zombie, can't get enough of these mozzarella and meatball delights.
What is a crustini? Is it a stale panini? A toupee made of dried linguine? A crotchety octogenarian's martini? A barnacle-encrusted bikini? Language, like food, is always changing and here, the nice folks at Stouffer's have introduced not only a new word but a new food to accompany this creation. This is a company that has been bringing families together over frozen entrees since 1946 and with their Bistro line-up of products, they've now created a zippy hand-held single-serving entree for the contemporary condo-dwelling depressed single person, filled with regrets and shattered dreams, that they can enjoy alone, either over the kitchen sink or huddled at the tiny IKEA bistro table that they bought on a whim during a moment of hopefulness and wishful thinking about their future situation. Still, they can sit with their laptop propped in front of them and have one hand free to poke the millions of friends that like them in virtual space while the other hand can grip this Stouffer's treat. They can even grind up their antidepressants and sprinkle the powder right into the molten mozzarella and meatball Crustini centre. Or maybe I just sound old and crusty in my evaluation of modern social media living, which is why I think the Crustini was really made for me. As a stay-at-home dad of three kids, with barely any friends, online or in reality, it's really me sitting by the heart-warming glow of the microwave (my version of the fireplace), in my fast food stained bathrobe or if I'm feeling more energetic, my condiment splattered thrift store bought knock-off track suit that says Addiddas over the left breast, waiting the mandatory two minutes for this thing to be ready so I can wolf it down and get back to the laundry, dish washing and wasting time reading Missed Connections on Craigslist while passing intestinal gas so bad it could melt Banlon socks from fifty feet away. Which led me to believe that if you're going to cook up something so effective in your stomach it could be categorized as a weapon, it's not a bad bet to do it with one of these Crustini contraptions. First off, they come with their own cardboard crisping sleeve that you slide the Crustini into before putting it into the microwave. Truly the next step in radiated cooking and the sleeve performs two functions, acting as both a crisping device for the Crustini's Italian herb crusted carapace and functioning as a hand protector from this very same searing surface when you hold it during the eating process. As you move down the length of the Crustini with each toothy bite, you simply peel away another part of the perforated crisping sleeve to reveal more of this delectable treat. Of course, all this edible technology and ease of consumption begs the question, how do these things taste? Well, I've been ripped-off before in the meatball category when it comes to quick, ready-prepared foods and I've seen the promise of a picture dashed against the meager rocks of reality. But in this instance, I'm happy to say, the Crustini didn't disappoint. Although small, about the size of rabbit droppings, there were plenty of meatballs packed into the core of the Crustini, sometimes peeking shyly, sometimes proclaiming loudly, 'look at me," amongst the melted mozzarella and slightly sweet, almost Chef Boyardee-ish tomato sauce. A few dashes of hot sauce helped the cause. The crust, though not exactly flaky as the box proclaims, still maintained a crusty composure and the Italian herb dusting with its various dehydrated and powdered ingredients took me back to that time in Tuscany although I've never been there but I have been to an Olive Garden in Sudbury, which is pretty close if you squint your eyes and forget the nickel mines, so either way, you could say the taste transported me. In the ingredient listings I was happy to see some of my favourite food additives that I've come to know and love like fungal protease, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate and L-cysteine hydrochloride so I knew I was in good hands with these Stouffer's folks and I'm ready to try their other Crustini flavours. The crisping sleeve boldly reads, "Heat, crisp & go!" obviously in tune with our busy times but I say heat, crisp & sit down in your sauce-spattered, partially-open bathrobe and let the world spin madly by while you savor mini-meatballs and dream of a Tuscan sunset over the nickel mines.  

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