Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving turkey--Sunset recipe

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I prepared Thanksgiving turkey. I followed the Sunset recipe below, found in the November 2009 issue, except I substituted cranberry sauce for red currant jelly:

1 turkey (12-14 lbs.), cut up by butcher into seven parts total: two wings, two thighs, two legs and one whole chicken breast
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tbsp. each minced fresh sage, rosemary and thyme, divided
About 2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups white wine, divided
1/3 cup marsala
3 tbsp. red currant jelly

Do the following with your ingredients:

1) Preheat oven to 400 F
2) Throw the turkey parts into a bowl and coat with 2 tsp. of each herb, salt and pepper.
3) Pour 1 cup of wine into a roasting pan
4) Add legs and wings to pan
5) Roast 15 minutes, skin side down
6) Turn legs and wings over, then add breasts and thighs to pan, skin side up.
7) Pour in remaining wine
8) Roast 45 minutes to 1 hour, making sure a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast and thighs reads 160 F and juices run clear
9) Transfer meat to a cutting board, tent with foil and pour juices into saucepan
10) Add marsala, jelly (or, in my case, cranberry sauce) and remaining herbs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes.
11) Carve breast
12) Garnish with fresh sage or olive sprigs if desired

For my 14-pounder I went 15 minutes for Part 1 (legs and wings) and 45 minutes for Part 2 (adding the breast and thighs).

The recipe is built upon the premise that putting the entire turkey into the oven as one uncut bird leads to something either overdone (i.e. breast, thighs) or underdone (legs, wings). Hence, some parts will need more time inthe oven than others. The big benefits to the cook are that turkey is cut by the butcher and the turkey roasts for as little as an hour--how's that for quick?

The breast was good, especially with gravy, but wasn't quite as tender as my brother-in-law's brined turkey. Still, the returnn on investment (the return being flavor and tenderness, the investment being time and energy) is tough to top and I'd try a variation on this nine Thanksgivings out of ten. The dark meat was simply impeccable.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Faultline Brewery--Sunnyvale, CA

The Faultline Brewery has been a favorite of my employer for many years for conducting lunch interviews (I had mine there). It's also a favorite venue for equipment suppliers to catch up on what my company is interested in buying for its manufacturing floor. Such was the case yesterday when I sat down to Faultline's New England steak tips, a restaurant specialty. When the plate arrived I thought, "Oh, no", as I pretty much knew it wouldn't be enough to satisfy that deep well of a belly of mine. That said, the tips, which I ordered medium rare, were tender and flavorful. The meat was advertised as having a signature marinade, giving the steak a taste that was 50% sweet, 30% sour (in a good way) and 10% smokey. I could have eaten one slice of tip after another all day long. Alas, my lunch came with only three.

With my plate lacking quantity, I spent much of the lunch admiring the salmon salad across the table. Who would have guessed that it would be a salmon salad, not the steak, that would be the more filling lunch at my table? The salad was probably as good as it looked, as my counterpart ate every morsel.

Other notes: The lemonade isn't homemade. As popular as Faultine is, especially on Friday nights, feel free to drop by whenever you like for lunch--you probably won't have to wait for a table.

Faultline Brewery
1235 Oakmead Parkway
Sunnyvale, CA 94085-4040
(408) 736-2739

Friday, November 19, 2010

Maxim's--San Jose, CA

A great friend of mine was gracious enough to spend part of his birthday with me yesterday and we chose to meet at Maxim's in San Jose on Saratoga Avenue for lunch. Formerly a part of the Max's Opera Cafe chain, the restaurant has been under a different management for at least two years. However, from Max's they kept the menu, location and a name similar enough to give pause to any trademark attorney.

At Maxim's or at Max's, the matzo ball soup has always been a must-have. Today, though, it was very, very salty--the saltiest soup of any kind I've had anywhere in years. Otherwise, beneath the thick cover of brine one could still detect a rich flavor in the broth. Moreover, the soup was hot and loaded with chicken and vegetables. Ordering a bowl, by the way, gets you two matzo balls, while a cup gets you one.

Another of my standbys is the vegetable double stuffed potato, which today was good, but only about 70% of the size of that at Max's Opera Cafe. The dish came with plenty of Caesar salad on the side. My friend's pastrami sandwich was thick and, though I'd forgotten to ask if he enjoyed his meal, he finished it without complaint.

As for service, I would have appreciated some bread to be delivered to our table. At Maxim's, as at Max's, their freshly baked bread is beyond the ordinary. If you go, request a basket and try out their raisin bread, for example. Also, when we arrived at our booth, both benches were dirty with crumbs, which we swiped off with our hands. And, along with that oversalted matzo ball soup? I got a rusty spoon. My lunch partner was so engaging, though, that I thought about the bread and a new spoon only when it was too late.

All that said, of course, I'll return to Maxim's as I always end up doing. It's a step down from the original Max's--and it's no less expensive--but the difference is compensated for by the proximity to work.

The restaurant is nearly empty at lunchtime, by the way, so come anytime you like. Cole slaw and pickles come with your dish upon request.

1620 Saratoga Ave.
San Jose, CA, 95129
(408) 379-8886

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bamboo Garden--Mountain View, CA

Last weekend the four of us ate dinner at a restaurant, near Rengstorff Avenue and Central Expressway, that recently changed hands. With Bamboo Garden featuring Shanghainese cuisine, we ordered the obligatory shao lung bao, each of which was too large to be considered authentic but was hot and loaded with soup. The crab shao lung bao did not have the distinctive crab flavor that was expected. Moreover, Jenny actually liked the standard pork shao lung bao more than the crab. Otherwise, both dumplings were good. The skin was robust enough to keep the soup inside but wasn't overly thick.

The fish fillet in wine sauce was a slight disappointment. The fish was tender but overall the dish was far too salty. The wood ear (or moo shu of "moo shu pork" fame) in the dish was served clustered and came off big and clumpy.

We offered to options to the kids. The Shanghai fried noodles were adequate--the kids enjoyed them--but not chewy. The other dish for the boys was the Shanghai fried rice. Perhaps a healthier option than standard fried rice, the dish can also taste bland. However, at Bamboo Garden the Shanghai fried rice was flavorful. It helped that they loaded the plate with bacon.

The service was fast and cheerful. As is often found at Shanghainese restaurants, Bamboo Garden provided a window through which one could watch a cook process dough and make dumplings. Our search for the HC Dumpling of 2006 continues, though. Bamboo Garden certainly doesn't meet that standard. However, we'll probably likely return out of convenience.

Bamboo Garden
108 N Rengstorff Ave
Mountain View, CA 94043

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Agape Grill--Sunnyvale, CA

On a beautiful warm afternoon last Wednesday Jenny and I met for lunch in the largely industrial neighborhood near Stewart and Wolfe in Sunnyvale. I ordered the grilled snapper, which was one of the specials of the day.

Food came quickly. The server with my lemon soup walked with me as I found my table after ordering at the counter. The soup was simple, but on the mark--hot with a strong lemon flavor and a thick consistency not far from that of chowder. The grilled snapper was a little overdone and bony.

The pita bread was the star of the lunch. It was soft and fluffy and went well with the hummus. A server even thought to give us an additional serving without asking. The large entree plus the bread and hummus had me going away full--very full. The meal was well worth the $10 price tag.

Jenny's "lamb tender" also featured a big plate, but the lamb was slightly overdone and chewy--uncommon for a skewered meat.

You can visit Agape--and I recommend you do--anytime you like. The restaurant has six tables outside but virtually unlimited seating inside (and I mean it--the restaurant could have seated at least fifty additional diners during the lunch hour). There's plenty of parking, too, making Agape a great choice during a lunchtime pinch.

845 Stewart Dr
Ste A
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
(408) 739-3354

Friday, November 5, 2010

Liang's Village Cuisine--Cupertino, CA

Perhaps more than anything else, curiosity compelled us to drop by Liang’s last Saturday for dinner. At dinnertime on the weekends, throngs of people would wait outside without complaint. Could such a long wait be worth it? Well, yes, it turns out.

To compare against other restaurants with similar menus, I tried a standard: the beef noodle soup (above), which featured tender chunks of meat in a hot, beefy broth. The thin noodles were silky smooth, chewy and didn’t clump. As good as the soup was—I’d get it again—it wasn’t even the second best offering on the table.

Better than the beef noodle soup was the ox tail (above), which was tender and delicious, due in part to the fat, which was in ample supply. The meat was well seasoned and had a flavor containing a hint of tomato.

The star of the evening, though, was the beef roll. Rolled into fluffy, oily onion pancakes were slices of tender meat, which were slightly sweet. Although the combination was simple, it was nevertheless scrumptious, filling and a fantastic value at $6.50.

As for the kids, they didn’t fare so badly either. They began by sharing a dish of tomato ground pork with thin noodles and quickly slammed it down. Since they enjoyed it so much, we ordered another. However, this time the dish came with thick noodles, which were more like ribbons roughly an inch wide. Oh, my! They were delightfully chewy and had Jenny and I had to show a lot of restraint to keep from moving in on our kids’ dinner. There’s always next time, though, when we’ll be sure to have our soups with the thick noodles.

That “next time” will require us to get to Liang’s early. Saturday we got there at 5:20 but still had to wait for ten minutes to be seated. The preceding weekend we got there at 6:00 or so and were told the wait would be half an hour. The overwhelming demand for a table at Liang’s Kitchen is well justified. From what I saw, Liang’s prepares everything well, provides an excellent value and has servers who are cheerful, too.

Liang's Village Cuisine
19772 Stevens Creek Blvd
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 725-9999