Saturday, January 31, 2015

How to Make Fried Chicken

How to Make Fried Chicken

Three simple steps—dunk, dredge, fry—are all it takes to produce the crisp, juicy fried chicken of your dreams. Here’s a foolproof recipe and illustrated how-to

By Gail Monaghan in the Wall Street Journal

IN ALL ITS golden glory, Southern fried chicken is a comfort food that contains multitudes. Some like it hot, with mashed potatoes and gravy. At room temperature, it’s perfect party or picnic fare. There are all the different parts to choose from, too. When I was growing up, our housekeeper, Marge, who hailed from outside Atlanta, stuck to thighs only; I favor the bony wings and backs normally used for stock; and then there are those who prefer white meat. But a crackling exterior always goes a long way toward selling whatever piece of poultry lies within.
This “All-American” food was actually enjoyed by inhabitants of Europe and Asia long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The recipe took hold stateside soon enough, though, appearing in the 1828 printing of Mary Randolph ’s “The Virginia Housewife” with instructions to dredge fresh chicken pieces in flour, season with salt and pan-fry in hot fat until golden.
Variations now abound. Twentieth-century doyenne of Southern cooking Edna Lewis fried her chicken in a pound of lard and a stick of butter after two overnight soaks—first in brine, then in buttermilk—and a flour-cornstarch-salt-and-pepper dredging. Some cooks add mustard, cayenne, smoked paprika, celery seeds or onion powder to the dredge. Dunking the chicken in beaten egg before dredging will help to form a thicker crust upon frying. Replacing the flour with bread crumbs, corn meal or even crushed Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes cranks up the crunch.
Ms. Lewis’s fried chicken is delicious, but I prefer not to spend half a week making mine. Instead I follow the lead of Marge, who skipped the brining and marinating. On Wednesday nights when I was in grade school, she fried up batches of the best chicken on the planet—or at least in our neighborhood. Friends followed me home from school on Wednesdays angling for a dinner invite. I still use the recipe Marge wrote out for me when I left for college, the very one reproduced at right. It’s so easy: Just dunk the pieces in milk then pop them into the dredging mixture. Marge shook her chicken in a paper bag for quick and thorough coating; my only update is a switch to Ziploc. Either way, just enough breading will cling to the meat to produce a crust that fries up thin, crisp and impossible to resist.
The Ingredients
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 (3½-pound) chicken, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cups vegetable oil, lard or shortening
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
The Steps
1. Pour milk into a bowl large enough to hold chicken as well. Add cayenne or Tabasco, if using. Add chicken and turn to coat. Remove chicken pieces and set on a wire rack to allow excess milk to drain off, 5 minutes.
2. In a large Ziploc bag, combine flour, cornstarch, 1½ teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, to flour mixture in bag, seal and shake to coat. Shake off any excess and set on wire rack.
3. Set a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add ¾ inch oil. (Oil should come no more than halfway up sides of chicken pieces.) Heat to 375 degrees, using a hot-oil thermometer to monitor temperature. Slip a few chicken pieces, skin-side down, into hot oil. (Do not crowd pan.) Cook, turning frequently, until chicken is golden all over, about 20 minutes. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook until meat is cooked through, 5-15 minutes more. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.

The entire article with graphics can be found at:

Million-Dollar Homes Built on a Factory Floor

Million-Dollar Homes Built on a Factory Floor

Manufacturers of prefab homes in Europe offer spacious floor plans and high-end finishes—nothing cookie cutter about these million-dollar homes.

By Javier Espinoza in the Wall Street Journal
modern mansions sprang from modest beginnings—built in a distant warehouse and shipped in pieces.
In England, a 3,747-square-foot house in Winchester has three bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, as well as a gym, a wine cellar and gardens on about a third of an acre. Initially, the house was built on a factory floor in Westerwald, Germany, by a company called Huf Haus. Its owner, Vaughan Price, had seen a TV show about prefabricated homes and in 2005 decided to spend about $2 million, including cost of the land, for one of his own.
“It’s like Lego,” says Mr. Price, a 52-year-old businessman. “The neighbors were fascinated.”
Prefab homes, long available in Germany, the U.S., Scandinavia and other countries, are relative newcomers in the United Kingdom, becoming popular only in the past 10 years, says Afra Bindewald, a business-development executive with Huf Haus. The company, which has been in the U.K. for 15 years, builds about 150 houses a year; Germany, Switzerland and the U.K. are the most popular destinations.
Global distribution creates its own set of challenges. Houses need to comply with local building codes, explains Steven Harding, a spokesman with Baufritz, another German firm that makes prefab houses. Owners are responsible for securing the building site and preparing the lot for when the trucks arrive. Since most design and d├ęcor decisions are made upfront, there is little flexibility for significant changes. List prices for a Baufritz house are between $600,000 and $7.5 million.
To deliver Mr. Price’s house, local authorities closed roadways and diverted power lines as 15 trucks made the tight squeeze to reach the homesite. In the end, the vehicles got into the lane and craned the whole house into place in about three days.
Mr. Price encountered difficulties getting a mortgage because local banks aren’t used to the idea of prefab houses. “Eventually we found a bank prepared to accept that the house would be of high standard,” he says. Mr. Price is now selling the home—asking £1.6 million, or about $2.4 million—because he is relocating.
Mil Kieffer, a mechanical engineer, hired Baufritz to build his 5,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home in Luxembourg. “I was very busy so I wanted a turnkey house,” Mr. Kieffer, 50 years old, says.
Mr. Kieffer traveled to Erkheim, a small town in Bavaria near Munich, over a couple of weekends to select a floorplan from several options. Next he saw samples of cabinetry, hardware, tile and other finishes, as well as selected paint colors. Even the location of light fixtures and wall outlets was decided at the factory.
Although many of Europe's modern mansions are prefab homes, built in a factory and shipped in parts, there is nothing cookie-cutter about the finished product. Photo: Alexa Vachon for The Wall Street Journal
Before that could happen, though, Mr. Kieffer had to acquire a building lot—a particular challenge in this instance. He wanted to build on an area just on the outskirts of Luxembourg’s business district, but close enough to be able to walk to his office.
It took him about three years to find it. “We saw this old house on the plot and wanted for a long time to buy it to then demolish it,” he says. “It wasn’t for sale but then someone died and those who inherited the house put it up for sale in an auction.” Mr. Kieffer paid $1.1 million for the land and another $1.69 million to build, move and assemble his house, which includes a workout room, as well as a sauna and library.
Peter Matthews and his wife, Susan, encountered another surprising hurdle to erecting a prefab home. In February 2007, they were about to knock down a 1970s bungalow on 1.34 acres in West Sussex, England, with plans to assemble a 3,500-square-foot prefab home. But before demolition began, surveyors discovered bat droppings on the roof of the house.
“This meant we couldn’t demolish it because bats are protected species and had to wait for about seven months until they finished mating,” says Mr. Matthews, a 70-year-old retired marine engineer.
Eventually, though, the Matthews hired Oakwrights, a prefab company based in Herefordshire, to design and build the framework for their four-bedroom, open-plan home. The company builds about 80 of houses a year, ranging from $300,000 to $3 million for oak-frame houses. Mr. Matthews says their home cost over $1.5 million.
When the house was finished in October 2008, the council required the couple to put out six bat boxes—costing about $75 apiece. “The stupid things have never been used for bats,” says Mr. Matthews. “Instead they’ve turned into expensive nests for birds.”
After six years in the home, the couple decided to sell, saying it’s time to downsize. Their house is listed with Strutt & Parker for $2.179 million. Rather than remarking that the home was prefabricated, potential buyers note the oak framing, which creates “the feel of a traditional oak barn,” says Colin Sharp, the listing agent.

America’s Strategy Deficit

America’s Strategy Deficit

A haphazard foreign policy makes a complicated world more dangerous.

By Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal

Something is going on here.
On Tuesday retired Gen. James Mattis, former head of U.S. Central Command (2010-13) told the Senate Armed Services Committee of his unhappiness at the current conduct of U.S. foreign policy. He said the U.S. is not “adapting to changed circumstances” in the Mideast and must “come out now from our reactive crouch.” Washington needs a “refreshed national strategy”; the White House needs to stop being consumed by specific, daily occurrences that leave it “reacting” to events as if they were isolated and unconnected. He suggested deep bumbling: “Notifying the enemy in advance of our withdrawal dates” and declaring “certain capabilities” off the table is no way to operate.
Sitting beside him was Gen. Jack Keane, also a respected retired four-star, and a former Army vice chief of staff, who said al Qaeda has “grown fourfold in the last five years” and is “beginning to dominate multiple countries.” He called radical Islam “the major security challenge of our generation” and said we are failing to meet it.
The same day the generals testified, Kimberly Dozier of the Daily Beast reported that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a retired director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had told a Washington conference: “You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists.” The audience of military and intelligence professionals applauded. Officials, he continued, are “paralyzed” by the complexity of the problems connected to militant Islam, and so do little, reasoning that “passivity is less likely to provoke our enemies.”
These statements come on the heels of the criticisms from President Obama’s own former secretaries of defense. Robert Gates, in “Duty,” published in January 2014, wrote of a White House-centric foreign policy developed by aides and staffers who are too green or too merely political. One day in a meeting the thought occurred that Mr. Obama “doesn’t trust” the military, “doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his.” That’s pretty damning. Leon Panetta , in his 2014 memoir, “Worthy Fights,” said Mr. Obama “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”
No one thinks this administration is the A Team when it comes to foreign affairs, but this is unprecedented push-back from top military and intelligence players. They are fed up, they’re less afraid, they’re retired, and they’re speaking out. We are going to be seeing more of this kind of criticism, not less.
On Thursday came the testimony of three former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger (1973-77), George Shultz (1982-89) and Madeleine Albrigh t (1997-2001). Senators asked them to think aloud about what America’s national-security strategy should be, what approaches are appropriate to the moment. It was good to hear serious, not-green, not-merely-political people give a sense of the big picture. Their comments formed a kind of bookend to the generals’ criticisms.
They seemed to be in agreement on these points:
We are living through a moment of monumental world change.
Old orders are collapsing while any new stability has yet to emerge.
When you’re in uncharted waters your boat must be strong.
If America attempts to disengage from this dangerous world it will only make all the turmoil worse.
Mr. Kissinger observed that in the Mideast, multiple upheavals are unfolding simultaneously—within states, between states, between ethnic and religious groups. Conflicts often merge and produce such a phenomenon as the Islamic State, which in the name of the caliphate is creating a power base to undo all existing patterns.
Mr. Shultz said we are seeing an attack on the state system and the rise of a “different view of how the world should work.” What’s concerning is “the scope of it.”
Mr. Kissinger: “We haven’t faced such diverse crises since the end of the Second World War.” The U.S. is in “a paradoxical situation” in that “by any standard of national capacity . . . we can shape international relations,” but the complexity of the present moment is daunting. The Cold War was more dangerous, but the world we face now is more complicated.
How to proceed in creating a helpful and constructive U.S. posture?
Mr. Shultz said his attitude when secretary of state was, “If you want me in on the landing, include me in the takeoff.” Communication and consensus building between the administration and Congress is key. He added: “The government seems to have forgotten about the idea of ‘execution.’ ” It’s not enough that you say something, you have to do it, make all the pieces work.
When you make a decision, he went on, “stick with it.” Be careful with words. Never make a threat or draw a line you can’t or won’t make good on.
In negotiations, don’t waste time wondering what the other side will accept, keep your eye on what you can and work from there.
Keep the U.S. military strong, peerless, pertinent to current challenges.
Proceed to negotiations with your agenda clear and your strength unquestionable.
Mr. Kissinger: “In our national experience . . . we have trouble doing a national strategy” because we have been secure behind two big oceans. We see ourselves as a people who respond to immediate, specific challenges and then go home. But foreign policy today is not a series of discrete events, it is a question of continuous strategy in the world.
America plays the role of “stabilizer.” But it must agree on its vision before it can move forward on making it reality. There are questions that we must as a nation answer:
As we look at the world, what is it we seek to prevent? What do we seek to achieve? What can we prevent or achieve only if supported by an alliance? What values do we seek to advance? “This will require public debate.”
All agreed the cost-cutting burdens and demands on defense spending forced by the sequester must be stopped. National defense “should have a strategy-driven budget, not a budget-driven strategy,” said Mr. Kissinger.
He added that in the five wars since World War II, the U.S. began with “great enthusiasm” and had “great national difficulty” in ending them. In the last two, “withdrawal became the principal definition of strategy.” We must avoid that in the future. “We have to know the objective at the start and develop a strategy to achieve it.”
Does the U.S. military have enough to do what we must do?
“It’s not adequate to deal with all the challenges I see,” said Mr. Kissinger, “or the commitments into which we may be moving.”
Sequestration is “legislative insanity,” said Mr. Shultz. “You have to get rid of it.”
Both made a point of warning against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which Mr. Shultz called “those awful things.” The Hiroshima bomb, he said, was a plaything compared with the killing power of modern nuclear weapons. A nuclear device detonated in Washington would “wipe out” the area. Previous progress on and attention to nuclear proliferation has, he said, been “derailed.”
So we need a strategy, and maybe more than one. We need to know what we’re doing and why. After this week with the retired generals and the former secretaries, the message is: Awake. See the world’s facts as they are. Make a plan.

Two Letters Re: Canned Food

In response to a recent article on expired food, I just want to say that not all foods are the same. Recently I decided to take an expired case of Chef Boyardee Meat Ravioli on a extended road trip. The case expired in 2012, which was about 2.5 years past its “use by” date. I’ve eaten these plenty of times, so the food was as palatable as could be expected. However within two hours of eating one can I developed a headache. Headaches are very rare for me, so I didn’t pay any attention. The next day after eating another can, the same thing occurred– a mild headache. I took note and decided to experiment. On the third day, I didn’t eat any of the cans, and I had no headaches. On the fourth day, both I and my wife ate a can, and both of us got mild headaches. I did some research once I got home and discovered that the lining of the metal can may deteriorate after a while, so my unscientific assumption is that the headaches can be blamed on that fact. It’s something to keep in mind. On the other hand, last week I tried baking bread using a Costco-bought 2-lb package of yeast that expired in November of 2012, and it worked very well. – B.
o o o
Good morning, Hugh,
In today’s blog there was a post titled “Canned Food Alternatives” from “JM”. It’s a good piece, and I’d like to add to it, if I may.
I, too, use multiple food storage practices. For canned food, I never return from the supermarket without some extra cans, and I prefer units of 24 cans if the budget (and market shelf supplies) permit, and I always buy brand names on sale. In my area, most supermarket chains start their sales on Wednesday, and their ads are online.
Approximately 500 individual cans are in the pantry to meet daily needs, along with what’s in the freezer. For “pantry overflow”, I use what I term “food units” as the base: eight 15.5 ounce cans of protein (chili, with and without beans; hash, corned beef, roast beef, sausage; tuna; and so forth), eight 15.5 ounce cans of vegetables (corn, green beans, lima beans, baked beans, beets, and so on), eight 15.5 ounce cans of fruit (fruit cocktail, pears, peaches, mandarin oranges, pineapple, and so forth). Since 15.5 ounce cans are 4.5 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter, 24 cans fit perfectly in a box 12″L X 9″W X 9″ high. (Tuna cans are a different size and have to “squeeze” in on the edge.) The box weighs about 27 pounds. A 25-pack of these cardboard boxes can be had for about $20 on a “ship to store free” basis at Staples, the last time I bought some. Pro tip on canned food: buy what your family likes and will eat, not necessarily what a nutritionist might recommend they eat. The goal in times of high stress will be calories and especially, calories from protein, which frequently comes with some fat.
If all components of a “food unit” aren’t on sale, I’ll buy what is and set it aside for a couple weeks to wait for sales on the rest. A local chain recently advertised a sale on Del Monte fruit at 10 cans for $8. I came home with 100 cans. I always check the manufacturer’s date on each can; I’m currently buying all three types of canned food with mid- to late-2017 “sell by” dates, but I’ve seen lots of shorter dates and a number of expired dates. I’m confident that brand name canned food will still be good 2-3 years past the “sell by” date if properly stored, but I’ve never had any stored much past a couple months beyond the date; it usually gets eaten long before its expiration in the “first in, first consumed” rotation scheme. I also write the purchase month and year on the top of each can with a permanent marker when I bring it home. It’s a bit OCD, perhaps, but there’s no confusion that way as to what on the shelf is oldest.
Each box is sealed with shipping tape, top and bottom, and before the box is sealed four can openers are included. I buy P38 and P51 military openers in quantities of 100 and tape two of each to the underside of the top. I also insert several plastic spoons, forks, and knives in between the cans. (A local restaurant supply house has them available in boxes of 1000 each; the total cost for a thousand of each type of utensil was about $38. Split among a few families, it’s cheap.) The box is then marked on both ends with the purchase date; “54”, for example, indicates that everything in the box was purchased in May 2014. The box is also marked with what it contains– “FU” (a food unit with eight cans each of protein, vegetables, and fruit), “V” indicating 24 cans of all types of vegetables, or “F” indicating 24 cans of all types of fruit. A large black dot indicates that the box also has openers and utensils. So a box might be marked FU54(dot), V103(dot), or F93(dot). It’s not a secret code, but it’s not necessarily obvious as to contents either.
This configuration allows “grab and go” of food, with the knowledge that the food is both accessible (openers), usable (utensils), and current (purchase date), and there is easy rotation from the storage closet to the pantry shelf as pantry supplies are consumed. I can also confidently share or barter these boxes if necessary (although I consider sharing or bartering with food a very hazardous undertaking unless it’s within the circle of those whom one knows personally and can trust; public knowledge of surplus food availabilty can easily generate very unpleasant consequences if not conducted under well-controlled circumstances. For that reason, should I share, I will do it as anonymously as possible through local churches.) Giving someone a box of canned food is useless unless they also have the means to open the cans and consume the contents. Canned food is cooked before canning, so unpalatable as cold hash may be, it’s still completely edible and nutritious. The 15.5 ounce can size allows for breakfast and dinner of protein, vegetable, and fruit for two people. While refrigeration, or at least some form of cooling or temperature control, is certainly desirable, an open can in a well-insulated container (small cooler) unaccessible to insects or vermin should keep for 6-10 hours without refrigeration, assuming moderate temperatures, if necessity dictates, to allow for two meals. When camping, we’ve used the evaporative cooling effect of wet canvas or burlap to lower storage temperatures several degrees.
The other side of the food equation is, as JM pointed out, dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. I have a substantial quantity of each and add to that stock monthly as budget (and Internet deals) permit. I concentrate on protein, as I believe that type of food will be the most difficult to obtain and be the most needed, should social and economic conditions deteriorate substantially. I try to purchase a couple # 2 1/2 size cans for trial, to see what tastes good. Then I buy cases of larger #10 cans for economy. Just as with canned food, I tape several P38 and P52 openers to the underside of the box lid of each case. As with canned goods, don’t buy what your family doesn’t like. I also have a few Mountain House “72 hour packs”, which I have modified into “96 hour packs” by putting the contents of five boxes into three boxes. To each box is added utensils, a cheap metal cup, a sandwich bag of fire tinder, a P38 opener, an inexpensive knife, matches in a waterproof pill bottle, a pill bottle containing Vaseline-impregnated cotton balls, and a cheap flashlight. (Home Depot had 6-packs of cheap LED flashlights for $9; I got three.) Pro tip: don’t put the batteries in the flashlight; put the batteries, including spares, in a separate plastic bag with painter’s tape over each end to prevent shorting. Replace batteries annually, and reserve the expensive, good flashlights (Surefire, Streamlight, and the like) for daily on-body carry. I am never without a tube of Dark Repellant in my pocket.
I also have a couple of 12X9X9 “accessory boxes” with toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, vitamins, bar soap, shampoo, a couple rolls of toilet paper, an inexpensive headlamp, more utensils and can openers, a few spare batteries, and more, including the usual civil necessities my camping experience has shown necessary and valuable. I don’t intend to “run for the hills” when stress rises, but conditions may dictate a change in plans, and it pays to stay flexible. As the Marines say, “Adapt, Improvise, Overcome.” It’s a good motto.
Water is always a concern, and a 36″W X 14″D X 84″H wire rack shelving unit from the restaurant supply house currently holds fifteen 5-gallon jugs of drinking water, along with several FU boxes. Jugs are dated, of course, and used and replaced in rotation, with preference given to jugs with built-in side handles to allow carrying two at once. The plan is for “utility water”, should it be required (toilets, bathing) to come from a neighbor’s pool, but I’m looking into other storage options. Your correspondent, N.K.

From the Survival Blog