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Friday, April 13, 2007

Chicken Fried Steak A message to your inner fat man.

There is no dish in the American that less New Age Foodie than the Chicken Fried Steak, (CFS). Originally developed as a way to make bad cuts of meat edible, the Southern poor, both black and white, fried up some thin sliced beef covered in a delicious fat soaked breading. It has always been my theory that anything breaded and fried would taste good. A piano would be tasty cooked this way. Deep frying was not an option in most cook houses. In a Texas Summer you want to get things cooked with as little heat as is possible. That's where the fry pan with a couple of inches of hot lard comes in. That's right, lard. Ideally one should be able to look out the kitchen window and see the brown flecked with white stubble of a cotton field.

The following is not a recipe, as such, but is more of a roadmap to CFS nirvana. Round steak, flank steak, anything beef that can be cut about 1/2" to 5/8" thick. At this point the meat must b be pre-chewed using hardware. The back of a cleaver or a tenderizing hammer works fine. A cube steak machine works, but is cheating, and generates a slab of steak with an industrial look that denies the dish's rural roots. CFS was developed by the ancestors of Yellow Dog Democrat farmers who took new cars and pickups from the showroom and drove them through the fields and brush so they didn't look like they were new anymore.
A hot frypan with enough barely smoking lard to cover the meat must be prepared before the meat is drug through flour, dipped in milk, and floured again. From there to the pan. The lard should stop smoking when the meat hits it and cools the fat. You have to cook by color of the breading, and flip the CFS. A decade at a master's side helps a lot.

Now you have a nicely breaded piece of beef, fried like chicken. You are not half done.

The white gravy is really the charm of the dish. Salt, pepper, lard, flour and whole milk are the only ingredients. Either you know how to make this stuff from the list of ingredients, or nothing I'm writing here will help.

Generous slathering of the CFS with the gravy is one way to tell if your cook knows what he is doing or not. This dish cannot be microwaved as a leftover without losing its soul, so just order what you can eat. A field hand's dinner would cover a 14" plate, without leaving a spot that would hold a dime without getting gravy on FDR's shoulder.

Gettin' good CFS outside the South is a real crap-shoot. I've had breaded burger patties with a dab of leftover breakfast sausage gravy passed off as CFS in a cafe in Oregon. In Colorado a pre-formed and breaded "cutlet" with a splash of yellow canned "turkey gravy". From my experience, acceptable CFSs can be had in local chain restaurants in Texas and Louisiana although the cafeterias so popular in the old South don't do the dish well because the breading loses all its nature in a stainless steel pan under heat lamps. High end steak housed don't do CFS. Oh, they've got all the ingredients, even if their beef is far too tender, but they are generally snobs, unwilling to cook such a plebeian, and cheap, dish.

The ultimate CFS can be had at The Ranchman's Cafe in Ponder Texas. ( ) I will defend this fact to my deathbed. Called by locals "The Ponder Steak House", breaded perfection lives. I get nothing for this endorsement, except for the pleasure the evangelist gets by bringing another soul into the flock. If you happen to get there on a day when they have banana pudding, then the gods have truly smiled upon you. The owners even make soap from the surplus grease, and sell it at the register. From the first booth on the right, if you draw concentric rings spaced by a hundred miles from its neighbor, you will get a rough estimation of what you can expect in a cafe. Quality falls off at about 25% from ring to ring. Less so going East into the Old Slave South. Going North and Northeast into yankee land the decline is much greater. Here in the Northwest, stick to the salmon.

All that said, this dish, eaten regularly will shave years off your life. but had twice or three times a year, will make those years you have worthwhile.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Things you must believe to be a good modern conservative:

While the government can't run the Post Office, it could run all
women's reproductive organs.

All Democrats are liberals; All liberals are socialists; All
socialists are communists; and all communists are spies. All spies
must be executed.

I own my property, and have the right to pollute, strip mine, dam up
water and destroy all wildlife trespassing on my property at any time.
My coal fired Hummer don't hurt a thing.

No local government has the right to restrict personal possession of
weapons no matter what state of disorder those firearms may

I will take my leadership on military matters and family values from a
thrice divorced dope fiend and draft dodger. He shall be my guiding
political light even though he wasn't even registered to vote until he
settled on regurgitation up white middle class male resentment on AM

There is light at the end of all tunnels.

Anybody can do any job, as long as he is well connected.

Competence is a matter of opinion.

All blacks are just waiting for reparations to buy next week's crack.

Democratic party deficits are evil, while Republican deficits are sublime.

George Walker Bush is BRILLIANT!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Flipping the "OPEN" sign

My inaugural post will be a sort of re-write of a polemic that I sent to about a hundred of my closest friends. I'm running into significant ignorance on what it takes to make a fission weapon, and the threat the "Axis of Evil" I'm writing friends to give some technical information and to cool down some of the over the top rhetoric. I'm sure many of you already know this stuff, but bear with me.

The White House noise machine is having a hard time selling their much-wanted war with Iran what with all the scandals and inability to focus the public agenda after losing the House and Senate. Now a big deal is being made out of the Iranian announcement that they have 3000 centrifuges up and running to enrich Uranium. I don't know if you follow these things, but natural uranium is a blend of naturally occurring isotopes that are the same the world over, with a couple of rare exceptions in Gabon. Normally the ratio of U238 (doorstop) to U235 (go boom!) is roughly 40:1. To run a reactor uranium must be enriched to about 35:1 and a sustainable fission reaction can be maintained. It takes about 96% U235 to make Hiroshima bombs. This is sort of like the difference between 3.2 beer and Everclear. One could make a reasonable amount of fuel for one reactor to run on a regular basis with three thousand centrifuges. You would be lucky to make one low yield A Bomb. One Bomb is a suicide note, not a defense strategy. Once you have your sub critical masses of 97% pure U235 anyone with garage sized, machine shop, and absolute faith in a deity that will forgive their sorry asses can build an A Bomb. Ten kilos would do the trick for an engineer, say fifteen for the hobbyist. The other thing you need is a length of 4" gun barrel. Enriching that much uranium to bomb grade is a massive undertaking. Pakistan is the poorest country to successfully tackle that project, and they destroyed their economy doing it. Even with the wink-wink-nudge-nudge aid the US and EU gave The Pakistanis had to eat grass and sleep in ditches to get a few bombs. Summing up: Difficult and expensive to make the fuel, easy to make the device.

The other horror show is North Korea. Now they signed a treaty with the Clinton administration not to make enriched uranium. Kim Jung Ill thought the had a end run around the treaty by making plutonium in their funky reactors. A reactor can be operated in such a way that it produces lots of plutonium. The Pu can be separated fairly cheaply and easily (compared to U235). As The Dear Leader found out, making a working bomb from plutonium is not easy. The absolute amount of Pu needed is less, in weight, than U235. Plutonium is brought to criticality by a symmetrical high explosive lens that crushes the Pu to critical mass. This action is very tricky, and easy to screw up.

The BBC website has a good overview of fission devices, and they get all the numbers right.

The real threat out there are loose old Soviet nukes that, given the current state of the world, will eventually find their way into the hands of people willing to sell them. Bush and his boys haven't been big on controlling these weapons. It just doesn't fit with the forever war hysteria that tyrants everywhere so love. There is solid support in congress for policing the old Soviet stockpile, but there is no military fun or Haliburton money in controlling existing nukes.

We must have a working knowledge of this stuff to make wise political decisions. We in the USA are notoriously, and proudly ignorant about of science. It is criminally negligent for a country with our awesome responsibilities to remain uneducated.