Content from 2011-01

How to Make Delicious Chicken Tenders
posted on 2011-01-28 00:20:32
For about two years I've been occasionally throwing parties to play video games or watch TV and movies. Over that time, I started luring people in with the promise of Fried Chicken and I think I've refined this recipe enough that it's pretty good. There are a good number of other things I cook but they tend to be stolen recipes (say from the Pioneer Woman or Alton Brown) and this is the only one I can come close to calling my own. At any rate, here we go.

This recipe makes ~3 lbs of chicken tenders which works out to between 18 and 24 pieces. There are three parts to these tenders. There is a hot sauce we'll marinade them in, the breading and the tenders themselves. Aside from the list of ingredients you'll need a deep frying pan, tongs, a mixing bowl, the usual measuring cups and some gallon freezer bags. I tend to get a bag as close to ~3lbs as I can of Chicken Tenderloins the same day I plan to cook them and leave them in the sink to thaw for 4-5 hours before I cook them. The breading and hot sauce don't take very long so they can be done early or just before cooking the chicken.

First comes the sauce...

3 Tbs. Butter
3 Tbs. Olive Oil
4 (large-ish) to 6 (small-ish) cloves garlic, minced
2 Tsp each: Cayenne Pepper, Sea Salt or Kosher Salt, Black Pepper
2 Bottles of Texas Pete Buffalo Wing Sauce. Approx 18 oz. each.

Start by melting the butter and olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic and sautee it until golden brown. Mmm...Garlic

Normally I'm good and mince (or talk someone else into mincing) fresh garlic but I was lazy and used some of the pre-minced stuff this time. You'll be pretty distracted with other aspects of the hot sauce anyway. CHEATER!

Next you'll want to get 2 teaspoons of Cayenne Pepper, Sea Salt or Kosher Salt (Kosher here) and Ground Black Pepper ready along with 2 bottles of Texas Pete Buffalo Wing Sauce.
Flavor Country Add the spices once the garlic is golden brown, then pour in the first bottle of Texas Pete and stir. Stir Once it's blended nicely, add in the second bottle of Texas Pete and stir occasionally until it begins to boil. You can have a taste if you like but your nose should give you fair warning of what you're in for. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes, then remove it altogether and allow it to cool. This will make enough for at least 2 batches of tenders, probably 3 or 4. The sauce is excellent on a few sides as well and refrigerates fine so I just try to keep some on hand. Yummy Hot Sauce See? Plenty. That's got to be 4 cups at least.

Now let's prepare the breading...

3 Cups Flour
4 Tsps. Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
3 Tsp. Paprika
2 Tsp each: Garlic Powder, Cumin, Cayenne Pepper, Black Pepper
1/3 cup Buttermilk

The breading is good because we just the throw the damn spice rack at it. Here's our cast of characters. The Cast Start by putting 3 cups of flour in a mixing bowl and then add the other spices but hold off on the buttermilk for now. You should have a lovely splash of colors in there. Flour and Friends Now stir gently with a fork until the flour appears blended. Before you start cooking the tenders, slowly pour in the buttermilk while stirring with the fork. Better Flour + Buttermilk = Breading This will help the breading adhere to the tenders and makes a wonderful difference in how consistently your tenders retain their breading.

Finally! Let's make some chicken.

~3 lbs. Chicken Tenders/Tenderloins
1 Cup Hot Sauce
3 Tbs. Cornstarch
A bunch of vegetable or canola oil.

This is the gross and rather unpleasant part. We're going to reach into our bag of mostly thawed chicken tenderloins and drop them into a gallon freezer bag filled with a cup of Hot Sauce and 3 tablespoons of Cornstarch. Oh, did I forget that part? Grab a gallon freezer bag and mix those two together in it. Then set the two bags up in your sink and you're ready to go. The Setup Get some warm to hot water running, take each tenderloin out of the bag, give it a little rinse to make sure it isn't stiff and at the very least has all the ice off it then plop it in the marinade. Once you've done this with all the tenderloins, seal the bag (I recommend Ziploc) and shake it around a bit until everything seems well coated. Once that's done you'll want to marinade the chicken for 1-2 hours at room temperature. Lay them down flat and even somewhere and set a timer. Go do something useful. I suggest writing code or making good playlists. Do Something Else

Once the tenders are almost done marinating you can go ahead and start heating the oil and cooking other parts of the meal. It'll take 20-30 minutes to cook 3lbs of tenders 3 at a time once the oil is hot. As a side, I heartily recommend some Crispy Crowns. No Tater Tots aren't good enough and no, Kroger brand knock-offs won't quite work. Ore-Ida, contact me for payment details. Subtle Product Placement

Put your deep frying pan on the stove, add several inches of Canola or Vegetable Oil and set the stove to medium. Now we'll start breading the tenders. Pick them up from the bag and give them a little shake to drip off any excess marinade, then toss them into your mixing bowl and shake it around a bit. It's all in the wrist. Also, if anyone wants to buy me a Lumix GF1 I'll take better pictures. Promise. After the black box shaking magic, you'll get some nice, well-breaded tenders. If you're not satisfied feel free to use your hands to lightly rub or pat some breading into them. Then lay them on some plates with paper towels. Output

About now it's time to test if the oil is hot. Toss a little pinch of breading in and you should see this happen: The Oil is Hot! If it did, you are now "Go for Chicken". Lower 3 pieces in with the tongs and get excited. They should bubble up somewhat substantially. We are go for Chicken I tend to cook them about a minute and a half a side. After 3 minutes (or a little more, use your own discretion) is up, take them out one by one with the tongs letting any excess oil drip off before placing them on a serving plate to cool. Let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements. Decadence
A rant about 8tracks
posted on 2011-01-09 06:15:54
A few months back I discovered a playlist sharing service called 8tracks. It allows you to upload tracks or search among already uploaded tracks to create playlists (with a minimum of 8 songs) that you can then share with your friends. There were some light but sensible requirements on playlists, they couldn't contain more than 2 songs by the same artist or from the same album. As a listener, you could skip to the next track in a playlist but you couldn't do that more than...I think twice an hour. Otherwise, that was it. You could follow people to get informed about their new mixes and there were some commenting and tagging features. It's a simple idea but it had a slick interface and it was very easy to browse around and add your own playlist. In other words, good fun.

I immediately threw up two similar playlists I'd come up with way back in 2006 or so, listened to a playlist or two of a friends and did some work. I visited 8tracks once in a while to look for new music and meant to get around to posting more playlists of my own. I finally got around to working on a playlist over the holidays but had some nasty suprises in store when I tried to upload it. The RIAA (record labels) have forced 8tracks to remove community tracks so I have to upload each song myself AND after the playlist has been listened to once by a given listener the track order is randomized on each future listening.

Now 8tracks is doing their best to appease these foolish companies that think this will somehow help their bottom line by keeping people from listening to or discovering new music. 8tracks is also doing their best to not let this ruin the service and, if you're a Mac user, they have provided a tool that will let you drag and drop playlists from iTunes and automatically do all the song uploading for you. Why would that matter? Because even with decent upload bandwidth you're looking at spending ten minutes looking for files on your filesystem and waiting for them to upload. But I don't use iTunes, or use a Mac...or Windows for that matter.

I was really excited about 8tracks as a service and hoping to use it more in the future. I know the site is working towards rectifying the situation to restore the old functionality and I sincerely hope they find success. There are a number of reasons that this state of affairs is really terrible for them. Here are a few:

  • The whole point of a good mixtape involves the sequencing of tracks for coherency, flow, emotional potency and storytelling. Does the music industry really not understand that randomizing a mix at worst fundamentally destroys it or at best turns it into just a selection of songs?

  • I'm pretty sure it won't magically force people who otherwise *weren't* buying music (like me) into purchasing albums. Keeping people from being exposed and engaged in music is not the way to market penetration, relevance or consumer interest. Guaranteed.

  • One significant reason the site was such a joy was the simplicity of it. You simply searched for songs, dragged them into a list, arranged them and hit save. It was easy to use, attractive and fun. This is one of those "design really counts" moments. Forcing the user to open a file browser constantly and sit around waiting on uploads immediately limits the site to those with fast connections or patience and dedication. You've taken a potentially large market and limited it to a much smaller number of hardcore users.

  • Let's not even mention the fact that 8tracks has to worry about an entirely new technical problem. If they're storing each user's songs individually, how do they manage to consolidate the 8,000 uploads of Bad Romance or what have you? I'm sure you could binary diff the files or get a SHA-1 hash of them as they come in and then have duplicate files just point to an entry in a Distributed Hash Table or something. Unless they do the hashing client side (which admittedly isn't hard) they're still going to have to deal with a lot of bandwidth usage for all those identical copies being uploaded. This isn't impossible by any means, it's just unreasonable. Their is no reason this is a problem which they should have to spend their time on. It doesn't do anything to enhance the core values or draw of their site. It does *nothing* for their value proposition to me, the consumer. That said, users had the option of uploading files all along if they weren't in the "community tracks" so hopefully the developers were already doing something like this.

As I understand it, 8tracks is a side project for a number of folks and none of them yet work on it full time. It shows a delightful level of polish if that is indeed the case. A huge part of that polish came from the User Experience which has, at least in my opinion, been severely damaged by the record labels. What's so sad is that this site did nothing but allow users to discover and share new music in a fun and interesting way and it was engaging in large part because the User Experience/Design was just damn good. Given the limitations that were already there I sincerely doubt anyone was trying to avoid buying music by skipping through playlists and listening to music there. Any human over the age of 6 is smart enough to just listen to the radio (or internet radio) or navigate to or a torrent site by now. Keep shooting yourself in the foot, recording industry. Maybe one of these days you'll get a whole red cent out of it.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
posted on 2011-01-03 01:02:26

A 2010 Overview

So it's apparently 2011 now. That happened fast.

As I wrote on reddit, I think my year went very well where Lisp is concerned. Aside from Lisp, I can happily say that I'll be receiving my degree in May after completing 3 more courses: CS Capstone, an independent study on Functional Programming with Haskell and Chemistry I. I have 2 potential part time gigs for Spring and enough prospects in general that I'm not afraid of being unable to find a job when I graduate which is nice. I also have enough code projects and ideas to bury myself. I'm pretty happy ultimately with how 2010 turned out. I made some more progress in my development as a programmer and have almost wrapped up my time as an Undergraduate. Finally! It was tough breaking up with my girlfriend of 2+ years, Teresa, back in May but I still feel good about it in the sense that it was the right thing to do. Most of all, I stayed true to myself and I had fun.

Upcoming Code Stuff

Now for a brief update on Paktahn, Weblocks, Clockwork and the CL Web Primer series...
First of all, the CL Web Primer series is not over. I haven't given up I've just been busy with other projects and some end of year decompression. There's actually going to wind up being one more post about Clockwork itself once I implement the last feature (and maybe do some CSS styling to make it look less like ass). By that point, the Postmodern backend which has been merged into Weblocks should be production ready. The main issue now is that you have to manage the DB connections for each request thread manually which is a real pain. I'm working on fixing it at the moment by extending the Store API and hooking into handle-client-request. Hopefully that will be done tomorrow or at least by the end of this week and get merged shortly after.

Once the Postmodern backend is going and the last clockwork post is made I have ideas for several projects to make use of the Postmodern store. One is a RESTful blog with Wordpress import and crossposting support for Livejournal. Another is a Magic the Gathering card/deck database similar to Deckbox. There are a few other ideas but I'll likely do one of these two and continue the CL Web Primer series with it.

Ah, Paktahn. I would be a little frustrated with us if I were a user. It's been a while since I've had time to hack on bugs or new features and there are 4 or 5 important bugs I'd like to squash so we can get a release out before school starts back up. It'd be particularly nice to get some fresh blood on the project. I can instruct or help reasonably well I just think Leslie and I are pretty preoccupied with other projects. It's a question of time mostly, so if there are any Archlinux using Lispers that have any interest *please* feel free to contact me on twitter, facebook, gmail, fork it on github, leave a comment, etc.

Holiday Hacking

Personal hacks...
Over the holidays, I did a good bit of hacking on emacs and dotfiles. I also switched from using Chromium to using Conkeror as my browser and from Pidgin to Erc+Jabber.el (emacs modes) as my chat clients to force me into the Emacs mindset a little bit more. For a long time, I've had emacs and stumpwm installed but not really treated them as extensible lisp software that I should be playing with. I also improved my server config and its corresponding build process a bit. You're probably asking why do this. There are a lot of reasons why. All I'll say about it for now is that Archlinux+SBCL+Emacs+Stumpwm+Conkeror is about as close as you can get to a modern day lisp machine and it is a lot of fun.

Other than that, I threw together a version of tic-tac-toe that should never lose as part of a job application. I'd never written any Search algorithms before and knew nothing of Minimax so that was a fun learning experience. As usual, the code is on github. One other thing I've toyed with is a backup script which is made easier by the fact that I recently started using SSH agent. Between that and another Common Lisp script I use called randomfile, I ought to throw those up in my dotfiles in a scripts directory and then make a blog post about CL *nix Scripting or something. Who knows, by 2012 maybe I'll have gotten around to it. ;)
Albums of the Year
posted on 2011-01-02 19:36:10
I haven't written an Albums of the Year post since the end of 2005. Generally, I don't write Albums of the Year posts either because I'm lazy and don't feel like it or am a bit sensitive about running my mouth. Obviously, such a post is stuck in the realm of subjectivity and opinion but even though I listen to *a lot* of music I never am as versed as I feel I ought to be to write one of these.

This year I've tried to be more open about my music taste though, particularly through a series of "Song of the Day" posts on Facebook, a complete log of which I've been keeping here. Each entry is a song that either came on shuffle and reminded me of why and how much I enjoy it or something that was stuck in my head. I try to limit myself to a few songs per artist so as to not flood people with whatever I've just discovered/rediscovered. It's not a perfect picture of what I've been listening to this year...but then neither is my data on

As in previous years, a big part of this year's listening10 will be catching up on albums from the prior year that I missed. I check in on a few end of year lists over the holidays and always find a lot of good stuff that slipped past my radar. As a consequence, I'll be listing 5 albums from last year that I may have downloaded but only really "clicked" for me or were discovered in 2010 along with 10 albums actually released in 2010. Then I may list a few albums I've already found for 2011 that slipped past me or some expected home run albums that weren't. I'll update this post to expand a bit on each entry in the next week or so. Let's begin.

Top 10 Albums of 2010:
1. Laura Veirs - July Flame: I can't believe I haven't seen this on other end of year lists. It's an incredible and beautiful album that deserves far more recognition than it is getting. I've listened to this at least once a month since I discovered it. It consistently thrills and delights me.
2. The Morning Benders - Big Echo
3. Teebs - Ardour
4. The National - High Violet
5. Four Tet - There Is Love In You
6. Shad - TSOL
7. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
8. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
9. Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History
10. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker

Top 5 Albums of 2009 discovered in 2010:
1. Metric - Fantasies
2. Jay-Z - Blueprint 3
3. Jon Hopkins - Insides
4. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
5. Bloody Beetroots - Romborama

Top 5 Albums of 2010 I'm likely to discover in 2011:
1. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
2. Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here?
3. Janelle Monae - The Archandroid
4. Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer
5. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

Top 5 Albums in 2010 that I expected to rule but were only good:
1. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
2. Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History
3. Massive Attack - Heligoland
4. Girl Talk - All Day
5. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms

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