June 5, 2010

I've moved!

Blogger isn't for me, so I bought a domain name and started hosting gristlybits.org at laughingsquid.com. Hope to see you there.


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May 9, 2010

Bánh mì burger.

I call this my banh mi burger, though it's a very loose interpretation of the classic Vietnamese sandwich. Ground pork is combined with liberal amounts of fish sauce, garlic, serrano chilies, scallions, and cilantro, then slathered with sriracha mayo, and topped with basil, tomato, etc. It's un-friggen-believable how much flavor this sandwich has. Salty, sweet, and spicy, this burger has it all.

To make this monster, I busted out the grinder, broke down a 3.4 lb pork shoulder in to 1-2" cubes, and chilled the meat for about half an hour.

Pork shoulder

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May 5, 2010

Gaga over goat.

I love goats. Not only are they cute as hell, excel at weed control, and produce the most amazing milk, but they're damn tasty to boot. Goat is one of my favorite types of flesh, and it's leaner and lower in cholesterol than both lamb and beef. Yet, you hardly see goat on restaurant menus, meat counters, or butcher shops in this country, except for joints that serve or cater to certain ethnic groups, and that to me is a travesty.

I've been plotting a traditional barbacoa-style whole goat roast ever since I found out one of my neighbors owns a Chinese pig box, but I thought it might be best to start small before I embarrass myself in front of my whole neighborhood. So, last weekend I drug the wife out to the University District farmers market and picked up a goat roast from  Toboton Creek Farns.

A random goat we met in Hawaii. Looks tasty, no?

Just kidding

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April 28, 2010

A better burger.

I love burgers. Yeah, I know you probably do to, but I really love hamburgers. Like women, burgers come in all shapes and sizes and I like them all equally, though some are more equal than others.

West Coast style burgers (a la Red Mill) will do in a pinch, but I'd give a kidney for a bacon cheese Whataburger, and I would most certainly do unspeakable things for a double double from In-N-Out.  I like burgers with fried eggs (of many avian species),  green chilies, peanut butter, onions of any persuasion, meat (bacon, ham, salami, etc etc etc), pickles in any guise, ripe tomatoes, and I'm not a bigot where condiments are concerned.  I even like burgers that aren't really burgers in the classic sense. Lamb, chicken, all manner of fish, pork, mushrooms, eggplant, et alia, all make for excellent burgers. 

I like thin patties fried up on the griddle, fat, juicy, and obscenely rare patties from reputable joints, and burnt hockey-pucks from the backyard grill. And don't get me started on cheese! The possibilities are endless, which is what makes the humble hamburger such an amazing thing to behold.

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April 10, 2010

What the hell?

So yeah, it's been a month since I last updated. Not particularly proud of that, but you know how it goes. Things have just been crazy around Casa de la Spangler lately, and between work, traveling, being good dog parents, sinus infections, and family visits, I just haven't found the time to write. I'll try to be better about it in the future.

On the upside, I have been using my time wisely. The wife and I went to Maui for 6 fabulous days and got some much needed downtime. I won a performance award at work, so they flew us out, put us up in a kick-ass resort, fed us well, and treated us like royalty.  Resort living ain't necessarily our thing, but we rented a car for a few days and explored the island. We had lunch at one of Bev Gannon's restaurants, saw kite / wind surfers riding 30' swells at Hookipa and the best Hawaiian Ices at a little shack in Kihei.

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March 12, 2010

No time for love, Dr Jones.**

So yeah, been busy. The wife and I went back to TX for a few days to help our friends' Jamie and Denny celebrate their shotgun wedding.  Saw the friends and family, drank too much, and ate some mother-loving Whataburger. I love Whataburger.


Now I don't eat fast food often, I think most of it is pretty gross in fact. There are, however,  a few places that I hold in high esteem: In-and-Out, Taco Bueno, and Whataburger. Chick-Fil-A use to be on the list; they had a mean chicken biscuit once upon a time, but not so much anymore.

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February 21, 2010

Like key lime pie?

The wife and I had some friends over Saturday night for a little fish taco party. The tacos ruled (and I'll blog about that some other time), but the star of show was the key lime pie. After a gluttonous feast of fried snapper with chipotle lime mayo, this key lime pie was exactly what we needed to cool our palettes.

Every pie lives and dies by the crust, so don't wuss out and use a pre-made version . The brown sugar and cinnamon add an amazing complexity to the crust, so thanks to my Mom for that little nugget.

Jamie, this one's for you!

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February 15, 2010

What I'm listening to.

Gristlybits is mostly a food blog, but I haven't been cooking much of late. So, instead of boring you with tales of  grilled cheeses and taco salads I will share with you, dear readers, some tidbits from my other hobby, music.

WXYC: College radio from University of North Carolina, is by far my favorite radio station. Think KEXP without the overpaid morning douche and pledge drives (not that there's anything wrong with the pledge drives), but with more variety and a much more diverse offering. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for KEXP and all that they do for independent music (whatever that means), but they're no WXYC,

Hot Chip: One Life Stand. Hot Chip's fourth studio album, "One Life Stand" might be their best record yet! The wife and I listened to it last night whilst we made dinner and I found myself dancing around the kitchen like an idiot to Hot Chip's stupidly catchy sythnpop grooves. Twelve thumbs up. I also highly recommend the Hot Chip DJ-Kicks comp if you're not familiar with their work.

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February 4, 2010

Mascarpone, a tale of failure.

Dear readers,

I have failed you, I've failed myself, and I failed the nice lady who taught us how to make mascarpone at the Cascade People's Center. I will spare you my excuses, since I know you don't care that I couldn't find the 1 1/2 to 2 hours it would have taken me to go to Kirkland from Snoqualmie during lunch in order to pick up the tartaric acid I needed for the recipe. It was poor judgment on my part to think that the alternative recipe I found on this site  that uses white wine vinegar in lieu of the C4H6O6 that the recipe called for would work out like expected.

mascarpone prep

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January 31, 2010

Dinner with friends.

Saturday night the wife and I went over to our friends Lindsey and Jesica's house for supper. Lindsey is a vegetarian, but her significant other Jes is carnivorous and had a hankering for some pork, so I thought I'd oblige her. I wanted to do a braised pork belly, but the wife rejected that idea (she's got weird texture issues, but that's a story for another post) so I settled on a a pork shoulder braised in apple cider with lots and lots of onions, and a chocolate cream pie for dessert. 

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January 26, 2010

Glutamate for teh win.

I love glutamate. From fish sauce, to anchovies, to MSG, glutamate is the tastiest amino acid ever. I add glutamates, in some form, to pretty much everything these days and because my wife doesn't really care for anchovies (she humors me sometimes), my glutamate delivery mechanism of choice in most cases is fish sauce.

Good quality fish sauce, like Tiparos, is a ridiculously easy way to add tons of flavor to sauces, soup, stews, braises, and savory dishes of any kind. Fish sauce adds a wonderful depth of savoriness (umami!!) to whatever you add it to, and as long as you don't over do it (whatever that means), there's no trace of fishiness at all.

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January 24, 2010


My wife gives me crap every time we go to our favorite taqueria, La Venadita, because I always order the same thing: chilaquiles. La Venadita is a very authentic, traditional taqueria and everything they do is great. The food is exactly like you'd find at any of the countless carts, stalls, and mercados that litter Mexico City, and I've had almost everything on their menu, but chilaquiles is the only thing I want anymore. They're that good.

Chilaquiles is a very simple, very traditional Mexican dish that consists of corn tortillas, stale ones preferably, that are fried until crispy then simmered in a spicy tomato sauce until soft. Eat as is, or add scrambled or fried eggs, shredded chicken or chorizo, and top with crema, crumbled queso fresco or cotija, diced onions, and cilantro. While considered peasant food in many parts of Mexico,
chilaquiles, is a great way to use left overs, and when done correctly will blow your mind.

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January 18, 2010

Full Tilt

Full Tilt Ice Cream

After another decent-but-not-great dinner at Island Soul, the wife, a friend of ours, and I walked the couple of blocks to Full Tilt Ice Cream. I'd had a hankering for the chocolate coconut curry (CCC) ice cream ever since they tweeted about it a few days before, and I had had to satisfy my need. Fortunately the Columbia City store still had some CCC in stock, so I ordered up a double dip waffle cone, with salted caramel w/ Sailor Jerry spiced rum on top and CCC on bottom. The Sailor Jerry salted caramel was decadent beyond belief, and the CCC was everything I had hoped for, though a bit more curry wouldn't have hurt my feelings.

I had my birthday party at Full Tilt, and they did an amazing job on my custom flavor, bacon banana, so I'm a big fan. Full Tilt has some of the most original flavors and nicest people in Seattle, so go give them your ice cream business.

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January 16, 2010

Dinning in the 'hood.

Here's a quick run down of the places we're eating in and around Columbia City over the last few days.

All-Purpose Pizza

There's a lack of pizza delivery options here in Columbia City, with Pizza Hut and Domino's being the mainstays. Fortunately All Purpose Pizza & Ale House delivers to our 'hood, and while we haven't had much luck with the salads or pastas, the pizza kicks ass. All Purpose uses a sourdough crust that's pretty damn tasty, and the red-wine marinara that's slathered on some pies is out of this world. While AP is kind of expensive, but we don't do delivery often, and it's nice to have a steady source of decent pizza at our beck and call. It's no Flying Squirrel, mind you, but All Purpose will do in a pinch.

Both Ways Cafe

We wandered in to Both Ways Cafe, a Seward Park mainstay on a late Saturday morning and waited for a table. We were soon seated, sipping away at cups of good, strong coffee, and agonizing about what to order. Both Ways is known for their biscuits, so I went with the obvious choice of biscuits and gravy, while the wife had a biscuit sandwich (eggs and cheese on a biscuit, duh).

Our food came out quickly (despite what the haters on Yelp say), and I got acquainted with the single crumbly, dense, biscuit was swimming under a layer of sausage gravy. I dug and found the biscuit to be quite good, despite its hockey puck like density, and it worked well with the overwhelmingly salty, sage infused gravy that enveloped it.

The wife enjoyed her breakfast biscuit sandwich, though the home fries that came with hers were mediocre at best. Not a bad meal, though a single biscuit w/ gravy will set you back 9$, which is a bit ridiculous. Still, it's nice to have a viable alternative to Geraldine's.

Tony's Bakery

MLK and Graham St is littered with Asian markets, specialty shops, and bakeries of all shapes and sizes. There are a billion to get banh mi in the area, and while the best in Seattle can be found in the International District, there are a few decent places in my 'hood. Tony's, a Vietnamese bakery tucked in the Viet Wah shopping center, is the one I hit most often when I need a quick banh mi fix.

Tony's isn't the cleanest place in the world, but they do a decently consistent 'pork meatball' banh mi and have lots of tasty looking, authentic Vietnamese food served up cafeteria style. They've even got chicken feet, one of my favorite gristly bits ever, but I'll save those for my next visit. Tony's is located right next to Thanh Thao, one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese joints.

Island Soul

Oh Island Soul. I want to like you, don't get me wrong, but it's just not working out. We've been to Island Soul a few times now, and every visit has left me wondering why I bothered in the first place. Sure Island Soul's got great coconut corn muffins, outgoing wait staff, and full bar, but the mediocre food and expensive-ass prices are a deal breaker.

20$ for a portion of fatty, bony, and not-very-flavorful oxtails is just dumb. The one good thing on my plate, IS's vegan collard greens, isn't enough to salvage our already rocky relationship. The 9$ dark and stormy, made from ginger beer that's brewed in house was great in theory, but the execution fell short. Au Revoir.

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Texas Red.

3 tbs bacon drippings or vegetable oil
3 lb chuck shoulder, trimmed and cut in to 1/4 inch cubes
8-12 Ancho, New Mexico, and/or California chili pods
1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tbs Mexican oregano

3 tbs crushed cumin seed or ground cumin

1 tbs salt

4 minced garlic cloves, to taste

2 x 7.75 oz can hot Mexican-style tomato sauce (such as El Pato Salas de Chili Fresco)

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained

1 cup chicken stock or water

3 tablespoons masa harina

Clean, stem, and seed chilies, then. boil 5 minutes in 1 quart of water. Reserve cooking water, cool the chilies and chop , or throw the water and chilies in a blender and puree. You can substitute 6 tablespoons chili powder or ground chili, but quality matters, so don't skimp.

Heat fat in a large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the meat
on all sides then add onions, chilies, reserved cooking water, and enough water or stock to cover meat by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add oregano, cumin, salt, garlic, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and stock to pot. Simmer 45 minutes more stirring occasionally and skim off grease as needed.

Taste the chili and adjust the heat and salt to taste. If you need more heat add extra chili or ground cayenne pepper, but keep in mind it's easier to add heat than to take away.
For a more fiery chili you can use dried de arbol or morita (chipotle) chilies that have been toasted and ground or boiled and pureed.

Sprinkle masa harina over chili and stir well. Simmer another 30 minutes, or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally. Serve with shredded cheese, diced onions, and cilantro.

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January 12, 2010

Food Party.

Food Party, which bills itself as a 'non-reality' show, is my new favorite television series. The show airs on IFC and follows the culinary adventures of Thu Tran and friends. I can't begin to describe Food Party, so I won't bother trying, but you should definitely watch it for yourself.

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January 10, 2010

The best meatloaf ever.

Meatloaf is one of those abstract dishes that just begs for mucking around with. My own personal favorite is heavy on the fish sauce, fennel, and herbs, and is simply out of this world.

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey***
1 lb ground pork
1 fennel bulb
1 large onion, cut in half
3 cloves of garlic, minced
handful of fresh herbs, minced or 3 tbs dried herbs (anything will do,
though I'm partial to fresh italian parsley, sage, or thyme, and herbs
de provenance for dried)
1/3 cup good quality fish sauce (or to taste)
2 tbs Worcestershire or soy sauce
1-2 cups bread crumbs (or more, depending on the texture of the finished loaf)
2 eggs
salt to taste (at least a tsp or two)
pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350

Finely dice one half of the onion, and grate the other half using the large side of a box style grater. Remove the stems/fronds from the fennel bulb, and grate per the onion above. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. 

Onions and fennel

Add bread crumbs as needed until mixture is just barely sticky. You shouldn't need much more than a cup.

Funk loaf

Scrape in to a standard loaf pan and cover with ketchup (if desired).

Bake for 75 minutes.

You can pretty much use 2 lbs of whatever ground meat you want. I recommend pork and turkey or beef, but no reason you can't use lamb, veal, buffalo, elk, chicken, ostrich, or whatever. I say to taste for many of the ingredients because it's really up to you how flavorful / salty you want it. The more fish sauce and soy you use the less salt you need to add, but don't skimp on the seasoning.

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January 7, 2010

Wednesday night potluck

Last night our friend Kiki came over for a little Wednesday night potluck action. Kiki brought over a wonderful pesto, goat cheese, and arugula pizza that she made, while the wife and I whipped up sausage and eggplant 'casserole' from Mel at Bitchincamero and a biscuit bread pudding a la Homesick Texan.

The sausage and eggplant casserole was more like a strata than a traditional casserole (whatever that means), and it gave me a chance to use my brand new mandoline that my lovely wife got me for Christmas. I think it turned out pretty good, even though the eggplant (from a local big chain grocery store) was a bit on the tough side, but I blame the crappy produce. I did make some changes to the recipe, of course, like the addition of caramelized onions to the sausage / strata layer, some additional herbs, chile piquin, and plenty of pecorino romano, but I'm sure it's just as awesome with no modifications. I would suggest keeping the size of the bread cubes under 1"...

The biscuit bread pudding was divine, but how could it not be?

Sausage & eggplant

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January 6, 2010

Gristly bits, Filipino style...

I fully intended to make a nice chicken-veg-pasta soup last night (with De Cecco acini di pepe!!), but after walking the dogs and doing some work around the house, I just didn't have enough time. So, the wife and I decided to check out one of the restaurants in our 'hood that we've been eyeballing for a while.

Columbia City is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle and has a wide range of incredible ethnic restaurants, so we're never at a loss for awesome, authentic food from just about country in the world you can imagine. The Philippines in particular is very well represented in the CC/Beacon Hill area, so when hunger struck, we set out for Kawali Grill to try out this amazing fried chicken
(pandan) we've heard about.

Kawali Grill was pretty dead when we got there, which was a bit of a put off considering it was prime time for the dinner crowd, but we pushed on anyway. We walked in and were told by the nice gentlemen behind the bar to sit anywhere we liked, so we grabbed a table in the corner and watched a weird-ass Filipino game show that was playing on both TVs at full blast while we waited to have our order taken. After a few minutes of hanging out and trying to make sense of what we were watching, the lone waiter/chef came over, took our orders, then dashed off in to the kitchen to make it happen.

We ordered fried lumpia as a starter, and while Kawali does offer the more traditional fresh version, we weren't feeling it. The wife went with Pandan chicken, which are chicken fingers marinated with coconut milk, ginger and soy sauce, coated in panko, deep fried, then covered with the ubiquitous sweet chili sauce, while I decided on sisig.

Sisig (aka sizzling sisig) is a traditional Filipino dish that's typically made up of a combination of pig ears, jowls, snout, liver, and other assorted odds and ins. Kawali Grill's particular implementation consists of pig ears, snout, stomach, chicken livers, onions, and jalapenos all chopped up and 'grilled' on a griddle, then served on a sizzling plate with a side of lemon and rice.

The lumpia were okay; nothing special, while the wife's pandan chicken was delicious, but almost anything coated in panko, deep friend, and doused with sweet chili sauce would be. It was nicely presented with rice, a fried plantain chip, and some very limp, steamed mix vegetables.

The sisig was about what I expected: porky, greasy, and every bite chock full of crazy textures. I could almost pick out each of the various bits of pig and chicken parts within each bite, with the jowls and snout providing a cartilage like crispness, the stomach bits were chewy and tough, while the chicken liver melted in my mouth. I never got any jalapeno heat, but I assumed that Kawali had toned down the heat level for the brutally bland NW palette anyway, so I was forced to rely on my old friend, Rooster brand sriracha to get my heat fix.

Sisig by itself is a bit much, and not because the textures or taste are too weird to enjoy. I found the dish to be far too greasy, and while I enjoyed trying it, I think sisig would be much better filling for traditional taquería style tacos rather than as a stand alone dish. Give me some corn tortillas, diced onions, cilantro, some radishes, and a nice salsa de arbol, and sisig would be pretty much the best thing ever.

As it is, Kawali Grill wasn't bad. We spent under 40$ for two entrees, and appetizer, and a couple of San Migs (the infamous Filipino beer), which ain't bad for dinner for 2 in Seattle. Wasn't the best Filipino food I've ever had, but not bad for a Tuesday night out.

pandan chicken

Sisig from Kawali grill

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January 5, 2010

Curry in a hurry

A friend from Chennai (aka Madras) recently sent me a an interesting recipe for a chicken curry, so I figured I'd give it a go last night. Now chicken curry recipes are a dime a dozen, and most of them are mediocre at best, but this one was different.

How different you ask? Well, the base for this curry is nothing more than yogurt, ketchup, some garlic ginger paste, and a few spices, and it was one of the most complex and delicious curries I've had in a long time. Sour and spicy, with just enough sweetness to balance it out, I'm definitely making this one again.


Yogurt - 1 cup (Indian or traditional Greek)
Tomato Ketchup - 1 cup
Shaan brand Garam Masala - 2 tbsp
Chilli Powder - to taste
Ginger-Garlic Paste - 1 tbsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tsp

Chicken thighs - 1 lb
Mint leaves - 2 big sprigs

Marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, though the longer the better. Add chicken and marinade to pot, and cook covered on medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring often. Uncover the pot and turn heat down to low for 15 more minutes. Towards the last 5 minutes of cooking, add chopped mint. Serve with rice, naan, or whatever.

You can add water to thin the gravy if desired during cooking, though the curry is wonderful as is.

I changed things up a bit because I didn't have any mint, but I did have a bunch of cilantro on hand so I used that instead. Not quite the same, but to be honest, I think it turned out better with the cilantro than it would have with the mint. I also made my own garlic-ginger paste, since I didn't have any of that either, by throwing garlic, ginger, and a bit of salt in my giant mortar and pestle, then pounded away until it was a paste. It's way more flavorful than the stuff you find at most Indian & Paki markets, but already prepared paste works just fine. Finally, it's very important to use a good, tangy Indian or traditional Greek style yogurt, so don't puss out and go with Dannon or Yoplait.

To go with my ketchup curry, I had a head of cauliflower and some potatoes from my last CSA box, so I threw together a version of aloo gobi. There's a billion recipes for aloo gobi out there, and the one I use isn't anything spectacular, but you can find it here: http://ahaar.blogspot.com/2006/09/aloo-gobhi-potato-cauliflower.html

I added quite a bit more spice than the recipe called for and it was still kind of bland.

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January 4, 2010

The gristly bits...

Hi there.

This is my fourth or fifth attempt to start a food blog, so we'll see how long I actually maintain this one. The idea is to blog about my food adventures, from the crap I cook at home to where were eating in Seattle (my home base) and beyond.

I hope to share with you, the one or two folks that stumble across this blog, recipes, advice on canning and preserving, restaurant reviews, and whatever else I feel like sharing.

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