Dispatches From Whitcomb Street

Oct 15

Another day older

So many things. For one, I no longer live on a Whitcomb Street. For another, I work in garment sewing now and not knitting. I still cook a lot, but I bake less. I ran a marathon this year on my 30th birthday. I’ve been hand-sewing a lot of leather bags lately. I have a couple of big upholstery projects in the wings. I canned nothing this summer, which is probably the worst thing that’s happened since I’ve been gone.

I’ve been working on my own knitting more lately, and this is one of the projects I’ve been chugging away on. Shilling over - real fun to come!

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(click here for more info, should you be interested)

Jun 11

[video]

Mar 14

favorite rice pudding

Are you a person who likes rice pudding? I kind of think everyone should be, though I guess we can still be friends if you don’t. 

We like stovetop rice pudding—it’s easy and quick and doesn’t hog the oven. Spooned into ramekins and chilled in the fridge, it becomes a simple, sleekly comforting dessert fit for anyone. Anyone who likes rice pudding, that is.

Stovetop rice pudding

Start with two cups of cooked white long-grain rice. Put it into a three-quart saucepan and add 4 cups of milk, 1 cup heavy cream, and 1/2 cup of white sugar. Add any flavorings you want—I nearly always add a stick of cinnamon and a scraped vanilla bean—along with a pinch of salt, if your rice wasn’t salted to begin with. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for half an hour or so, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the pudding is thick and creamy. You’ll need to stir more frequently toward the end as the milk thickens and wants to burn.

Spoon into ramekins, cover exposed pudding directly with plastic wrap, and let cool. Rice pudding is good warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Ideas: Flavor the pudding with star anise, clove, allspice, or any other warm spice. Stir in a handful of currants just before taking the pudding off the heat. Top with chopped candied citrus peel, or toasted almonds. Brown some butter and trickle it over the top, or a spoonful of dulce de leche. Or cover the top of a chilled pudding with sugar and then brûlée it with a torch.

The 1/2 cup of sugar in this pudding makes for a distinctly but lightly sweet dessert, where the cream really comes forward. You can add up to 2/3 of a cup of sugar if you want something sweeter.

On milk: You can use any milk you want for this. Skim is fine, whole milk is fine. Whole milk will just be richer-feeling. You can cut the percentage of cream to milk if you want, but use at least 1/4 cup—you need it for mouthfeel and, well, creaminess. 

Mar 12

lasagne with mushrooms and ham

We blew back in from a long bike ride with April and Kyle—way out on County Road 48 to the farm we’re getting a chicken share from—just as it was getting dark. We were hungry. So we ate lasagne, and the world seemed like a nice place again. 

This is another one from Marcella Hazan. Long-cooked mushrooms, cheese, and unsmoked ham, bound with béchamel and layered with super-eggy noodles? Twist my arm.

This lasagne feels very rich, though it’s arguably lighter than those with meat sauces. I think it’s the mushrooms—there’s a lot to chew on in every bite, and it makes the whole thing really satisfying. It is basically the pasta equivalent of cashmere sweater, all warm, delicate comfort. 

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Mar 05

tiny corn dogs (yes, really)

We asked Desiree what she wanted for dinner. Corn dogs, she said. Okay, we said. Corn dogs you shall have.

Never mind the fact that I’d never made corn dogs, could not really remember the last time I *ate* a corn dog, wasn’t really sure I even liked corn dogs aside from State Fair and boardwalk-related use cases. 

But! It turns out you can absolutely make really cute, fair-worthy corn dogs at home. They are easy and quick, ideal for a snacky thing before dinner proper. If you look for super-tasty, high-quality sausages, they’re really no worse for you than any other fried thing. Who knew?

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Feb 29

ricotta gnocchi

10 minutes for pillowy-soft, toothy-delicious, completely idiot-proof (read: me-proof) gnocchi? Yes, please.

Ricotta gnocchi are not exactly like potato gnocchi. Really excellent potato potato gnocchi have a kind of barely perceptible yielding bounce to them, while these are more velvety-soft. And they’re creamier, of course. In fact, they are delicious, with their lightness, their subtly textured interior matrix of curd and egg, their cushiony smoothness. They’re fantastic dressed in simple, light sauce. And they are so dead easy you could make them every night, if eating gnocchi every night seems like a good idea to you. Damn.

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Feb 20

string quilt

I have been patiently working away on a string quilt for the last few months.

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Feb 15

simple moussaka

I am a freak for beschamel. Besciamella, besamel, plain old “white sauce”—whatever. I’m there.

Moussaka is one of the very best ways to eat it, with a top layer of pure beschamel baked into caramelized, custardy deliciousness. But! a good moussaka isn’t just a delivery vehicle for sauce—the bottom layers are savory, spicy, and sweet, with textures and flavors that play perfectly with beschamel’s milky-bland smoothness. It is A Wonderful Thing.

Moussaka is infinitely variable. Here’s one simple version.

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Jan 27

colette violet blouse

Ohhh, Colette’s Violet blouse. I’ve been wanting to make this one for a long time. 

I *love* this pattern. Peter Pan collar, blousy fit, super-girly gathers, buffet-friendly shape, I’m down.

Things I did: I used a lightweight cotton with a woven gray and black stripe for the body. It said Moda on it, so I guess it was a quilting cotton? Anyway, it had soft, swishy drape and I liked the striping a lot, so I went for it, piecing the yoke so I could get a little chevron going with the shoulder slopes. I used some black cotton batiste for a contrast collar and sleeve bands.

I used self-fabric for interfacing throughout. I cut a straight 4 for this top, and saw no changes I needed to make with a tissue-fitting, though now I’m sort of feeling like I need to pull the bust darts back a little bit to help them lie smoother.

The biggest change I made was gathering sleeves into a band instead of threading elastic through them or simply hemming them. To do this, I cut the wider mid-length sleeve and cut it shorter, to approximately 1” above where I wanted the sleeve to fall. I measured my bicep, added a bit for ease and seam allowances, and cut 3 1/4” x 13 1/4” bands (two for each sleeve) from the batiste. I prepped the two bands for each sleeve as one, pressed each in half lengthwise, and turned down a 3/8” hem on one side. I stitched the unpressed side RST with the bottom of the sleeve, pressed it down, and topstitched to catch the back of the sleeve band. Then I sewed the side sleeve seam in one go.

Confusing enough? It sounds really confusing written out, but it was easy, just like putting on a front band or a cuff. I love how clean it looks, and how those two little echoing pops of contrast color add a little visual structure. 

Things I wish I’d done: Next time, I’ll construct this like a men’s shirt, flat-felling the armscye and sleeve seams, for simplicity. OH and I’ll actually put the buttons on the correct side—I’m so used to making shirts for Terry that I just automatically went for it without paying attention.

Anyway. This is the first garment I’ve finished in way too long, so I’m feeling pretty good. Yay Colette, yay square buttons, yay puffy sleeves! 

Jan 26

popovers

Our favorite popovers are Marion Cunningham's, by way of Julia Child. And oh! What lovely popovers they are—big, handsomely popped beauties with melting-crisp crusts and custardy-smooth interiors. They’re delightful to bake—watching them climb up their tins and then steadily puff-puff-puff their way up and over the rims is so entertaining you can’t help but watch, crouched on the kitchen floor with your face pressed to the glass of the oven door. They’re fun to eat, with their layered textures and swirling bottoms that show food physics at work. It is impossible to leave a dish of heaped and napkin-wrapped popovers alone, even if breakfast is over and you are already full.

I will just tell you now that T is the best popover maker in the known world. You should probably just come to our house and eat the ones he makes. But seeing as how the logistics on that might be difficult, here’s a recipe. 

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