Sunday, January 31, 2010

French onion soup on Sunday.

french onion soup.

The weeks are long in January. After months of long holidays and three day weekends that seem to fly by, January brings everything to a dull halt. The weeks drag on, to the point where I am thinking every day feels like it should be Thursday, only to be slammed with the heavy reality of Tuesday. And then I look at my calendar and wonder when the next break will be, and thank goodness for a trip to San Francisco next week (to meet this lovely lady!), otherwise I am looking at five-day work weeks piling up until Memorial Day. Can you believe that? From January until May, not one holiday worth a break. It's exhausting.


But then there are the weekends, when it's especially nice to slow down. Sundays, in particular, are best when they involve onions caramelizing on the stove for an hour, then simmered into a rich soup and topped with cheesy toasted bread.

I've had this French onion soup bookmarked for a long time, and it wasn't until Murdo and I went to the French restaurant Mon Ami Gabi on Friday night that I decided it was finally time to quit stalling and just make the soup already. For dinner that night, Murdo had the beef bourguignon, and I had the seared scallops with whipped cauliflower and spinach, which sounds light and healthy but was actually bathed in butter. A common French thing to do, I understand, but after eating four or five delicious, melt-in-your-mouth scallops, I clutched my stomach and decided that French food is not meant to be served in American portions. The butter hit me like a brick, which explains passing out on the couch shortly after arriving home that night.

french onion soup.

This soup, however, was just what Sunday ordered. The onions transforming into brown strands of silk on the stove and filling my apartment with an intoxicating aroma as I arranged hydrangeas on the table, well, it was perfect. I'll admit I was a bit nervous, ladling the soup into large white bowls (the only ovenproof ones I have), that it would be too much -- that I'd pass out in a food coma afterward and miss my Sunday altogether. But really, it was just enough to recharge my batteries for the week ahead of me.

February, I am ready for you.


French Onion Soup (adapted from The Kitchen Sink Recipes)
This soup calls for 1 cup of red wine, but it turned out a little too boozy for our tastes, so next time I'll reduce to 1/2 cup and add less water.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds yellow onions, sliced into thin half-circles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef stock
2 cups water
1 French baguette, sliced on a diagonal
6 ounces grated Gruyere

Melt butter in a Dutch oven or heavy pot on medium heat. Add onions, salt, thyme, bay leaves, and sugar, and stir to coat the onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep the onions from sticking. The onions are caramelized when they are golden brown, soft, and melting, about 45 minutes.

Once the onions are caramelized, sprinkle flour over the onions and stir to coat. Slowly add the red wine, making sure to scrape the brown caramelization from the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock and water, and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the baguette slices under a broiler for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the tops are light brown. Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls and top with the toasted baguette slices, toast-side down. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Place bowls on a baking sheet and slide under the broiler for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Serve immediately. Makes 6 bowls.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010


ts + gcs.
ok, monday.
i may not be ready for you
-- even after
a weekend of blankets
and comfort food
and cough medicine --
but i'll give you
the best i can.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


that wasn't so bad,
was it?
i suppose the right thing to do
is to start with food.
so here are the sweet potatoes
and the burnt fries
they later became.
i hope you like it here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What I've been thinking about.

I have something to show you.


I've been taking all these pictures of food and not telling you about it. I hope you don't mind. There's no recipes to go with them, or stories long enough to make a complete blog post. Just the photos. Images of food, captured through a lens, a lens I'm trying very desperately to learn.

I guess you could say that's where I've been -- that's what might explain my pathetic posting schedule around these parts lately. Taking pictures, and posting them elsewhere. Some of them don't even have to do with food. Like these.

Do you like them? Would you like to see more of them? Because here's the thing: I'm thinking about merging my photo blog and my food blog into one and food blog. Which means that Happy Jack Eats wouldn't be just about eating, but also about the simple beauties I find in everyday life.

mom's threads.

When I started this food blog, I never thought I'd find a new interest in photography. But I got used to pulling out my camera whenever I sat down to eat, and pretty soon I started pulling out my camera whenever I saw a pretty flower, or the sky turned a certain shade of purple, or the light hit the table just so. I also never thought that blogging would start to feel like a chore, an obligation, and I certainly never wanted it to. I just wanted it to be an outlet for me. A way to explore, and learn, and grow.

I started my photo blog for my new venture into photography, but really, I don't think the two should be separate anymore. I don't want to feel guilty about neglecting one space because I'm nurturing another. And so here I am, and I need your opinion. I don't want to do anything I might regret, after all, since the last time I messed around behind the scenes, I nearly deleted the entire blog.

I'll still keep the Happy Jack Eats address, and once I figure out if merging the two even works (won't that be awkward if it doesn't?), you'll see the same blog here, speckled with posts from here.

Let me know what you think? Because you've been reading and sharing and motivating and inspiring me through it all. Thank you for that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010


christmas morning.
making cookies.

finally finished off
and developed
that last roll of film from christmas.
when there was light
and ribbons
and cookies.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


these are the best sugar cookies on the face of the earth.
and my sister has been making them
for as long as i can remember
from a recipe she got from my mom
who got it from a coworker
years and years ago.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My first muffins. Lemon poppy-seed style.

lemon poppy seed muffins

I'm warming up to baking.

It's the process that gets to me, really -- nothing like cooking, with its olive oil and garlic sizzling and random ingredients tossed in at the last minute. All that makes sense to me, and when I'm cooking a meal, there's a sort of rhythm to everything I do, a familiar tune that I can hum along to, even though I may not always know all the lyrics.

lemon poppy seed muffins

Baking, on the other hand, is completely foreign. A song I've never sung, in a very different language, played on a crackly radio with a staticky signal. On Saturday, as I laid out the mixing bowls and fumbled over measurements for my very first batch of muffins, more than a few times I asked myself, "Am I doing this right?" "What does it mean to cream something?" and, surveying the flour and sugar that was quickly covering the counter top and floor, "Good God, what have I gotten myself into?"

lemon poppy seed muffins

It's another one of those "Practice makes Perfect" scenarios, and while sometimes I can really get into the practice part -- making omelets, for example, or learning a new camera -- other times I just want to get on with it already. Yeah, it's like that with baking. Can't I just be an expert already, and skip all the mistakes and failures and try-try-agains that come along the way?

No, I suppose not. Luckily, these muffins turned out pretty nice. And when I peeked in the oven and saw them rising like real muffins are supposed to rise, well, I squealed a little. A baker's squeal of excitement, if you will, and one that I'm not quite familiar with. But I'm very ready and willing to get used to it, and if that means I might sing off key every once in a while, well, so be it. Practice makes perfect, after all.

lemon poppy seed muffins

Because baking scares me, there was no adapting or tweaking or altering this recipe for lemon poppy seed muffins, found at Simply Recipes. I followed every step exactly as it was written. And they turned out fluffy and lemony and poppy-seedy. Even today, as I ate one at my desk for breakfast, the burst of little poppy seeds just made me happy.

Recipe here.

Monday, January 4, 2010


i took this in september
and it makes me miss blue skies and full trees
and oh we have a long winter ahead of us.
i should probably keep all photos like this

Friday, January 1, 2010

Biscuits and gravy. And a new year!

I had big plans for today. I was going to kick off the new year with a new challenge: to bake. And I was going to write my first post of 2010 about baking and share with you my feat, my triumph, my new-found sweet tooth that I never knew I had.

But. As New Year's Days often go, I got home very late last night (and by last night, I mean early morning, but who's really paying attention to these things when on vacation, anyway?) and didn't wake up until 1:30 this afternoon. Which still gave me plenty of time to bake with plenty of daylight to take photos of the final product. Except that I lazed around a bit before finally getting dressed, going to the store to get confectioners sugar and baking soda, and by the time I got home -- whoops! it was after 3, and the day was quickly getting darker, and I still hadn't made breakfast.

So I made breakfast. And I didn't bake.

new year's breakfast.

With all of the new-and-exciting that's coming along with 2010 -- Learn to bake! Get married! Taking photos! My sister's wedding! A new niece! Honeymoon! -- it's good to know that even though this year will be life-changing, some things will just never change. When forced to choose between baking and breakfast, I will always choose breakfast. That's all there is to it.

I've been wanting to blog about biscuits and gravy for a long time, but I could just never take a good photo of the dish. I hate to say it, but it's just plain ugly. Greasy, lumpy, colorless, ugly. Even pretty plates didn't help. I was about ready to give up. But today, new camera (yay!) in hand and the last of the day's natural light coming through the window, I took on the challenge. I think I did alright. And even if I didn't, it was still damn tasty.


I don't have an exact recipe to share with you because I don't follow one. I use store-bought flaky biscuits, the kind that you pop out of a canister, and 1 pound of sage-flavored breakfast sausage. While baking the biscuits according to package directions, I brown and break up the sausage in a pan, then add about 1/4 cup of flour and stir to coat. Then I pour in milk a few glugs at a time until the gravy reaches the right consistency. We like ours not too thick, not too thin. You know, just right.

Happy new year!


here is my first photo
for project 365.
taken with my new dslr
that i am still learning
how to use.
oh, and this year
i will also learn how to bake.