There’s often a feeling of sleepiness, of slight lagging, that accompanies a grey day in the winter. My head lifts off of the pillow in the morning only to desperately long to be placed back down again, back into that same warm indentation that it created during early morning’s sweet sleep. As I stare out my bedroom window, out at the color-less atmosphere, the murky fish tank that surrounds so completely, I can almost see a quiet solitude flutter down, like a feather or ash, and ever so softly land on the earth below; a lonely isolation that beckons for either a deep and vigorous introspection of life, or a complete apathy towards anything resembling effort. Even the dirty-dishwater colored sky seems to have a fuzzy, angora-like blanket protectively wrapped around itself this morning, one that shields it from any playful mischief that the sun may have in mind, with its poking rays and playful light. The sky seems to be communicating that it, too, needs some time to hole-up somewhere out of sight, in a place where it can rest in peaceful isolation and not be its usual, chipper blue. I get such comfort in pulling my hoody up over my head today, for hiding in whatever little shell is available to me, and snuggling against something soft and enveloping, something soothing and protective. Even the pigeons on the wires up above seem to have their tiny eyes closed as they sit, little heads and beaks nestled into their plump chests, basking in the stillness that is a grey, winter day.
The stew pot comes alive on a matte-grey day like this one; it seems to know that it has a glorious job to do, that it has the opportunity to be of magnificent service and produce sheer comfort from within itself. A thick, hearty, warming yet simple stew has the power to transform the melancholy heart and to warm one’s core, completely; it can enliven a sleepy soul, sending ripples of heat and delicious sustenance to the partaker’s quiet spirit. And when it has the marvelous partnership of chewy, crusty, rustic bread that can be torn into small pieces and dipped, then there is no better combination to be found when it comes to breathing life back into a cold, quiet day—it gently coaxes one’s spirit into the open place of love, joy and gratitude, which is so very necessary, indeed.
Creamy, White Bean Stew is a cozy blanket for the inside of the body; it is the warm liquid light that is needed to invert the sky’s frown on a chilly, grey, winter day. Simple, rustic and perfumed with a savory smokiness, it provides that gentle nudge to continue on with the day; the little spark that takes away at least some of the gloom, and encourages one to find the beauty in a little reflection, in a little stillness, that a grey day in the winter will bring to each of us, from time to time.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Creamy, White Bean Stew with Smoky, Thick-Cut Bacon, Vegetables and Fragrant Herbs
Print this recipe
(Serves about 6)
12 ounces apple smoked bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, small dice
2 carrots, small dice
2 celery stalks, small dice
4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• Pinch or two sea salt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
6 (15 ounce) cans small white beans (or navy beans), drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock, hot
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
-Place a large Dutch oven, or heavy bottom pot, over medium-high heat; once the pot is hot, add in a small drizzle of olive oil, and the chopped bacon; crisp the bacon completely until nice and brown, then remove with a slotted spoon, drain it on some paper towel, and set it aside for a moment; reserve about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, and set that aside for a moment, as well; wipe out the pot, and return it to medium-high heat.
-Next, add back into the pot the bacon fat, along with the olive oil and the butter, and allow them to melt together; once melted and hot, add in the diced onion, carrots and celery, and allow them to soften and saute for about 5 minutes; next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in about 2/3 of the reserved, crisped bacon, as well as the Italian seasoning, the sea salt and the pepper, along with the white beans, and stir to combine; next, add in the hot chicken stock, stir, and allow the stew to gently simmer for about 40-45 minutes, partially covered with lid; about half way through the cooking process, mash the beans a little bit with the back of your spoon, or with a potato masher, to break up the beans a little bit and release their natural starch to thicken the stew; after about 40 minutes, turn the heat off and finish the stew by adding in the chopped parsley, the lemon zest and the lemon juice; serve the stew with some nice, crusty bread to dip, and garnish with some of the remaining crisped bacon.