© 2013 Aaron Atkinson

Comfort Food

One of my favorite things about winter happens in the kitchen. When it’s cold and blustery outside, there are few things better than a warm, aromatic kitchen to chase away the chills. Heavy, thick stews, soups and pastas are like warm, dense hats and mittens for the tummy. Standing over a the stove stirring a steaming pot of goodness feels a whole lot better in January than it does in July. For those reasons, I try to cook, bake or concoct at least one warm, winter meal each week, ensuring that there are plenty of leftovers to enjoy throughout the week.

Today I made one of my favorites – White Bean Pheasant Chili. Years ago it started with a recipe, but its so simple and so hard to mess up, that these days I just go with it, adding in a little of this and a little of that.

A trio of pheasants breasts are cut into small pieces and browned in a bit of oil. If you’re lacking pheasant, I suppose that chicken will do. But I love the earthy, wildness and the extra texture that the long-grained muscle fibers bring to the to meal. Once the pink its sizzled away, I take the bird from the pot and add in a pair of onions, finely chopped. Then I cook the heck out of them until they start to brown. Midway through I add in a few chopped cloves of garlic and a jalapeno pepper. Once the vegetables are tender, the bird goes back in and I fill the pot with chicken stock and whatever white beans are in the cabinet. I season with cumin, pepper, bay leaves and salt to taste, then it all comes back to a rolling boil and is then simmered until the whole house smells like the cure to the winter doldrums.

I often eat the first bowl straight from the pot, adding a twist by mid-week as I serve it over nachos with some cheese, sour cream and a splash of salsa.

In a few short weeks, I’ll be sweating over a smoking grill, but on this chilly day there’s chili on the stove.

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