It’s good to be back in New York. See, like so many others (and perhaps even yourself) I was affected by the East Coast blizzard and spent a few unexpected days in Pittsburgh, PA on my way back to the city.
Passing time in an airport is never fun, especially when you’re in a strange town where you don’t know anyone. But I have to say, if you’re going to be stranded somewhere, Pittsburgh is not so bad. The people are friendly, the city is beautiful and the food is hearty. Not to mention the airport has free Wi-Fi so you could stay connected to the world without paying an exorbitant fee.
When I told my mom about my flight’s diversion, she advised me to take it easy and that everything occurs for a reason. Her Christmas Eve sermon had been about how life happens when you have other plans, so I took these words to heart.
I’m still not certain what this experience was supposed to teach me, but I think it may have to do with being able to give up control. Sure, I was powerless but screaming and yelling wouldn’t get me home any faster. So I remained calm, as did my fellow passengers.
Once I surrendered to the situation, I decided to make the most of it. I grabbed an airport café table and fashioned it into a desk so I could work on my book. There were two friends on the flight I hadn’t seen in a while so it was a pleasure catching up with them. I also became unusually outgoing and shared stories with my fellow passengers and gave those visiting New York tips on things to do when they’re in the city. Likewise, there were travelers from parts of Texas I wasn’t familiar with and I learned about a host of new places to try next time I’m home. Some guys started tossing a football while another group started singing carols. If you have to be stranded, I was so thankful to be in a group that was collectively in good spirits. It could have been far worse.
After a few too many overstuffed sandwiches and baskets of cheese fries, however, I had a strong urge to return to my kitchen and cook. So when I finally did land in New York, the first thing I did was fire up my stove and make some soup.
While I was in Houston, my mom had made a white chili recipe she’d been given by our family friend Mary Jo. It was full of chicken, salsa, cheese and beans and was just the thing you needed on a cold night. Back in my kitchen in New York, I thought about recreating it but I opted to make it with the ingredients that I had on hand. So instead of chicken, I used Mexican chorizo. And since New Year’s Day is approaching I used black-eyed peas instead of beans.
The soup takes little time to come together but is full of flavor and warmth. Mary Jo had told my mom, “Make this soup and your kids will thank you.” And while I may have changed the original recipe a bit, this adaption has made me pretty thankful as well.
So it’s time to say farewell to 2010, which was an interesting year. And yes, like all of you I certainly have high hopes for 2011. There are lots of trips to Texas planned and my book will be published. But whatever happens, after my time in Pittsburgh I’ve decided that if life steers me onto an unexpected road I’ll accept and perhaps even enjoy the strange new journey. Who knows, it could be even better than the one I had in mind.
Happy New Year!
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound Mexican chorizo, removed from casing and crumbled
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
15 oz. canned diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
1 or 2 canned chipotle chiles
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
6 cups cooked black-eyed peas in liquid or three 15-ounce cans of black-eyed peas
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro plus more for garnishing
2 cups pepper Jack, shredded (8 ounces)
1/2 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
2 tablespoon lime juice plus lime wedges for garnishing
Salt and black pepper to taste
Sour cream for garnishing
On medium-low, heat the oil in a skillet and add the chorizo. Cook for 10 minutes or until browned, breaking up any large pieces. With a slotted spatula, remove the cooked chorizo from the skillet and place in a large pot. Leaving the oil in the skillet, add the onions and cook on medium-low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.
Transfer the onions and garlic to a blender and add the tomatoes, chipotle chiles, cumin, oregano and allspice. Blend until smooth and pour the blender contents into the pot that holds the chorizo. Add to the pot the black-eyed peas and their liquid, the chicken broth and the cilantro. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn down the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the shredded cheese and while occasionally stirring, continue to cook until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the crushed tortilla chips and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add the lime juice and then taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and black pepper.
Serve with sour cream, cilantro and lime wedges.
Yield: 8 servings
Note: If you’re not a fan of black-eyed-peas, you can certainly substitute another type of bean.