About once a year, I get together with friends for a long weekend at a wonderful mountain house in West Virginia. “The cabin” is one couple’s second home, to which they escape at every reasonable opportunity.
Trips to Snaggy Mountain are always fun, memorable and relaxing. Time off — spent with friends, away from everyday routines and concerns — has made for a lot of pure, simple good times over the years. For a few days, we don’t take ourselves (or anyone else) too seriously. It’s a time to catch up with each other, reconnect, read, reflect and generally appreciate the chance to do so.
Board games, card games, walks and drives around the area are much looked forward to even sometimes educational. So are quiet times on the screened back porch, watching wildlife, listening to the birds, and just thinking our own thoughts.
Laughter comes easy at the cabin. Funny things just happen. For instance, while we were sitting on the porch one evening, halfway looking for the deer that are always close by (or the bear that everybody there has seen, except us), my friend Mary quietly said, “Look back there, there’s a big deer!” None of the rest of us could spot it for a moment, until it dawned on us what Mary saw through the trees was a car on the road that runs in back of the lot.
“I see it now, Mary,” I said. “Those two big glowing yellow eyes are a dead giveaway.” Poking fun at each other is part of what makes the trip special.
State lines are close together in the northeastern corner of West Virginia. When we take a short road trip, we meander in and out of Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The drive, along two lane roads through rolling hills dense with trees, is as happily anticipated as the destination, whatever that might be.
There is no lack of food at Snaggy. Snacks, casseroles, and best of all, soup awaits us or rides there with us. Mary and I take dinner to have one night while we’re at the cabin. A beef tenderloin roast studded with slivers of fresh garlic and marinated overnight has become a tradition. Our host does a masterful job grilling the meat rare all the way through on a rotisserie. It is accompanied by Gorgonzola cream sauce, restaurant-size restuffed potatoes topped with cheese, a salad, and dessert.
The soup that was waiting for us when we got there this time was one we couldn’t get enough of. Our hostess kindly shared the “getting place” for the recipe (The Food Network) so we won’t have to wait until we get to the cabin the next time to have some more. This one’s a real keeper.
NEELYS WHITE CHICKEN CHILI
2 14.5 ounce cans white beans
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)
2 medium poblano peppers, chopped (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 limes, juiced, plus lime wedges, for serving
1 rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, shredded
1/4 teaspoon chopped cilantro leaves
Sour cream, for topping
Tortilla chips, coarsely crushed, for topping
Drain and rinse the canned white beans. In a medium bowl, mash half of the beans with a potato masher until chunky. Reserve the beans until needed.
Add the oil to a large Dutch oven and heat it over medium high heat. Add the peppers, onions and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cumin, coriander and chili powder and continue to saute for 1 more minute to toast the spices. Stir in the chicken stock and lime juice and bring to a simmer. Add the beans and continue to simmer for 20 more minutes.
After 20 minutes of simmering, taste for seasoning, and adjust if necessary. Stir in the shredded rotisserie chicken and cilantro and simmer until heated through, about 5 more minutes.
Serve the chili in individual bowls topped with a dollop of sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, and lime wedges.
Serves four to six.
You can tell for sure that friendship and food are high on my priority list when I tell you what I forgot to mention about this year’s trip. A tornado set down 1/4 mile down the road and took out quite a few big trees. We lost power when one of them fell on an electric line, but didn’t realize there had been a tornado until the next day. I guess God protected the clueless.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.