I've long been a fan of Cris Williamson and Tret Fure. They are folksingers who produced several albums together. They also dated, and merged their musical identities into one onstage presence which they called "Cris and Tret." You said it quickly, as though it were one word: Crisentret. They sang upbeat love songs with suggestive titles like "Between the Covers" and "Electricity."
They even had a website, cris-tret.com, which is where the inspiration for this week's column comes from. It's based on a chili recipe they posted online about ten years ago. Unfortunately, the link is long broken and the recipe has outlasted their relationship. Cris and Tret have gone back to being solo acts but I still cook their chili.
Cris and Tret Chili
1 T cumin
1 T oregano
1/2 - 1 T chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 T olive oil
a few garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped into fine cubes
1 jalapeno pepper (diced, but discared the seeds unless you want wickedly hot chili)
2 large cans of peeled, whole tomatoes
2 cans of beans (kidney, black, pinto, etc.)
2 cans of chicken or vegetable stock
1 T flour, cornstarch or another thickener
1 lb. meat - ground beef, shredded chicken, etc.
Optional: sour cream and shredded cheese
Cook the meat in a frying pan. Drain the fat when it's done and set the meat aside. (This recipe can easily be converted into a vegetarian recipe by omitting the meat, using vegetable instead of chicken stock and by adding more beans and veggies.)
In a separate pot, a large one, warm a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add the garlic first, and cook it slightly, being careful not to burn it.
Then add the onion and diced japapeno and stir occasionally until the onion is softened by the heat. Add the spices and stir well.
When the onion, garlic and jalapeno mix is finished cooking, add the meat to it.
Then take the whole tomatoes and, using your hands, squish them into the sauce. Add the juice from the can too. Keep stirring and turn the heat to high. Add the stock to the chili pot, as well as the beans and any other vegetables you might like to throw in. Bring the chili to a boil. Then cover, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve it, add the thickener of your choice. Many purists turn up their noses at cornstarch or flour thickeners, but they never bothered me much. If you're worried about tasting the flour or cornstarch in your chili, you can make a roux. Or you can try using tomato paste, or adding more beans. Whichever method you choose, go slowly because it thickens more than you might think and you don't want to end up with a mushy mess.
Ladle the chili into bowls and top with sour cream and shredded cheese. Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips on the side. And a good beer.
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Then put on Cris and Tret's Postcards from Paradise CD, and enjoy dinner.