Pork Machaca and Refried Beans: Menu for 10 People

Last month, my brother-in-law, his wife and their two children visited from out of state. They were visiting for just one week and had every day jam packed with things to do and people to see. My husband is very under-employed and, much to my horror, he invited them for dinner without consulting me. By the time I had my husband call them back, it was too late and had gotten worse. My in-laws decided it would be the perfect opportunity to squeeze in a few more people that they wouldn’t have otherwise had the time to see (in-laws are so thoughtful). I had to feed ten people with empty cupboards and little money in the bank.

One of my favorite dishes to make is machaca. I make it fairly often and, because I do, I had everything on hand except for the fresh vegetables and tortillas. It cost me less than $10.00 to feed ten people. If you don’t have the spices on hand, the meal can be somewhat costly; however, the investment is well worth it since it is a dish that feeds a number of people and doesn’t cost much when you make it again. The recipe seems long and involved, but isn’t that difficult at all.

I use pork butt for machaca. I always buy pork butt whenever it’s on sale, usually a 6 or 7 pounder at 99 cents a pound, cut it in half since there are only two of us, and throw it in the freezer until it’s time to make machaca.

Ingredients to simmer machaca, and you can simmer one day ahead:

6-7 pound pork butt, cut into large pieces

1/2 chunk onion

4 stalks celery, each stalk cut in half

4-6 cloves garlic, cut

Dash of salt and pepper

Liquid (water, beer or both)

Vegetables and spices used AFTER pork is cooked:

1 onion and 1 green bell pepper, diced

1 small can tomato paste

Guideline of Spices:

5-6 Tablespoons chili powder

4 teaspoons coriander

3 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons salt

Dash pepper and garlic salt

Simmer the Pork:

Place all ingredients needed to simmer the machaca in a large pot, lid on, with enough liquid to completely cover the pork. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat is extremely tender and falls apart. You may need to add additional liquid if it burns down.

Cool. Scoop out onion and celery. Pour all the liquid into a bowl or large measuring cup and refrigerate until the fat is solid on the top.

Shred the pork. If it doesn’t pull apart without much effort, you didn’t simmer the pork long enough. Place shredded pork in a large bowl and refrigerate.

Turning Pork into Machaca:

Scoop out about two tablespoons of fat from the reserved liquid, and heat it in a pan under medium heat. Discard the rest of the fat, but reserve the liquid. Add diced onions and peppers and sauté until soft.

Pour about ½ cup of the liquid in the pot. Begin adding the spices, not the tomato paste. With machaca, the amount of each spice you use is going to really depend on your taste buds, but the above list can be used a general guideline.

Begin placing pork in the pot with the vegetables and liquid in large spoonfuls, stirring well with each addition so that the pork soaks up the liquid. Add more liquid, if needed. Heat through. Once all the pork is added, check the consistency. It shouldn’t be too dry—you don’t want it to burn—but you don’t want too much liquid in order to avoid a soupy machaca. This is where you taste the pork to determine if you want to add more of any of the spices.

Add tomato paste, about one-two tablespoons at a time, and stir. My rule of thumb is that you can always add more, but if you use too much, the dish is ruined. You want the machaca to have just a slight pink look to it from the paste, but if you overdo it, the paste taste overwhelms the dish. If you accidentally add too much paste, add more of the reserved liquid to sort of simmer out some of the paste.

Serve the machaca with tortillas, cheese, sour cream and hot sauce.

Recipe for One Pound of Refried Beans:

1 pound bag pinto beans

3 quarts water

½ chunk onion

7 cloves garlic, whole

4-5 Tablespoons of salt

Two hot peppers of your preference (optional)

1 Tablespoon lard or canola oil

If you’ve never made refried beans before, it might take you a few times to get it right. The water must be salty in order to avoid a very bland tasting dish of refried beans. You have to keep an eye on the water, making sure to add more if it cooks down. If you have to add more water, you will need to add more salt.

Most beans indicate an overnight soak on the directions. This isn’t necessary when making refried beans. Pour all the pinto beans into a colander and rinse, making sure to remove ugly-looking beans and dirt clumps.

Place the beans into a pot along with the water, onion, garlic, salt. I add two whole peppers, usually jalapeño, if I’m in the mood for spicy refried beans and simply discard them when the beans are done. Bring to a boil. Simmer with the lid on for about 2 hours until the beans are extremely soft. They have to be soft enough to be mashed with a potato masher. If the beans don’t smash easily with a spoon, they aren’t done.

Once the beans are cooked, remove the onion and pepper. The onion is sometimes difficult to retrieve, but it’s all right if you can’t get some of it. It gets mashed in and adds some flavor.

Place the lard in a large frying pan and heat. Add the beans a scoop at a time, careful not to add too much water (my rule of thumb), and heat through. Start mashing the beans with a potato masher and add water as needed. You want the beans to be somewhat soupy and very mashed.

Taste-test the beans before serving them to make sure you added enough salt. Then taste the water and notice how the taste of the water is similar to the beans. If you didn’t add enough salt during the simmer, add it directly to the beans. But this will give you a good indication of how much salt to add next time you make refried beans.

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