Refried Beans

Refried beans are a staple of both Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisines, and there are many variations on how to prepare them. Tex-Mex cooking uses mainly pinto beans, while further south refried beans may be made with other varieties such as red or black beans. In any case they are delicious.

Sure you can open a can - but this little dish is super simple to prepare and once you taste the 'real' homemade kind, you'll most likely turn your nose up at the prepackaged stuff. Homemade just tastes better. Not only that - but you can tweak the recipe to your heart's content. Traditional refried beans are literally cooked twice - once as they simmer, and a second time fried in lard after they are mashed.

Now - I have no problem with pork of any kind, including lard. But for this dish I just skip that step. There is a slight difference in the taste and 'feel' of the finished dish - but you'll barely notice it. And for me it's not necessarily a fat issue - it's just faster to do it this way. If you wish, feel free to pop some lard or bacon fat in a skillet and fry up the mashed beans. You can add additional onion or jalapeno or chopped tomato at that stage if you like. Since i usually have a table full of kids and brothers waiting to devour what I cook - I cut the final step. Everyone is happy.

Now one note - season the beans as you cook them. There are lots of places out there that will tell you that salting beans at the beginning of cooking will prevent them from getting tender. THAT'S NOT TRUE. If you don't salt at the beginning, the beans will really never taste 'seasoned', and will be salty instead. So season as you go (it's acids like tomatoes that cause beans to stay too hard in cooking).

Ingredients

You'll Need:

  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped - you can also use serranos for more heat, or pablanos for less heat
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
  • 1 1/2 quarts water

Optionals:

  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheese - Cheddar, Monterray Jack or cojto cheese

Directions

1. Rinse and pick over dried beans. Place them with the onion, pepper, garlic salt, pepper and bay leaf in the insert of a slow cooker. Alternately, place them in a large, heavy Dutch oven (you'll use very low heat or an oven set at 250F). Add enough water to cover - you may need a bit more or less than the quart and a half. The goal is to keep them covered by about an inch or so during cooking time. Stir to combine.

2. If using a slow cooker, set the cooker to high, and allow beans to cook for about eight hours. You want them tender, but not mushy. You can also use a low oven, or a stove top set to low. If using the stovetop though, don't leave the house!

3. Once the beans are tender, drain off the cooking liquid, but don't toss it out. You'll want it in a minute. With a potato masher, mash the beans, adding just enough cooking liquid to obtain the right consistency. You can use a food processor or blender if you wish, but be careful - the texture can quickly become too soft.

4. You can serve the beans at this point - which is what I normally do. You can also top them with cheese and bake them in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Try Monterray Jack or cojito. If you want to go a step further, toward more traditional refried beans, then combine the beans with about 1/4 cup of lard, 1/2 diced onion, and a couple of diced Roma tomatoes. Add a diced jalapeno or two, and bake in a 350F oven for 45 minutes.

 

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