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Posts Tagged ‘how to make refried beans’

Beans have taken over my life as of late. I have pounds upon pounds of beautiful heirloom beans in my pantry, the welcome if overwhelming results of membership in the Rancho Gordo Bean Club. Six pounds arriving on my doorstep every three months has proven a bit overwhelming and there’s another shipment due in the next week. In addition to all that, I have a case of canned beans of various varieties currently sitting on my dining room table, leftovers from work projects. There are beans everywhere. Everywhere. Because of this, I’ve sort of rediscovered my love of refried beans. Sure, I’ve been making more complicated curries and lentil dishes and Mediterranean inspired bean salads, but it’s the humble refrieds I’ve turned to time and again. When I get a burrito from the corner joint, I always get a side of beans and chips. It’s one of my favorite snacks. A plate of creamy cheese topped beans scooped with chips? What can be better? 

I’m long past the days of opening a pasty can of Rosarita refrieds, though I did that for ages. As soon as I discovered how easy they are to do myself, I never turned back. To be clear, if using canned beans this will all be finished in about 15 minutes, HOWEVER, refrieds made from dried beans, especially a good quality dried bean, are vastly superior. It’s true but it takes a bit of time and planning, something I don’t always have or do. Have I come home from a busy day and popped a can of beans and had something to eat in a few minutes? Absolutely. Was it delicious and satisfying? Absolutely. Do what you need to do.

Dried beans usually, but not always, benefit from a soak. If your beans are very fresh, a few hours will do. If you’re not sure of their freshness, they’ve likely been sitting on the grocery store shelf for years so soak them overnight. Lately, I’ve preferred soaking them in a brine as I find them better seasoned in the end. This involves adding a Tablespoon or so of salt to the soaking water. You can cook in this liquid, however, I’ve been guilty of terribly oversalting my beans lately so I’ve been draining and cooking in fresh water. Put the beans in a pot and cover with several inches of cold water; maybe toss in a a bay leaf and a few garlic cloves too. Bring to a hard rolling boil for 10 minutes then lower the heat and simmer until tender, checking the water levels occasionally – do not let the water boil off. Again, this length of time will depend highly on how fresh your beans are. (My pintos were very fresh, had a 4 hour soak and took 1 hour at a low simmer to get tender.) 

Another favorite method is to pop the covered pan into a low-ish oven to cook (300°F). This has many advantages: you don’t have to keep an eye on them as closely and the water rarely boils off. That said, I don’t always like firing up the oven in the hot summer months though I do appreciate the hands off approach and find they cook more evenly this way. 

Regarding pressure cookers/Instant Pots: many like to use them to cook dried beans though it’s never been my favorite method as I find it cooks dried beans inconsistently. That said, you can’t really beat the speed and convenience – no real need to soak and they’re ready in maybe ½ hour. Overcooking, a common problem with pressure cookers, isn’t really an issue here since these are going to be mashed anyway. The final option, of course, is to use canned beans, the simplest choice of them all. 

Once you have your beans sorted, it’s really very easy. All you need is a few simple things: some kind of fat, maybe something aromatic, a bit of liquid and something to mash with, like a fork. That’s really it though they can be jazzed up in a myriad of ways.

  • Beans: any variety really, though pinto or black are most traditional. Dried or canned. If canned, drain and rinse. If dry, soak (or not) and cook until tender.
  • Fat: personally, I think a little lard or bacon fat is best but any oil will do. Even butter. And you know what’s really good? That orange fat left in the pan from frying up some chorizo. Yep.
  • Aromatics: not necessary, but nice. This could be a bit of onion, a minced garlic clove or diced jalapeno. Just a little something to add a bit of flavor, sautéed up in that fat before the beans are added.
  • Liquid: if cooking from dried, use that flavorful cooking liquid. If not, use stock or even water. I’ve also used a splash of milk for extra creamy beans.
  • Spices: salt is the only requirement – beans need salt – but maybe a bit of ground cumin or chili powder would be nice. Cayenne and coriander wouldn’t be out of place. Sometimes I’ll add a shake of adobo seasoning.
  • Cheese: definitely cheese, whether that’s cheddar, cotija, queso fresca, chihuahua. Anything nice and melty. You don’t need much, just a healthy pinch, but cheese is non-negotiable. I often will stir a little into the beans too or put a bit in the bottom of the serving bowl before adding the beans.
  • Toppings: keep in mind you’re not making nachos here (yet) so just a little bit of something extra for a little flavor and/or texture can be nice. Anything goes. As mentioned, cheese is a must but something crunchy is always nice – diced radishes, pickled jalapenos, scallions, pickled onion, diced tomato. Just a sprinkling. I particularly like a bit of chopped raw onion. A pinch of cilantro, a spoonful of salsa, a dollop of sour cream, a squirt of lime or a shake of hot sauce. A handful of crushed fried pork skins is delightful as is some diced avocado. A bit of crumbled cooked chorizo is a wonder. 
  • To serve: I like them best scooped with tortilla chips or warmed tortillas, but I might cook up a quick cheese crisp for dipping, and perhaps a fried egg. And I have been known to just eat them out of the pan with a spoon on a particularly bad day. 

STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: MASH THERAPY. There’s something to be said for the therapeutic benefits of beating the hell out of something. Mashing beans can be very satisfying. Add to this the sheer comfort of eating something warm and creamy and this is a win-win type of situation on all fronts. This has been a year of non-stop cooking for us all – often breakfast, lunch, dinner and endless snacks – and I often hear “I’m out of ideas. Just tell me what to make for dinner.” Make this. Throw some bowls of beans on the table, topped with a handful of chips and a variety of stuff to customize and let ‘em all go to town.

other bean recipes: Navy Bean Soup, BBQ Baked Beans, Pico de Gallo White Bean Salad, Modern Three Bean Salad, Lulu’s Two Bean Salad, Cowboy Beans, Borlotti Beans with Italian Sausages and Fennel-Pepper Relish, Rosemary White Beans with Toasted Breadcrumbs, Gjelina Style Roasted Beets with Spiced Lentils

twelve years ago: Brown Butter Banana Bread

eleven years ago: Almond Tea Cake

ten years ago: Smoky Ginger Bacon Cookies

nine years ago: Buttermilk BiscuitsRamp Green KimchiCoconut Layer Cake

eight years ago: Scallion PancakesRendering Lard

seven years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise

six years ago: Crispy Prosciutto

five years ago: Coconut Tres Leches Ice CreamMashed Peas with Chile and Mint

four years ago: Bacon Fat PolvorónesPlantain Chips with Cilantro Dipping Sauce

three years ago: Lemon Knot CookiesYellow Pickled Cauliflower & Carrots

two years ago: Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffeecake

last year: Chorizo & Cornbread Strada (Savory Bread Pudding) 

REFRIED BEANS

Serves 4, can be double or halved or tripled.

4 Tablespoons fat – lard, bacon fat, drippings from Mexican chorizo, butter or good-quality vegetable oil

1 small onion, chopped (or whatever aromatic you desire)

3 cups drained cooked or canned beans – pinto, black, pink or whatever 

Reserved cooking liquid, water, stock or milk

salt and pepper

Optional seasoning: 2 teaspoons ground cumin + ¼ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

Optional toppings of choice (see above)

Warm tortillas or tortilla chips for serving 

  1. Put half the fat of choice in a large skillet over medium heat. 
  2. Sauté the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining fat and when hot, add the beans. 
  4. Mash with a large fork or potato masher to break up and stir around.
  5. Add a good pinch each of salt and pepper (and the optional seasonings, if desired).
  6. Continue to cook and mash until the beans are more or less broken up (a little chunky is fine), adding reserved cooking liquid as needed to keep from being too dry.
  7. Add more cooking liquid or water to adjust to the consistency you like. I often like to simmer them for a while with some additional liquid to make them nice and creamy.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish as desired and serve with warm tortillas, chips or whatever you like.

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