As part of our continuing quest to eat real food (that is, food we've made ourselves from raw ingredients), John and I have been experimenting with various Mexican foods. We have always eaten lots of quesadillas, made with refried beans, sharp cheddar, and cumin. But now we suddenly have no canned beans, and on top of that are pale Midwesterners with little to no contact with the Southwest and its culinary culture. I mean, my mom makes plain pork chops, white rice, and frozen green beans for a normal dinner, ok? We had no idea how to refry beans. Fortunately, my copy of The Border Cookbook came to our rescue. I modified their recipe several times, such that it was tasty yet vegetarian, and here are the results.
These beans take a while to cook, maybe an hour, so if you have a book to read, get it out. Or make yourself some pasta and sauce at the same time, and eat dinner while stirring. Ooh, expedient!
- 3 cups beans, soaked overnight and boiled until tender, then drained. Three cups of the cooked beans, that is, not dried. I like to use half pinto beans (the refrying bean most of us are used to) and half black beans. Notice, incidentally, that "refried" is a misnomer; "twice-cooked" would be a more accurate title.
- 4 tbsp butter, peanut oil, or some other cooking oil with actual flavor.
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced. More if you like.
- 1 hungarian yellow, anaheim, or jalapeno pepper, if you so desire.
- 1 cup vegetable broth, or reserved liquid from the boiled beans.
- 1/2 cup cream (or milk, I suppose).
- Cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.
- A 10-inch frying pan or cast iron skillet, a fork or potato masher, and a wooden spoon.
Melt the butter/heat the oil in your skillet over low to medium heat. The cookbook very much wanted me to use lard for this, but, uh, no. You can make good beans without lard! Anyway. When the butter is melted, add your spices and sauté for thirty seconds or so, until fragrant. I tend to use lots of cumin and cayenne, myself, but your tastes may vary. Try not to directly inhale cayenne pepper fumes; those HURT. Think back to highschool chem lab and waft the air toward you instead of putting your head over the pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. If you are using a hot pepper, dice it finely and sauté it as well.
Measure out your beans, mash them with your fork or potato masher, and add them to the skillet, mixing well. I like to add them a cup at a time, so as to minimize dishes to wash. That way I can just mash them in the measuring cup (I clearly use a fork). You can also put all three cups in a bowl and mash them that way, or add them to the skillet and mash them there. I would not recommend this last one, due to possible hot oil burns.
Notice, incidentally, that if you use half black and half pinto beans, your refrieds will turn purple. Naturally purple food! Yay!
Add the broth and cream a little at a time, stirring to mix things in well, and continue to fry the whole mess. Add more broth/cream when things get dry; continue until all the liquid is added. You are going to cook off the liquids, while infusing the beans with their flavors. It's kind of like risotto, except you don't have to pay anywhere near as much attention. Stir the beans regularly, turning the drier beans up from the bottom of the pan. You don't have to stir constantly; I've found that these are the least likely food to stick to the pan that I have ever fried, ever. Just make sure that things are getting cooked evenly. You should end up with a thick bean paste.
Once you've added the last bit of liquid, cook the beans down to your desired thickness. Make your last-minute spice adjustments, and take the pan off the heat. I use the beans right away, in tacos, quesadillas or what have you. They are certainly best right out of the pan, but you can also put them in glass jars and store in the refrigerator for a week or so. The cold beans are a little hard to spread, but what canned beans aren't? I have not tried to can these, dried beans being plentiful and easy to find, but I see no reason why you couldn't.
Yay, real Mexican food! Now all we have to do is get a tortilla press, and we'll be set.