I've sung the praises of beans in previous posts, but I just can't stop. As a kid, my mom took me on several trips to Oaxaca, Mexico. They almost always served refried black beans instead of pinto beans. The texture was always a little chunky unlike canned refried beans whose texture is so smooth its reminiscent of baby food. I was an extremely picky eater and lived mostly off of said beans, along with coke, cheese, and tortillas. I distinctly remember telling the waiters "no epazote!" because sometimes they would put a leaf or two of the herb in my quesadillas.
Thankfully, my palate has evolved. Now I seek out epazote to put in my beans! Yes, I almost always make my refried beans from scratch, and you can too. I had been searching for beans like those in Oaxaca for years, but it had never occurred to me to make my own. Refried beans are another one of those things that I always thought only came in a can.
Then Deborah Madison showed me the light in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Now I sort of merge the methods of Diana Kennedy, the prolific Mexican cookbook author, and D.M. The main difference is that Diana Kennedy is an authentic Mexican cook and therefore demands using lard. I do too. Honestly, when I make these, they taste a lot like the beans from Oaxaca.
- 1-2 tablespoons, lard rendered using this method.
- 1 white (white please, not yellow!) onion, diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 serrano chile, chopped (optional)
- 1-2 cups dry pinto or black beans, cooked using this method (see? it all comes full circle!)
First strain the beans, setting aside the cooking liquid in a separate container. Using a large cast iron skillet, melt the lard over medium heat. Add the onion and chile and sautee for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee for a few minutes more, taking care not to burn it. Add the beans to the onion and garlic. Coarsely mash them with a potato masher, and add a little of the bean cooking liquid as you go so the beans don't get too dry. Also, salt to taste- they might need quite a bit. Continue mashing until you achieve the desired texture. At this point you can add the cracklings that are left over from the lard you rendered. Serve with cilantro, nopales, avocado, sliced radishes, and of course cheese and tortillas!
This recipe is flexible. You can use any beans you'd like, but black or pinto are most common. You can also flavor the beans during the cooking process by using any type of stock instead of water and by adding dried epazote or dried chiles. Of course, you can use canola oil instead of lard, but I don't think it tastes as good!
Ingredients Breakdown: Homemade Refried Beans vs. Old El Paso Refried Beans
Homemade Refried Beans: Beans, Water, Lard, Onion, Garlic, Salt
Old El Paso Refried Beans: Cooked Pinto Beans, Water, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Lard with BHA and BHT to Protect Flavor, Onion Powder, Chili Pepper, Spice, Garlic Powder