Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner and for me that means one thing--a darn good excuse to enjoy some good Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. One of the staples of these cuisines is refried beans. A common misconception is that the beans are cooked twice, referring to the English definition of re-- preceding the fried. But in Spanish, the re-- is from the word "refrito", meaning "well-fried". However one interprets the meaning, it certainly does not impact the wonderful flavor and comforting texture.
For a good authentic flavor, I like to start the dish by rendering the fat from a bit of salt pork. It really gives the dish a deep flavor without overpowering the bean flavor. Most markets carry a 12-ounce package of salt pork, but if you can't find it I would recommend using lard instead. (One tip--my recipe only calls for 3 ounces, so I cut the 12-ounce chunk into four pieces, wrap the remaining three chunks in plastic wrap, place them in a freezer-safe bag and freeze until refried beans are on the menu again.) Some people might suggest using bacon. While I have a strong love for bacon, in my opinion it adds too much smokey flavor.
To flavor the beans further, I sauté onion and garlic and throw in a little ground cumin. I love the earthiness that the cumin adds. Once the beans are thoroughly cooked through, I mash them to desired consistency which is usually a chunkier purée. As the beans set up, they will thicken. If I am making them as a topping for nachos or as a filling for burritos and tacos, I leave them as they are. But when I am serving them as a side dish or as a simple chip-and-dip, I thin the beans with some chicken broth, starting with a tablespoon at a time. Garnishes can be versatile as well. You can use sliced or diced jalapeño, chopped green onion, or even some crumbled queso fresco. All are well received.
Refried Pinto Beans
3 ounces salt pork, cut into lardons
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, undrained
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt to taste
Chicken broth to thin as needed
In a large saucepan, render the salt pork over medium heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the salt pork. Reserve the rendered fat in the pan, about 3 tablespoons. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the beans and their liquid and the cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover the beans and stir. Cook, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. Using the tines of a large fork or a potato masher, mash the beans to a coarse purée or to desired texture; stirring as you go. (To serve as a side dish, I like my beans with a thinner texture. To serve on nachos or as a filling for burritos, I like them with a thicker texture.) As the beans sit, they will thicken. Thin with 1 tablespoon of chicken broth at a time to reach desired consistency. Season to taste with kosher salt. Enjoy!
Source: The Galley Gourmet
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