What The Heck Are Refried Beans Anyway

Alan Bean the astronaut has nothing to do with Refried Beans although he could have been well fried on reentry.

Alan Bean the astronaut has nothing to do with Refried Beans although he could have been well fried on reentry.

Growing up in New Jersey in a Jewish family I thought many foods from the south were actually jokes and not real food at all. Take for example Chicken Fried Steak. What the hell is that, you don’t fry steak, only an idiot would fry steak, you grill steak you don’t fry it. Black Eyed peas were another thing that I figured were an invention of a cartoon character and not a real food at all. Another of these strangely named foods is Refried Beans. You don’t fry beans in the first place, how can you refry them. The name itself is a mistranslation of the spanish frijoles refritos which means well fried beans but they didn’t cover that in our freshman spanish at Morris Hills High School so I didn’t find out until much later. After living in Texas for the better part of the last 30 years I am here to tell you that refried beans are Killer Delicious. Creamy, savory and tangy at their best they can sit on the side of a combination plate and hold their own with the enchilada, tamale and chili gravy. I love them with eggs, in a taco or as the perfect textural counterpoint to all of the bold southwestern fare that seems to be in fashion since Bobby Flay declared Southwestern an actual cuisine.
The humble Pinto Bean

The humble Pinto Bean

This one is a staple from Texas that can be juked up with other stuff or not depending on what you are using them for. Most traditionally refried beans are made from plain cooked pinto beans with very little flavor other than salt and pepper. I like making them from Boracho beans which have the aromatics and bacon and then are generally fried in lard and mashed up during this frying process. Here is my version:

Refried Beans

2 lbs of dried pinto beans
1 large onion
1 rib celery
5 cloves garlic
1 large jalapeno or 2 serrano peppers
4 tbs chopped cilantro
4 tbs ground cumin
2 bay leaves
4 strips of bacon or 4 oz salt pork
olive oil or lard for the re-frying
salt and pepper to taste (this recipe requires advanced salting technique)

Begin by soaking the beans overnight or, if you are lazy like me, put them in a pot with water to cover a few inches over the beans. Bring them to a boil, then turn off the stove and let stand covered for 1 hour. Drain the H2O from either method, rinse the beans and set aside.

A Tostada plate with beans and rice

A Tostada plate with beans and rice

Chop your onions, celery, garlic and jalapeno and saute for a few minutes in olive oil with the cumin, then add beans and cover with H2O by about 2 or 3 inches in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, turn the water down, add chopped bacon or salt pork. Don’t add salt at this point but add a good amount of ground pepper. After the beans cook for about an hour add 1 tbs of salt or to taste. Cook until tender. This is a basic pot of boracho beans.

To make refried beans drain and reserve the liquid and mash with a potato masher or for a smoother batch use a stick blender or food processor, adding cooking liquid until they reach the right consistency. Before serving heat a heavy skillet to high and add some lard or oil if you are wimpy and fry up the beans until they are thick.

Refried Beans are Killer Delicious.

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