In this post, you will find nothing about sewing. Today’s topic deserves tomes*, but its very own post will have to do for now. I heart refried beans. Although my husband and dog are the only things I would grab if my house was burning down, my tireless affection for this humble food has been with me much longer than either of them have. At any burrito joint (preferably, Freebirds), when asked about the beans, my choice is always pinto, it’s always refried if that’s an option, and I always ask the server to pile on as much of them as they’re allowed to. The rest of whatever’s loaded up on there is tasty but optional. At any Tex-Mex restaurant with the ubiquitous rice and beans on the side, it’s always all-beans-no-rice-thanks. OK Susan, point made.
I do not claim this recipe as the absolute ultimate or the most authentic. It’s simply the very, very tasty one that works best for me. Considered travesties in some circles, I use 1) a pressure cooker and 2) bacon (instead of lard). There’s only one absolutely-no-exceptions rule: make the pintos yourself. The canned food masquerading as pinto beans makes a completely different dish. One you make for the people you don’t like very much.
I tend to make a huge batch (larger even than the one below) then set aside a container or two in the freezer. I think they lose next to nothing in the freezing, and it’s wonderfully convenient to have them on hand when I need them quickly. Which does happen. Some people have their chocolate attacks, I have my refried beans ones.
There are many vegan, fat-free recipes out there for refried beans. This is neither.
makes about 5 cups
1 lb (about 2½ cups) dried pinto beans, unsoaked
1 chopped onion (I usually use a white one, but any will do.)
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
4 oz bacon (I use the fattier pieces of Pederson’s ends and pieces, which I get at Whole Foods.)
Pick over the beans for any debris, rinse them well, then place them in the pressure cooker. Cover with water by a couple of inches (about 2 quarts of water). Add the onion, garlic, and 1 tsp kosher salt. Cook according to your experience and/or manufacturer’s instructions. (I use this exact Presto 4-quart for this quantity of beans. I let them “jiggle” for 35 minutes then remove from the heat; let the pressure drop on its own before proceeding.)
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, just simmer them on the stovetop until they’re softened. It’ll take a while. Like, hours. As AB would say, your patience will be rewarded. No patience? See the pressure cooker link above. :~)
When the beans are fully cooked, drain them, reserving the juice. I usually toss out the spent garlic clove at this point if I can find it. Back in your now-empty pan, over low-medium heat, cook the bacon until it’s well-browned and the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon into something heatproof. After it has had a couple of minutes to stop sizzling, throw it into your food processor and finely mince. (Or use a knife.)
Back to the pan. Drain all but a scant 1/4 teaspoon of the bacon grease…JUST KIDDING. Leave it all in there, plus add back the minced bacon pieces. Dump in the drained beans, add about a half-cup of the cooking liquid (pot liquor), and mash well — by hand, with your potato masher. Add more of the liquid as needed for your preferred consistency. Err on the side of thinner than you think you want — they’ll thicken up some as they cool and even more if you’re freezing them. Lastly, you’ll probably need to add more salt; taste and adjust.
If you like them spicy, as I occasionally do, you could dice up some jalapeño with or without its seeds, and throw it in during the last couple of minutes of the bacon cooking. Or cook it with the beans initially.
*Does anyone else alliterate on accident? There it is again! I swear I don’t mean to do it as often as I do.