Cinco de Mayo Celebration: Homemade Refried Beans!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No Mexican Fiesta can be complete without some refried beans! Well, we tend to do black beans in our house but occasionally we will do refried beans or "mud" as the kids call it. Yes, nothing sounds more appealing than "Would you like another scoop of mud with your taco?" They eat it. Whatever. It works.

[beans ready to soak overnight]

I'll be a busy mom I use the canned refried beans. I know, I know. And admittedly, I've been afraid to make them from scratch in part because of the whole soak the beans overnight thing, that just seemed too high maintenance for me. I get why, but it seemed stupid. So, this year I decided to finally conquer my fear and make homemade refried beans. It was actually pretty easy. Long, but easy...

I flavored my beans with some bacon that added a nice sweetness to the dish. And added the requesite onion and jalapeno and garlic to the initial saute. And a little bay leaf and cumin for flavor which is not that traditional, but it made it taste very good. The idea here is to let the beans themselves stand out. Pinto beans have a lovely underlying sweetness to them that's even slightly nutty. You want to enhance that natural flavor, not mask it with tons of seasonings. This recipe made a huge pot of "mud" that is perfect for side dishes, and leftovers for bean and cheese burritos. A classic sprinkling of grated cotija cheese on top and fresh squeeze of lime is great.

Homemade Refried Beans
2 lb pinto beans
4 strips thick-cut bacon
1 large spanish onion, finely minced
1 jalapeno finely minced (plus more to taste)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp ground cumin
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 cups cold water + more as needed
grated cotija cheese for garnish

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with cold water until you have 3 inches of water over the beans. Let stand 10 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.

[use cold water to rinse off the beans]
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Saute the onions, jalapeno, and garlic until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the bay leaf, cumin, and season with salt and pepper, then add the drained beans. Add the 8 cups of water, stir to incorporate, and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionaly. You'll need to add more water as the water cooks off, so when the beans start to look a little dry keep adding more water to help them cook.

About halfway through, add the bacon back in and continue to cook. You want to until the beans are extremely tender. Once beans are very tender, if you want more of a pureed texture then beat the beans with a large wooden spoon, stirring aggressively. For beans more intact, keep the stirring very minimal.

Adjust with salt and pepper to suit your taste, and serve hot with some of the shredded cheese on top.

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